Introducing a Single Hen to an Existing Flock

By azygous · Feb 25, 2016 · ·
  1. azygous
    On December 18, 2015, a friend and I embarked on a long trip of several hundred miles to pick up a two-year old Buff Orpington hen at an animal shelter where she had been brought after a neighbor discovered her all alone and the rest of her flock dead. The owner apparently had moved and abandoned his chickens to fend for themselves. I named her Edith.

    I knew it wasn't going to be a stroll on a sunny beach integrating this strange hen into my flock. Chickens wrote the book on xenophobia. I wasn't concerned about quarantine since she had been thoroughly examined by a vet, wormed, and observed over almost a week in the shelter before I got her. So upon arriving at her new home, she was installed in a large wire dog crate situated in the middle of the run.[​IMG]

    The flock crowded around the crate, mobbed it is a better description, actually, and proceeded to stab at Edith through the bars of the cage with their beaks. They conveyed to her that she was definitely not welcome. I figured she was safe enough, and I left her with food and water to begin the long process of becoming a member of her new flock.

    That first night I threw a blanket over the crate and let her sleep there, instead of putting her in the coop with the others.

    The next day all but a couple of young hens had lost interest in the stranger among them. But the ones still hanging around her crate had managed to bloody her comb and some of the blood had smeared her golden breast. Well, this cage isn't going to keep her safe with these vicious beasts, I decided.

    So I moved Edith and her provisions into the "jail" pen, a much larger enclosure than the crate, so she would be able to get far enough away from stabbing beaks to avoid further injury. That worked splendidly, and the integration proceeded from there without further incident.

    On the second night with the flock, after the others had settled in for the night, I took Edith out of her pen and placed her on the roosting perch at the far end away from all the others. No problems at all.

    On the morning of the third day, I took her right off her perch and placed her back in her safe pen with breakfast and fresh water. The day passed without incident. However, that night I was late getting out to the run, all the chickens had gone in to roost, and Edith had flown out of the pen enclosure and was perched on a ledge over the coop entrance, obviously at a loss as to where she was supposed to sleep. I felt just awful for letting her down. Everything had been going so well, too.

    It turned out not to be a big deal. I picked her off the ledge and deposited her on the roosting perch inside the coop, and she settled right down for the night. The others left her alone.

    Over the next week, Edith was waiting for me in the coop to carry her to her safe pen. It seemed we had already established a bond. But before the end of the first week, I thought it was crucial to begin exposing Edith to the pecking order. After she ate, I opened her pen, and she spent the rest of the day mingling with the flock, getting pecked and chased. She needed to learn who was going to leave her alone, and who she needed to watch out for.

    During that first month, I made sure she was fed twice a day in her safe pen so she would get enough to eat. If the pecking order was stressing her out too much, I let her "vacation" in her safe pen, and it was obvious she appreciated the rest. I also began adding the two youngest pullets in her pen to keep her company. Aside from the obligatory peck on the head to let her know she was ranked last, they got along peacefully.[​IMG]

    By week two, Edith was free-ranging with the flock, and by week three, dirt bathing with other older hens. The bond between Edith and the youngest pullets was also growing, and they were roosting together and loafing together.

    Today, Edith is fully accepted by the flock, although she's still at the very bottom of the pecking order. She moves freely around the run, goes in and out of the coop, and roosts with very little fuss from the others. She has developed the self confidence to boldly attempt to eat from the feeder, until she gets pecked, that is. But undaunted, she just keeps coming back and manages to get what she needs.

    Best of all, Edith has become very cuddly and affectionate and enjoys hugs and snuggling. She even participates in group hugs with little to no jealous pecking from the others.[​IMG]

    While it's a difficult undertaking, it's not impossible to integrate a new single hen into your flock. Integrating this single hen into my flock was worth it and proved to be a very rewarding experience. I just wanted to share this story with the community to let you all know it can be done successfully. In a surprisingly short period of time, a single hen can be fully accepted into the flock.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. Meg-in-MT
    "Great story!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 11, 2019
    I loved reading this article! How wonderful of you to save poor abandoned Edith. I'm sure she's happier than she'd ever been before.
  2. micstrachan
    "Heart Warming!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 23, 2019
    What a wonderful blend of instruction combined with story telling. Such an informative post, but a pleasurable read, as well. Thank you for sharing!
    Better Than Rubies likes this.
  3. fldiver97
    "Great strategy to integrate a lone chicken"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 22, 2019
    nice article, well written. I have added a single adult hen to an established flock in a similar fashion. See but no touch after quarantine, adding chicken to the roost when it’s dark and mingling with the flock under supervision works ( at least for me) well. Few scuffles but no war, takes a little time but well worth it!


