Enlarging the Flock

jwankowski

In the Brooder
Jun 23, 2019
23
18
42
I have three hens that are a year old or so and want to add another 7 to my flock. I knoe I should quarantine them for 21 days or so before mixing them together, but is there anything I need to do before putting them together in the coop? I have a large fenced area around the coop and run for my hens to free range a bit. Doe sthat help?
 

3KillerBs

Crowing
11 Years
Jul 10, 2009
2,215
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346
North Carolina Sandhills
I haven't done it myself yet, but the usual recommendation for flock integration is to set up a "see but don't touch" environment for a while so that they can get used to being next to each other but separated by a fence before actually interacting.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
My Coop
How big is your coop and run, in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics would help here.

How old are the 7 birds?
True quarantine is difficult to do in a backyard setting,
so you risk bringing in pests and disease.
BYC Medical Quarantine Article


Here's some tips about ....
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 ideas for hiding places:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
25,693
15,714
777
Southeast Louisiana
quarantine them for 21 days or so before mixing them together

Where are they coming from? If you are getting them as day-old chicks from an established hatchery I would not worry about a quarantine. Those chicks are about as safe as you can get. If they are older or from a different source I'd be more concerned. As Aart said, it's really hard for most of us to do a proper quarantine anyway. Many people suggest a 30 day quarantine.

is there anything I need to do before putting them together in the coop?

How old will they be? I have different suggestions if they are immature versus mature. The flock dynamics are different. It could help a lot to know how big in feet or meters your coop is and how much room you actually have outside. Again feet or meters. Photos inside and out often help. Aart gave some good generic suggestions but it's hard to get specific unless we know what you are working with.

I have a large fenced area around the coop and run for my hens to free range a bit. Does that help?

Depends some on how big it really is and how cluttered it is. Cluttered means places for them to hide under, behind, or over. Something to break the line of sight. Also how they are managed, when is all that space available? It doesn't do them any good if they are locked out of it. But if it is as big as I expect it to be yes, that helps a lot. The more room you have the easier integration usually is.

The reason I'm a little hesitant is that I've seen several posts on here where someone said they had a lot of room in the coop or in the run when in reality it was pretty small. Nothing personal against you, I just want to give you good information.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,287
9,344
596
western South Dakota
If you truly have enough room, then adding more is better. It spreads out the pecking, and wears out the established flock.

I have had good luck in turning out the established flock and locking them out, with the new comers locked into the coop/run. Feed along the fence. This allows the new girls to explore the area, find hide outs, food stations, without being chased for their lives. It also lets the other birds see the new comers in their set up.

Then as late as possible, nearing dark, but not quite, let the older girls back into the set up. The urge to roost is as strong as the urge to fight.

Now - I am of course giving you this advice based on my own set up. I have multiple food stations, a large run with a LOT OF CLUTTER, a coop with multiple roosts. And I know the number of birds that will live peacefully in my set up.

Mrs K
 

jwankowski

In the Brooder
Jun 23, 2019
23
18
42
Thanks for all of the inputs. The Coop is 6ft X 4ft with 10 nesting boxes inside and 2 roosting rails. The attached Run is 20 ft X 10 ft, covered, with 3 roosting rails at different heights. The outside fenced area is 60 ft X 40 Ft and includes woods with trees and brush. (See photos).

The current 3 hens are 1 year old. The new 8 hens are 8 weeks old and are coming from the same source as the previous ones - a designated breeder. My thought is to either: (1) put the new birds in the coop and closed run, and put the 3 current hens on the outside fenced area; or (2) put the new hens in the outside fenced area and keep the current hens in the coop util they seem to get along. I have 2, 5 gal water jugs and 2, 5 lb feeders for the birds. In the outside fenced area I also have water trays.

Your thoughts and suggestions please.
 

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Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,287
9,344
596
western South Dakota
I would put the new in the coop/run, old outside. And I would not let the old in the coop until just before dark. Then if you are sure your run is secure, I would leave the pop up door open at night, so that a bird can escape if needed.

I would add some pallets, leaned up against the wall, some as a platform up on some cement blocks, some cardboard boxes, old chairs, ladders, sawhorses, anything that blocks the sight of a bird. If you think about it, in your current run, any bird can see any other bird from any position in the run, there is no way to get out of sight.

You will be tight on coop space, but it might work.

Mrs K
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
25,693
15,714
777
Southeast Louisiana
The Coop is 6ft X 4ft with 10 nesting boxes inside and 2 roosting rails.

Really small for 10 hens. Really really small for integrating. Three nests would be enough for 10 hens. Your roost space should be plenty when they are grown and fully integrated. May be an issue while they are immature.

The attached Run is 20 ft X 10 ft, covered, with 3 roosting rails at different heights.

Nice size, this helps. Do you consider it predator proof?

The outside fenced area is 60 ft X 40 Ft and includes woods with trees and brush.

Excellent. You'll be OK with that.

(1) put the new birds in the coop and closed run, and put the 3 current hens on the outside fenced area;

If those hens are laying I would not want to lock them away from their nests and teach them to lay somewhere else. I don't see an electric fence protecting that outside area so it's not predator proof.

I don't much like this idea.

or (2) put the new hens in the outside fenced area and keep the current hens in the coop

This could work if you build a predator proof "shelter" for them to sleep in at night. I won't call it a coop since you won't need nests but you will need roosts. It would be pretty close to what I do. At 8 weeks you are not worried about weather as long as they don't get too hot. This shelter does not need to be anything close to fancy or permanent but I would want it predator proof at night. I find it beneficial to have a separate permanent shelter or even coop with a nest in case I have issues later but that's personal preference. Plus I integrate a lot so I use it a lot.

I'd put the hens in the current coop and run. Lots of room for three and won't disrupt them roosting and laying. I'd house the young ones in the shelter and give them access to that huge fenced area during the day. You may have to train them to go to sleep in that shelter so you can lock them up at night. Once you are confident they will return there to sleep at night and they have been across wire from each other for at least a week open it up and let them mingle. Do that when you can observe but I would not expect any problems.

Wait until they have roamed together for a few weeks before you try moving them in with the adults at night. The size of your coop bothers me. If you consider your run predator proof I'd leave that coop door open at night so they have all that room, like Mrs K suggested. Or build a secure sleeping area in that run, maybe 4' x 8' minimum, to use at night. That's the only real problem I see with what you have. I think you are going to have issues when they are all sleeping in that small coop, especially when some of them are immature chicks.

Widely scattered feeding and watering station is a good thing.

If I were in your situation I'd build a new coop, probably 6' x 8' minimum in your fenced area but next to the run where I could have an opening into the run and access to that outside fenced area both. If you can't make that tiny coop work this may be your solution. I understand you don't have a lot of time to do that right now.

Good luck.
 

jwankowski

In the Brooder
Jun 23, 2019
23
18
42
I would put the new in the coop/run, old outside. And I would not let the old in the coop until just before dark. Then if you are sure your run is secure, I would leave the pop up door open at night, so that a bird can escape if needed.

I would add some pallets, leaned up against the wall, some as a platform up on some cement blocks, some cardboard boxes, old chairs, ladders, sawhorses, anything that blocks the sight of a bird. If you think about it, in your current run, any bird can see any other bird from any position in the run, there is no way to get out of sight.

You will be tight on coop space, but it might work.

Mrs K
Thanks for the input.
 

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