Bringing New Birds into an Established Flock

February 14, 2020

It’s always exciting to get new chickens.  Your existing flock may not be as thrilled as you are for your new arrivals however.  Introducing new birds into an existing flock should be done with care to make sure that all birds are happy when the transition is complete.  Luckily, there are some things that you can do to reduce the stress of all of your chickens when you add new birds to the flock.

Quarantine New Chickens

Any time that you bring new chickens or other poultry on to your property, they need to be quarantined.  This means that they need to be completely isolated from your existing birds.  This applies to birds of all ages, from day old chicks to adult birds.  Chickens can carry diseases that can make your existing flock sick.  Some diseases have long incubation periods; meaning they can be sick and not show symptoms.  These birds can appear healthy but make your birds sick.  Most diseases will start to show symptoms within a month, so it’s a good idea to keep new birds isolated for a month just to make sure that they aren’t sick.

Introduce New Chickens Slowly

When it’s time to introduce new chickens to your existing flock, you’ll want to do this slowly and carefully.  Chickens have well-defined ‘pecking’ orders.  There are dominant chickens and chickens that are lower on the totem pole.  Introducing new chickens into the mix can disrupt existing social hierarchy.  The new chickens will have their own hierarchy, causing even more confusion. You want all of the chickens to determine their place without getting bullied or hurt.

The easiest way to do this is to introduce them gradually.  The first time that you introduce the new birds to the existing birds, do this with a fence between them.  The idea is to let the chickens all see one another and get close to one another.  The fence will help to prevent dominant birds from attacking other chickens. The chickens can start to introduce themselves without you worrying about them hurting each other.  Ideally, two runs side by side would be the best way to introduce chickens to one another, but realistically most people don’t have two runs side by side.  New chickens can be placed into a cage and the entire cage can be placed into the existing run.  Make sure that the cage is large enough for the birds in it to have room to move around and places for food and water.

Start by placing the cage in the run for an hour at a time, then slowly increase the amount of time that chickens are exposed to one another.  Once everyone acts normal when the cage is brought into the run you can start putting the new chickens into the run without a cage.  Do this gradually and spend some time in the run with them to make sure that no one is being picked on.  Keep in mind that a successful integration takes time and shouldn’t be rushed.  Be patient when adding birds to an existing flock for an easy transition.

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More about Shelby DeVore

Shelby is an agricultural enthusiast that shares her love of all things farming with her husband and two children on their small farm in West Tennessee. She is a former agriculture education teacher and is also the author of the blog Farminence, where she enjoys sharing her love of gardening, raising livestock and more simple living. You can see more of Shelby's articles at: www.farminence.com

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