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  1. Debby R
    What a touching story. Congratulations for a job well done!
  2. ellend
    Very nice; thank you for rescuing! As stated above, make sure the wires of the cage you use doesn't allow the others to peck the captive bird. Also, put the cage in a corner with a cover over the top so the frightened bird has SOME corner she can feel less terrified in. Being in the center, surrounded by angry birds, would be terribly stressful!
  3. SkunkWhisperer
    Thanks for sharing some great advice. I'm trying to re-home my little "Stinky" -- now an orphan -- and hope someone will take her and show such care introducing her to new friends. She's very lonely and naps outside my kitchen sliding door because she can see her reflection in it and thinks she's not alone.
  4. N F C
    Thanks for sharing the story of Edith's integration!
  5. Ms Clucky
    I let ours run with them outside for a hour or two everyday
  6. Quiltmaker4
    What about putting in a new rooster I have one chick that will not let him get close to the food. I have had the rooster for about a week.
    1. azygous
      I would treat the new rooster the same as introducing a new hen. It's only after considerable time that a rooster moves up into the higher ranks of trust. He needs the same protections as a hen until he adjusts to the new flock, and they adjust to him.
  7. GossChicks
    I have 5 week old Golden Sexlink chicks, who look pretty much like Edith!
      Ememasb2010 likes this.
  8. Joe V
    I just got 6 chicks(8weeks old) that I put next to my 5 hens and my rooster. I plan to let them out in the next few days and I want them to get along as I know how chickens can be. I’m open for suggestions
    1. azygous
      Read my article on outdoor brooding. Look for it under my articles on my profile page. It has everything you're looking to know.
  9. Joe V
    I just got 6 chicks(8weeks old) that I put next to my 5 hens and my rooster. I plan to let them out in the next few days and I want them to get along as I know how chickens can be. I’m open for suggestions
    1. Joe V
      They’re in seperate coops
    2. Joe V
      They’re in seperate coops
    3. Joe V
      They’re in seperate coops
  10. BirdsInParadise
  11. Vratnyjulez
    That’s great!!! I recently got a new bared rock and tried to Integrate her into my flock and it hasn’t went so well, she is smaller than most of the others and younger, I have her in a separate small
    Coop next to the rest. She cries and whines at night because all she wants to do is snuggle with the others but 2 of my older chicks just won’t let up on her. It hurts me so bad, don’t know what to do. I don’t want to keep her separate from the rest of the flock but for her safety I have to.
      Matzwd likes this.
    1. ellend
      Are there low-ranking birds you could put in with her, to develop their own separate flock?
  12. chickencheeper
    Great job!
      Leoburns728 likes this.
  13. N F C
    Glad it worked out for Edith and you!
      Leoburns728 likes this.
  14. ChickNanny13
    Found this VERY INTERESTING since just today I'm debating if I should get this single white AM pullet (6 mos) & attempt my first integration to my "flock" of 4 Buffs (16wks). The person that has the AM separated it from her flock as it's been pecked on, neck feathers missing.

    I thought of putting it in a wire crate in the middle of my enclosure during the day, then securing the cage on the corner roost (highest) at night. My buffs roost on the lowest on the other end of the enclosure, or I could also bring the lone girl in as my "brooder" is huge with roosts.

    Still thinking but I believe in "signs" and this popped up :)
    1. ellend
      Please give her a corner, and a top on the cage. Imagine what it would be like to be dropped into a maximum security prison yard, protected by only a bit of wire and surrounded by big angry people wanting to hurt you. Terrifying.
      Debby R likes this.
  15. scrampsey21
    I just got 8 hens 7 of them are about 8 weeks old and the other is about 12 weeks. I found some more hens to get, a 5 or 6 week old legbar and two 13 week old ameraucanas. i figure the ameraucanas will be bonded becasue they are both coming from the same place. im more worried about the legbar since she will be younger then the rest and new. i also dont have a cage but i have two coops and one run. but i will need to put two of the other hens in with the three new arrivals. my first idea was to put my faverolles and my australarp in with them but im a little afraid that the ameraucanas will pick on them, i then could put my wyandotte and sussex with them but im afraid the legbar will get picked on. I currently have a barred rock, sussex, wyandotte, easter egger (the older one, 12 weeks), faverolles, golden comet, australarp, brahma. which two should i put in with the new arrivals?
  16. elaineinspain
    Thank you. Wonderful article. I will also be in the same position as I have one 1 year old black australorp, She has been in quarantine quite a while, 4 months to be exact, combating a CRD which is not responding to antibiotics. Now we are misting her with oxine on suspicion of it being a fungal infection, and she seems to be slowly improving! When she's symptom free she'll be in the dog crate next to the chicken coop (my other 3 chickens free range)
  17. Whittni
    She's adorable. I'm glad you were able to save her!
  18. Bogtown Chick
    What a GREAT story about that beautiful bird. I love a good rescue story too. Edith. I think everybody should have an Edith.
      bajabirdbrain likes this.
  19. liz72703
    Thank you for sharing this! Excellent!
  20. Brookliner
    Congratulations on getting Edith integrated into the flock. I usually only have chicks who are raised by my broody hen. When it comes time to integrate them into the flock. Stella (my broody) takes care of any hen trying to peck her chicks.
  21. Mountain Peeps
    Good job! I followed a similar approach with two pullets two years ago. They are now treated like long-lost flock members.
    Edith is gorgeous by the way! :)
      momminallday likes this.
  22. XxMingirlxX
    Great article!
      Leoburns728 likes this.

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