Warning: Don’t Do These Things When Adding Chickens to Your Flock (But I Did Them Anyway)

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Tips for successfully adding chickens to your flock despite what people say

In a previous blog I wrote about how I successfully add new adult chickens to your flock. You can read all about it here.

The gist of it was to add chickens of about the same size, give them plenty of room (free ranging makes life easier), keep separated but visible to the existing flock for a few days if possible, and have multiple water and food sources to keep down squabbling.

There are definite no-nos when adding to your flock. And I’m here to say that I’ve done them …without bloodshed

Carolina Coops - never add just one chicken to your flock
Bernie, the bantam cochin/Ayam cemani mix

FIRST DON’T: NEVER ADD JUST ONE CHICKEN

Everyone will tell you not to add just one chicken to an existing flock. Once again, this can be more successful if you have a lot of space for the chickens to roam. Just one new face could possibly go unnoticed. The only drama may be at nighttime when they go to roost.

In my case, I don’t have acres for them to roam, so while I have enough space for them, a new chicken will stick out like a sore thumb.

Enter Bernadette, the bantam cochin/Ayam Cemani mix. Bernie, as we call her, was added to the henhouse at night. Many recommend that method, however, once daylight comes, the flock notices the interloper.

Since these four chickens came from three different places, I wanted them to form their own union before I let them lose with my flock.

Chickens are not accepting of random chickens on their turf. My flock was pretty mean to little Bernie, kind of like a fraternity hazing. Since we have a close (in distance and in interactions) relationship with our chickens, we were actually able to stop our mean girls at times. If you can believe it, a firm scolding worked many times.

My husband and I would call out the offending hen and since my girls know their names, it worked. But honestly the key once again is to give them as much room as possible and open the coop up as early as I could.

We felt bad for Bernie, she did seem to be isolated from the rest of the flock and it seemed to take months before they were ok with her. However, Bernie could hold her own and was never physically hurt during the hazing.

Now she isn’t the lowest (see next big don’t) and also seemed to become friends with Libby, our French Copper Marans and is sleeping next to Betty, the Barred Rock (and head hen honcho).

SECOND DON’T: NEVER ADD CHICKENS THAT ARE TOO YOUNG OR ARE DIFFERENT SIZES

Carolina Coops - tips for adding new chickens of different ages and sizes to your flock

The other rule of thumb when adding to your flock is to add birds of approximately the same size as the existing flock. So if your flock is made up of adult birds, don’t add chickens that are too young.

Well, I broke this rule too. I went to a local flock swap in search of some chickens that were about 5 months old or so. However, without going into details it didn’t work out that way. While I wanted to get another small chicken to be friends with Midge, our bantam Old English Game/Mille Fleur mix who is the size of a pigeon. I ended up with a beautiful white Serama chicken, who was best buddies with a 3 month old Australorpe. Then I also got a 5-month old Easter Egger and a 2-month-old Dark Brahma.

Chickens will also fight over resources, so it’s vital to have an additional feeder and waterer.

The dark Brahma was pretty much the same size as the Easter egger and the other two were besties. But there couldn’t be more of a hodgepodge of sizes and ages.

THIRD DON’T: DON’T GET INVOLVED

Many experts will tell you not to intercede and let the chickens all work it out for themselves. As I mentioned in Don’t #1, I do get involved…a lot. This really is a personal choice, because as long as there’s not bloodshed, they will work it out. However, with my chickens, they are right next to my house so I can look out the window at them…and when I do…I see things.

I also have a very close relationship with my flock, (Don’t judge me!) so getting involved is pretty much par for the course.

Carolina Coops blog- tips for integrating new chickens of all sizes into your flockINTEGRATION TIP #1: FORM A COALITION

Since these four chickens came from three different places, I wanted them to form their own union before I let them lose with my flock.

The more room your flock has to roam, the less likely there will be fighting and bullying.

To do that, I cordoned off an area of my pergola, which attaches to the American Coop.

The birds were young and small enough to give them enough space. I used deer netting and posts. They had access to their own food and water, but still were visible to the rest of the flock.

There was also a branch attached in there so they could roost at night. I did this for about 3 or 4 days. After that time I would physically put them on the roost bars in the American Coop at night. I did after dark, to limit any squabbles.

There is a misconception that you can just put new birds on the roost bars at night and when they all come down in the morning, they think the new ones were always there. This isn’t true, chickens know when there are new chickens around. To think otherwise is an insult to their intelligence. They can recognize up to 100 different faces (including animals), so to think they won’t notice an entirely new bird is ridiculous.

INTEGRATION TIP #2: GIVE THEM ROOM TO ROAM

The more room your flock has to roam, the less likely there will be fighting and bullying. I don’t have as much space as I would like, so there was going to be some unpleasantness.

One thing I made sure I did in the beginning is I would get up with the sun each morning to let the girls out. I don’t have an automatic chicken run door, if I did, it would eliminate this task. I wanted the new girls to have more room to get away from the older flock.

Carolina Coops blog- new chickens integrate into existing flock

INTEGRATION TIP #3: HAVE MULTIPLE FEEDERS & WATERERS

Chickens will also fight over resources, so it’s vital to have an additional feeder and waterer.

If you have chickens that aren’t ready to lay yet, then you should have one feeder with grower feed and the other with layer feed for the ones that are laying.

If you don’t already have two sources of clean water for your flock, set up another waterer. The older flock will be protective over food and water so it will be a benefit to the flock as a whole to have multiple sources of food and water. Even if your flock is relatively small.

Carolina Coops - Integrating new chickens into your flock with these tips and tricksINTEGRATION TIP #4: GIVE THE NEW GIRLS A HELPING HAND WHEN NEEDED

Like I said before, I’m not in the ‘just let them work it out’ camp. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

For example, the most squabbling for my particular chickens is bedtime, when they are jockeying for position on the roost bars. The older girls peck and knock off the new ones, which is common with the pecking order for my flock. Bedtime always seems to bring on the most drama.

In the beginning, I would make sure the younger ones would have a spot on the roost bars, even if I had to place them on the roost bars myself. The new ones usually band together in the henhouse at night.

My chickens know their names so when I scold one for being mean (I’m talking to you, Polly!), I will tell her to get on the other roost bar and away from the new girls. This works for me.

By following these tips, I saw much less fighting and integration was successful in a relatively short amount of time. Especially considering the various sizes and ages.

So despite the fact that I did all the things you’re not supposed to do, I still managed to have a successful integration of my new chickens. So don’t give into the naysayers, be smart and mindful of your chickens and you will see results.

Until next time-

Ingrid — Crazy Chicken Lady

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