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Adding new chickens to an existing flock

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

My son's inlaws had 4 chickens that they have had for 2-3 years (I think?) and they recently added 2 new chickens.  One is about 4 months old and the other is about 7 months old.  The new chickens are being picked on terribly.  She says that at least 2 of her original chickens are brutally attacking the new ones.  She asked me if we wanted to ad the 2 new ones to our  flock.  We have four birds that are around 11-12 weeks old.  Our concern is that we have a totally enclosed coop and run which isn't all that large.  It said it could hold 6 chickens but we didn't really want to max it out.  Also, we have raised our chickens from day old chicks and they know us and like us.  Would adding new ones change that because the new ones wouldn't know us like our own do?  Is there any way my son's mother in law could handle the situation she has?  Will the attacks on the new chickens ever stop?  Is there something else that she can do to re-introduce them?  I am so new to this and not sure what to do.  Our 4 chickens are our first ones we have ever had.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

post #2 of 25

Adding new birds is always brutal, and sometimes can be dangerous, which is why many people only buy day olds from hatcheries and then go with closed flocks (hatch their own) - or only add more hatchery day-olds (once they're 12 weeks or so).

It can be brutal because chickens are very territorial, and it's called pecking order for a reason.  It can be dangerous because new birds can bring in disease (which is why it's always recommended to quarantine new birds away from the existing flock for a few weeks).

The more space available and the closer in age the birds are, the easier integration is.  So if you have limited space, unless you can free range some or expand your run, you're right to be wary of taking them in.

It also helps if there are more newbies than originals, at least if the newbies are younger.  

To integrate, I always put the newbies in an adjacent pen, even if that just involves wiring off a section of the existing run and putting a temp. shelter inside that area (dog house maybe?), so that the old flock can see, but not attack the newbies.  I use this arrangement for 2-3 weeks.  Then, over a weekend or other time when you have lots of time available, I spend time supervising without the wire.  Of course I use a lot of freeranging, so I have the advantage of being able to let the older birds out while the newbies hang out in the run - they don't feel they have to protect their turf as much.

There will be some chasing and pecking - so put branches, wooden boxes, stumps, roosts in the run to give the newbies places to run and hide. Add another food/water dish too, as bullies sometimes won't allow the newbies access. 

It can take months before the new birds are accepted.  As long as blood is not being drawn or feathers being yanked out the beak load, it will most likely end up being okay - but it sure can be hard to watch.  Maybe some of this will help the in-laws....


Edited by teach1rusl - 4/10/12 at 10:10am

Caretaker of a lovely mixed flock including: australorp, plymouth rocks, wyandotte, d'uccles, silkies, EEs, andalusian, and a few seramas, plus a golden retriever, great dane, and three cats.  I always swore that I wouldn't succumb to chicken math.  I lied.
 

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Caretaker of a lovely mixed flock including: australorp, plymouth rocks, wyandotte, d'uccles, silkies, EEs, andalusian, and a few seramas, plus a golden retriever, great dane, and three cats.  I always swore that I wouldn't succumb to chicken math.  I lied.
 

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post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the great info.  I am not sure how she introduced the new ones to her flock.  Could she start over?  Or is that too late?

post #4 of 25

Oh it's never too late to retry an integration....

One more idea to add...if she has a very mild mannered bird in her original flock, in a week or two she could try putting THAT bird in with the newbies (she'd be outnumbered) for a few days.  If that hen built up a relationship with the newbies, they'd have a better chance once the full integration is attempted.

Caretaker of a lovely mixed flock including: australorp, plymouth rocks, wyandotte, d'uccles, silkies, EEs, andalusian, and a few seramas, plus a golden retriever, great dane, and three cats.  I always swore that I wouldn't succumb to chicken math.  I lied.
 

Reply

Caretaker of a lovely mixed flock including: australorp, plymouth rocks, wyandotte, d'uccles, silkies, EEs, andalusian, and a few seramas, plus a golden retriever, great dane, and three cats.  I always swore that I wouldn't succumb to chicken math.  I lied.
 

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post #5 of 25
It took me 3 weeks to integrate my flock. I used a barrier(wire dog kennel) inside the coup and switched the two flocks every other day. After 2 weeks is when I let them be together for short periods, but I allowed no pecking. I ended up with a bully, so I ended up putting her in the kennel for 3 days straight. She was a whole new hen afterwards.

I'm adding 3 more this summer. I have the babies in the kennel in our basement. Unfortunately I think I have 2 boys, which will be going to the freezer camp along with another hen that does not lay eggs. I may try to ask my husband to keep the light Brahma if it's a boy. The LB is so mild tempered and very sweet and I'd like to breed the two brahmas for meat. My husband does not want any roosters at all. I do, so hopefully the light brahma will be a good boy. It's too bad, I picked them from the pullet bin.

