Once you start keeping chickens you’ll realize something … you don’t have enough! So then of course you’ll go out and get a couple new birds to add to your flock, but how do you go about introducing them to your existing flock? Similar to dogs; chickens don’t automatically accept a newcomer. And adding new birds to your flock can be stressful – both to you and the chickens. There are some steps you can take to help with the process though.
[Note: If you are adding adult birds to your flock be sure to quarantine them for four weeks. You want to first make sure they are healthy and have no communicable health issues that could affect the rest of your flock. If you bought chicks from a reputable NPIP hatchery you don’t have to worry about this step but most likely your new fluffy butts with be in a brooder separate from your flock anyway.]
Above are our two Easter Eggers, Olive & Arrow, the two youngest of our flock. They were on a supervised field trip to the run for a couple minutes. It is best to wait until your chicks are 6 weeks old and able to defend themselves before moving them to the coop with the others.
Now since your chicks are old enough and outgrowing their brooder and stinking up your house [oh just mine?], it’s time to start the introductions. The most important technique to ensure a peaceful meeting is to allow the birds to see each other, or even be in the same space together, without having physical access to one another. Since our brooder is a simple plastic storage tub I have been placing it right outside the run so everyone can see each other. After a week of being able to get to know one another you can make the transition of housing everyone together. I’ve heard that this is easiest to do when your older birds are sleeping; as a way to trick the birds so when they wake up they are too groggy and interested in eating breakfast to care about the new members.
It is a good idea to give everyone something to do during the transition so they are busy and not picking on the new birds just because they’re bored. This can be done by adding dry leaves and grass clippings to the run, giving them something to dig through. You can also hang a head of cabbage just out of their reach so they can jump at it like a pinata. Another way, after your new birds spend at least two nights in the coop, is to let everyone free range, they’ll be so excited bug hunting they wont bother anyone else.
And there’s the girls that will hopefully be accepting of their new flock mates. These chicks are now 6.5 weeks old and have been living in the coop for about 2 weeks now and loving it!