Down to one hen now :( Need advice on adding a new flockmate(s)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chickenherd, May 23, 2019.

  1. chickenherd

    chickenherd In the Brooder

    Oct 26, 2018
    I only had two sisters, they'd spent their whole lives together. They were around 3.5 years old and last night I lost one to a dog attack. I am devastated. But I am adamant that I need to provide my remaining hen with companionship ASAP as I do not want her to be lonely and become increasingly depressed.

    My question is should I add another adult or a young chicken. Should I add one or two or three. I certainly have the coop and yard space on the property so that is not an issue. I am looking for the easiest transition for adding them. I'm wondering what would be best, age wise and how many. I dont mind adding just 1 or several.

    To add: I've done my research about quarantines/introduction strategy, so my main question is what would be the ideal age of new flockmates to add, and how many to add. If this is a good opportunity to add more than one new one, I would like to. But I dont want to do it if it will increase anxiety for my single remaining hen, who has been only living with one flockmate for the last year.
  2. CityslickerHomestead

    CityslickerHomestead Songster

    Apr 5, 2019
    I’m sorry you lost one of your chickens. I don’t have an answer but I look forwards to reading what the experts on BYC suggest.
  3. DobieLover

    DobieLover Easily distracted by chickens

    Jul 23, 2018
    Apalachin, NY
    My Coop
    So sorry for the loss of your hen. :hugs
    There is no one right answer.
    If it were me, I would partition the coop and make a brooder area right in the coop and get 3 or 4 chicks and brood them using a brooder plate or MHP in the coop with your lone hen. She will be able to see them and they her. You would be able to integrate them with her at about 4 weeks of age.
    Of course, all of this would be done after I took care of predator proofing their home. How did the dog get to your hen?
    ButtonquailGirl14, Trux, aart and 3 others like this.
  4. chickenherd

    chickenherd In the Brooder

    Oct 26, 2018
    I always let them free range during the day in an area that is fenced 6ft high with my other farm animals. She must have climbed the fence somehow and got out. I am absolutely devastated. The free range area is safe but she figured out some way to get over and out. I found her already dead :(
    ButtonquailGirl14 likes this.
  5. mountainchickens

    mountainchickens Songster

    Apr 7, 2019
    So sorry for your loss. I'd check their free-range area very carefully, make sure there were no holes, etc she could squeeze out through. Sometimes when my pullets get alarmed, they fly as high as they possibly can, once or twice it has been over 6ft. So if you know for sure she didn't get out through the bottom, maybe add another few feet of higher fencing to ensure it doesn't happen again, that would be awful.
    I'm no expert, but I'd do something similar to what @DobieLover suggested - partition the coop, get some chicks or young pullets, and put a mama heating pad in there for them. After a few weeks of this, you can put them together, but I wouldn't do it in a confined space like the coop for the first time - I'd do it by putting them together in your free-range area. The chicks should be used to the hen by then, and vice versa. Soon they should be able to go together in your coop. Hope whatever you decide on goes well.
  6. DobieLover

    DobieLover Easily distracted by chickens

    Jul 23, 2018
    Apalachin, NY
    My Coop
    The only way the coop should be partitioned is if it is large enough to do so and only to use part of it as a brooder for introducing day old chicks from a hatchery.
    If POL pullets are preferred, they will require proper quarantine in their own coop and run in an area far away from the existing hen or the risk of introducing infection or parasites can be high. After a 30 day quarantine, another several weeks of a 'look don't touch' period would be needed to acclimate the new birds to the lone hen. Then when integration began, the original lone hen will be the one needing to integrate into the new, larger flock that will have already established it's new pecking order.
    This is why I would bring in chicks that could be brooded with this lonely girl. Chicks from a hatchery are highly unlikely to bring in disease, are easier to fit in the coop with the lone hen for some company and can be much more easily introduced to her when they are small and fast.
  7. chickenherd

    chickenherd In the Brooder

    Oct 26, 2018
    Thank you for the responses thus far.

    DobieLover - question, what are your opinions on 7 week old hens. Reason I ask is there are some available to me, and I imagine would be easier to raise as they're past the chick stage. At 7 weeks do you presume they could have already started a pecking order yet. Specifically a pecking order in which my lone hen would need to integrate 'into' as opposed to the 7 week olds needing to say .. earn 'her' trust and acceptance.. rather than vice versa.

    Does that make sense?
    ButtonquailGirl14 and DobieLover like this.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    She will likely be the aggressor, and not be happy having 'intruders' come into her space.
    But they will outnumber her.
    But she is 'mature', in size and 'experience'.
    It's hard to say what will happen... they're live animals, so anything is possible.
    Might go great, but be ready with a separate enclosure for the newbies.

    Here some tips and links that might help.....
    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.

    This used to be a better search, new format has reduced it's efficacy, but still:
    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading, BUT some info is outdated IMO:
    Hayduke27 and Trux like this.
  9. DobieLover

    DobieLover Easily distracted by chickens

    Jul 23, 2018
    Apalachin, NY
    My Coop
    Read @aart's response. That is it in a nutshell.
    How much do you trust the source for those 7 week olds? You would need to go through the "look don't touch" introduction period with the new ones. During this time, the young ones will establish their own pecking order.
    I've integrated where the "look don't touch" period was just 2 weeks. Then after this period was over I allowed the 3 new girls out with the original flock of 9. Each sub-flock had access to their own coop and each sub-flock would return to their own coop at night. After just 6 days of co-mingling, the new girls roosted with the original flock in the main coop.
    I feel that the main reason for my success was all the space I had to work with.
    aart and Trux like this.
  10. Col1948

    Col1948 Songster

    Sep 9, 2018
    Manchester UK
    I introduced 2 new girls last year, I got them from the same person I bought my first ones from.
    I separated them for only 3 days, they got the pecking but soon integrated in about a week, you would never know now by looking at them.
    As for the quarantine thing, I'm no expert but here in the UK some farms advertise their hens for sale as injected and free from any disease etc, do you have that there where you are?

    Also I posted this on another thread where a lady had a lonely hen, this isn't my idea as I had read it elsewhere but as a temporary measure if you can add a large mirror in the coop or the run, they think it is another hen and some will actually get friendly with it lol.

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