I will use the same barrier, but I can not fit the 7/8 existing hens in the kennel, so I'll have the 3 babies in there the whole time, as soon as they are all feathered. I'm unsure how much longer we are keeping the non layer. She's a wyandotte and is over a year old. We were thinking of butchering her this or next weekend. Then we'll know for sure if we want to raise our own meat or not.

Our coop and run together is 158 square feet. Our run is used all winter which we cover in plastic. I free range in the summer. Even with that much space there's pecking going on, but mostly because they want to get into the nest and do no have patients to wait. We keep the coop heated, which also keeps the run warm. The ground never froze last winter. This has given our hens so much more room.
Edited by Nicole01 - 4/10/12 at 12:17pm
post #6 of 25

I have 9 chicks that I hatched out. They are now 12 weeks old. I have kept them seperated from my older flock. This past week I've been letting the older flock into the fenced in area where I let the younger chicks run. So far there is one hen that will chase a chick if it gets too close to her, but none of the other older chickens even care about the chicks. Would it be safe to add my chicks to where I keep the older chickens now?

post #7 of 25
If the young ones are the roughly the same size it should be okay to integrate. Mine are nearing 12 weeks and getting their big voices. They have been in the coop inside the kennel for 3-4 weeks now. I let all of them free range together. Right now the babies will stick near the run until yesterday. They were brave and I spotted them in the back woods which is a good 50ft or so from the coop and run. I have a 2 big hens that still pick on the little ones. If they continue to bully the babies, I'll put them in the kennel for a few days. This should stop them from bullying. It won't be long before I will mix them in. I'm waiting for the babies to learn how to defend themselves. I still have one that runs and won't stand her ground.

I'll put the babies up in the roost at night. Since I am the one who controls the light, it's easy for me to do this. I will make sure they are not picked on while on the roost. In fact, I'll start this soon.

My hens are that accepting of newcomers, but I've done it before with success.

Just keep an eye on that one hen, they should be okay. Your young ones should soon be able to defend themselves. Good luck.
Edited by Nicole01 - 6/1/12 at 6:27am
post #8 of 25

So your chicks are the same age as mine. When do you plan to integrate them all together?

post #9 of 25

Not gonna lie... I generally toss them in once they're old enough be stay outside. I've never had the bad cases, but there will always be pecking. I've watched them get drilled in the head during feeding, and a few feathers pulled in the first couple days. But generally by the end of the week and being let out to free range together, they're sleeping next to each other. Now, This obviously doesn't always work. You also have to take into consideration what you're bringing in, what's already there, the size of the coop and pen or run, and how much you let them out for IF you let them out at all. The more confined they are, the more likely they'll become bored and attack the smaller ones. I ususally introduce the new chicks into the coop itself while the big girls and boy are all out ridding my yard of bugs. I let them see what the coop is about, and I let them check out the connecting pen. I'll throw a bit of feed in there for them before I let them out with the others in the yard. then, at the end of the day, I round them all up (they're usualy begining to hang around in there or next to the gate anyways) and feed them so they'll eat and mingle together. they're more focused on food than eachother. Yes... if a small one gets in the way, it will get the beak drill to the head. Normally nothing dangerous unless you have an agressive hen or rooster.

 

I've head if you tie a head of lettuce (or was it cabbage?) to the top of your pen/run, coop, everyone will be trying to get to it. They'll wear themselves out so that when you introduce the new guys in, the old timers will be too tired to bother with them and will just focus on being fed.

post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eliaria View Post

Not gonna lie... I generally toss them in once they're old enough be stay outside. I've never had the bad cases, but there will always be pecking. I've watched them get drilled in the head during feeding, and a few feathers pulled in the first couple days. But generally by the end of the week and being let out to free range together, they're sleeping next to each other. Now, This obviously doesn't always work. You also have to take into consideration what you're bringing in, what's already there, the size of the coop and pen or run, and how much you let them out for IF you let them out at all. The more confined they are, the more likely they'll become bored and attack the smaller ones. I ususally introduce the new chicks into the coop itself while the big girls and boy are all out ridding my yard of bugs. I let them see what the coop is about, and I let them check out the connecting pen. I'll throw a bit of feed in there for them before I let them out with the others in the yard. then, at the end of the day, I round them all up (they're usualy begining to hang around in there or next to the gate anyways) and feed them so they'll eat and mingle together. they're more focused on food than eachother. Yes... if a small one gets in the way, it will get the beak drill to the head. Normally nothing dangerous unless you have an agressive hen or rooster.

 

I've head if you tie a head of lettuce (or was it cabbage?) to the top of your pen/run, coop, everyone will be trying to get to it. They'll wear themselves out so that when you introduce the new guys in, the old timers will be too tired to bother with them and will just focus on being fed.

We are new at all of this.  Just got our first 4 pullets in April and all are happy and laying daily (at 22 - 24 wks).  We wanted to add 2 more to our flock but heard horror stories.  What do you think we should do????

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