So i have an established flock and I would like to add another that is already laying age. What is the best way? I have heard put them in at night when they are roosting?? What has worked for you guys?
I highly suggest you don’t just throw her in right away. That technique may work if they KNOW her. I would start with the see-don’t-touch method with putting a dog crate in the run and having her sit in it, and letting the flock examine her but not be able to harm her. Let her do this for a few days, and if you free range let her free range with them, but it’s a very slow process, you can’t rush it.
Not a good idea. It sometimes works but more often does not.
The premise is that they won't notice another bird in the flock when they all wake up in the morning, which might work with a very large flock, but....
Like bobbie-j sez: "chickens aren't the brightest animals on this planet, but they're not that stupid."
So might these tips:
Integration Basics: It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.
Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.
In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together. The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.
Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.
Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
Good question. This will get pretty long. And welcome to the forum.
You are dealing with living animals so no one can give you any guarantees about behaviors. In spite of what you read on this forum, these things usually go really well, though you can occasionally have a disaster. For chicken society to function each chicken has to know its place in the pecking order. Occasionally that may be determined by intimidation, sometimes violent fighting or serious bullying is involved, but usually it just involves a little pecking. A lot depends on the personalities of the individual chickens involved, some depends on your room (more is better), and some on your management techniques. Having a mature rooster in the flock usually makes the process easier, but no always. If the new hen has a strong personality she may try to become dominant. If she is extremely meek she can be severely bullied. Both of these can become quite violent. But if she is sort of in the middle it's usually not that bad. There is some luck involved.
One way chickens manage conflict is that the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. That's not a matter of a certain amount of square feet per chicken, it's more about can a chicken get away and stay separated. That may involve staying in the run instead of the coop or staying on the roosts a lot where they are out of reach.
Sometimes a rooster will break up fights and keep his flock peaceful. Sometimes he ignores this type behavior. There are other variables too but this may give you an idea. Some things are luck, some things you have control over.
A few years back a lady that knew her flock well posted a video of what happened when she put a new hen in the coop with a flock of all hens. She concentrated on her two most dominant hens. They took a while sizing the new hen up, then slowly moved over to her. Took a while. They used a little intimidation and pecked a few times, not much. The new hen exhibited proper subservient behavior and it was pretty much over. That was in the middle of the day and without doing the things that Aart mentioned, though it was a fairly large coop. She mentioned that this went a little smoother than normal but wasn't all that strange.
There are a lot of things I don't know about your set-up, flock make up, or management techniques. If my father or grandfather brought a new hen home they would just turn her loose with the flock whether that was morning, evening, or night, but since they went to bed with the chickens it probably would not have been night. Those flocks totally free ranged and some slept in trees or the barn. There were no other chicken flocks in the immediate vicinity but many withing crowing distance. Most of us on here don't have that kind of set-up or experience with chickens.
So what do I suggest for you. A lot of that depends on your set-up. if room is fairly tight pay a whole lot of attention to what Aart posted. if yours free range during the day where a hen could just disappear over the horizon, I'd keep her confined for a couple of days where the other chickens could see her so she gets the idea that this is home and this is her flock. Most of the time that is not necessary but if she is getting bullied she may just run off.
If yours have a nice large run where they can stay away from each other but stay fenced in, like my 45' x 60' electric netting area, you could just turn her loose with the flock and see what happens.
You can even try putting her in at night in the dark so she wakes up with them. When i do something like that (only with chickens that have been ranging together during the day for weeks) I am down there at the break of dawn to open the pop door so they can get away if they need to. But so far I've never gone more than a day or two before I'm convinced there will not be a problem. A lot of people use this method and it usually works, especially if you have a fairly large coop. I think a big advantage of this is that they sort out the pecking order before humans see it and get involved. But occasionally people that try this wind up with dead or severely injured chickens. That can happen with any of these methods, but the more room they have and the slower you take this the less likely you are to have a problem.
No matter what method you use pay attention when they go to bed at night. Sometimes a new chicken will not want to go in the coop to sleep withe the others if she is getting bullied. If that happens get back to us with info on your set-up, coop size, and flock make-up. We can probably help you through that. It's usually not that big of a deal.