How Do I Merge 2 Groups of Hens Peacefully

Barry Natchitoches

11 Years
Sep 4, 2008
I have two groups of hens:

The older group of 4 (3 Rhode Island Reds and 1 Buff Orpington) -- these hens are fourteen months old now, and have been raised together as a group since they were two days old

The younger group of 6 (2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Barred Rocks and 2 Easter Eggers) -- these little girls will be about 17 or 18 weeks old when I will begin to merge the two groups.

The older group lives in a 13 foot by 7 1/2 foot chicken coop that currently has two discrete nests for laying, plenty of feed and water, a nice fan to keep them cool in the summer and a heater to keep them warm in the winter. It is plenty big enough to take in the little babies when the little ones are old enough to handle the big girl layer feed. We have plenty of room in their nesting area to put as many as two more nests, and will add these nests before the two groups are merged.

The younger group currently lives in a 8 foot by 30 inch chicken tractor that I move frequently to give them fresh grass to feed on. They have everything they need, but that tractor does seem to shrink in size as the little peepers grow bigger. This group has also grown up with each other.

Both groups get three to four afternoons a week (weather permitting) to free range out in the open yard, but at this time, I have not allowed the two groups to free range together.

Both groups live pretty harmoniously with others in their own group. I don't see any of that hen pecking that other chicken families seem to experience.

I will need to merge the two groups so that they can live together in the big chicken coop (the one that the older girls live in right now).

But how do I do that, without causing friction and fighting?

I am willing to merge them gradually and be patient with them, but what I really do not want is for there to be fighting or violence among the hens.

What is the best way to merge these two groups?
Keep them in eyesight from each other for a week or so, that way they can get used to each others' sights and sounds, without actually being able to make physical contact.
Then, when you're ready to let them get together, stay close and monitor. Might want to try it in the evening, just before bedtime, when they're all more mellow.
Communal pecking at something yummy helps, too (when I integrated my 2 flocks, I gave them watermelon every day, and watched them go at it together).
It will take a while, and there will be some confrontation, until the pecking order is established, but it'll be okay in the end (my 2 flocks took almost 5 months before they were completely integrated. Until then, I had to feed them seperately, and they slept on separate roosts. Now they're one big, happy family:) )
I also kept my 2 younger ones in a large dog crate within eye sight of the older 2 in the coop for about a week. Then I started letting them out to free range together a couple hours before dusk for about a week as well. About half way through the week of communal free ranging, the most aggressive older hen was still just merciless, and the more passive one was taking her lead, so they ended up in the large dog crate with the younger 2 taking up residence in the coop. Needless to say the older ones were a little peeved by this. That lasted about 3 days. Then I noticed a marked improvement with the more aggressive hen's attitude, so I tried them all together and the meany, is still mean occasionally, but it's not near as intense or often. It's only if they try to eat exactly where she is eating, or if she thinks they have been disrespectful in some I just laugh at them. It's all WAY mellower (is that a word?
) than in the beginning.

Letting them free range together helped because the younger 2 could go any number of places to get away from the most aggressive older 1. They have been living together for about 3 weeks and no blood has been drawn, so they are doing fine.

Good luck with yours!
I hope they all do fine! I was VERY worried about it, and had to react on the fly, but it all worked out. I'm sure yours will too!

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