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Adding new chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by purpletree23, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Songster

    May 15, 2009
    Right now I have 9 girlz and 1 rooster. If I add hens it is only 2 or 3 at a time. I employ the usual protocols for adding new hens by separating them for a week or more so they can see each other etc. It's trouble to divide the coop in half but that's what needs to be done is adding new hens. I was wondering if a different way would work just as good.

    I found 2 year old wyandotes that someone want to rehome because they are not laying well due to age and molting. I would like to add 5 of them to my coop. After I quarantine them to make sure they are healthy could I just add them to the existing flock without separating them?

    I'm wondering if the new 5 will integrate easier because I'm adding 50% to what is already there and not a smaller percentage.

    The coop will hold everyone with the 4 square foot minimum per hen and my outdoor runs are huge and there is plenty of space to hide and not come in contact with each other if they don't want.

    I plan (with guidance from my chicken friends) to introduce the new chickens at night and let everyone out very early in the morning. The the new and old are the same age roughly and size.

    What are the flaws in my plan?

    I really need to get a second coop.[​IMG]

  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    The main flaw I see is that you don’t have a second coop. They really come in handy.

    Everything to do with integration are guidelines, not absolute laws of nature. Some chickens will beat up on strangers if the strangers invade their territory. Not all chickens do that but enough do that it is a good idea to house them next to each other for a while. You are not doomed to failure by not trying that, just more likely to have problems. When Dad or other family members or neighbors added chickens to their flock, they just turned them loose with the flock, not at nighttime either. These were flocks that totally free ranged, not penned at all. Most of the chickens slept in a coop but some slept in trees. I don’t have a set-up like that so I don’t expect my chickens to behave like that. I manage them differently.

    One way that chickens have learned to live together in a flock is that when there is conflict the weaker runs away from the stronger. If you do add them at night (which is probably a good thing since it shows them where to sleep since you are not partitioning the coop so they learn that just by being housed there a while) be very sure to be out there really early the first few days so they can run away if they need to. Most integrations go fairly smoothly, at least chickens are normally not killed, so that putting them in the coop often works, especially if there is some place in the coop the newbie’s can get away from the established flock, like up on the roosts while the other ones are on the floor. But sometimes chickens wind up dead. Having a way to run away can really help.

    Chickens don’t have gang wars, they don’t form gangs that protect each other. If one chicken is injured or shows to be weak the others may gang up on it to beat it up, but don’t expect its buddies to come help it. Adding more chickens at a time does help spread the grief out a bit so that is good but if one gets injured or is getting beat up, the extra numbers won’t help. Still, more is better than less.

    Them being the same age helps a lot, difference in maturity has a huge effect on integration. In my opinion the size thing is greatly exaggerated. There are plenty of cases where bantams dominate full sized chickens, roosters or hens.

    Don’t be hugely surprised if the new chickens decide to sleep somewhere other than the coop. Things may work out great for you, I hope they do, but they may view that as hostile unsafe territory, especially if roost space is anywhere close to tight. I have more aggression from my chickens toward each other on the roost than anywhere else. You may need to wait until after dark and toss them in the coop for a while to get them used to going to bed in there.

    It often helps to have different feeding and watering stations during integration. It helps cut down on conflict.

    I’m not a believer in that 4 square foot thing either, especially when integrating. Boy, I’m about as unconventional as all get-out. What’s much more important than how many square feet they have is the ability to get away or avoid. How it is laid out in roost space and the ability to hide or get away is a lot more important than square feet. If that pop door is open coop space becomes a whole lot less important. They have the entire outside to run and avoid.

    Sometimes these integrations go so smoothly you wonder what all the concern was about. You don’t even notice any problems even if you do a lot of things “wrong”. Sometimes chickens end up dead even if you do most things ”right”. The guidelines improve your odds of success, sometimes greatly, but you don’t get any guarantees one way or the other with living animals. Good luck!
  3. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Songster

    May 15, 2009
    Thank you for the thoughtful advice. I will keep everything in mind and let you know how it goes.

    I do have one run that is a dog kennel with a roof. I tried finding something temporary for them to sleep in (animal proof) but no luck. I wanted to but something in the dog run so they could get used to their new surroundings and the other chickens. The two runs butt up together. This way the two groups can see each other for a day or two before bringing the two groups together.

    I looked on Craigslist for used or free chicken coops and couldn't believe what I saw. My God what are people doing! [​IMG]The 'coops' were not well built....I wasn't expecting the Ritz but come on. 90% of them didn't have windows or any type of ventilation. What are people thinking? Anyway let me get back to what I was talking about before my head blows up because sooooo many people now are idiots.

    I'm going to put the new chickens in the dog run and make them a 'house' to sleep in using a cardboard box. A large cardboard box. It will be clean and dry and safe. We aren't expecting rain or bad weather so I'm sure they will be fine. Two or three days I will integrate them into the coop at night. I'll put them on a different roost than the rest of my monsters and I will be up bright and early to let everyone out.

    I'll give it a shot and do the best I can and let you know how it turns out.

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