Introducing new chickens into an established flock--questions

SharW75

Songster
Jul 26, 2019
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Ohio
We are buying an adult hen, and possibly a second hen to add to our eclectic little flock, and I have a couple questions. First, is it better to introduce a single bird, or a couple of birds at the same time? My daughter fell in love with a beautiful little calico cochin bantam at our county fair. We are picking her up on Sunday. The girl we're buying her from has a few other nice birds for sale and we got to thinking that it might be easier on her if she had another "familiar" hen to hang with while she's in quarantine, and then maybe have a buddy when she was integrated into the flock.

Speaking of quarantine--how long should we keep her/them separated from the flock? We will be keeping them in a small coop, which is portable. How far from the main flock should we put them?

Any other advice is greatly appreciated--thanks! :)
 

SharW75

Songster
Jul 26, 2019
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Ohio
I should add that we have a pretty laid back bunch here, but we've never tried introducing full-grown birds. All the ones we've introduced so far have been young hens that were raised by us from chicks, so the other chickens were used to them by the time we put them together.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

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Better to have 2. Even with quarantine birds can introduce nasty stuff to your flock, so be aware. The quarantine is supposed to be the first part. Adding a sacrificial bird to the new birds was originally the second part of quarantine to see if birds were carrying diseases they are immune to but your flock isn't.

Integrating adults can take a while. Are your other birds bantams too?
 

SharW75

Songster
Jul 26, 2019
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Ohio
Some are bantams and some aren't. They all get along really well right now...

The bird or birds we're getting have been at the county fair, so I'm assuming that they've all been vet checked and have passed all the health requirements.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

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The county fair is where birds come together and exchange diseases. Just because birds look healthy, and a vet says they are healthy for that day doesn't mean they aren't carriers of stuff. Odds are you are okay, but it's always a possibility.

Bantam cochins are very meek birds. You may have troubles introducing adults to adult standards. Every flock is different. Just don't rush it. Expect to pen them where they can be seen for a few weeks and the others become familiar with them through a fence before starting supervised mingling.
 

SharW75

Songster
Jul 26, 2019
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Ohio
Thank you! We don't plan to rush anything--the coop is hers as long as she needs it. :) The nice thing is that once the quarantine is over, the coop has a nice little run that is perfect for allowing birds to safely get to know each other! :) How long should we keep her apart? A month? More?
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Great Horny Toads
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Thank you! We don't plan to rush anything--the coop is hers as long as she needs it. :) The nice thing is that once the quarantine is over, the coop has a nice little run that is perfect for allowing birds to safely get to know each other! :) How long should we keep her apart? A month? More?
I have safely integrated extra bantam roosters from my bantam flock into my standard flock by keeping them penned for a month or longer before releasing them one day. I have done multiple roosters, and it can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months. I haven't done hens so it may be a bit easier.

You can let them mingle occasionally under supervision to see how it's going. Sometimes there are spats, sometimes nothing. It all depends on if the pecking order was established through the fence or not. Generally in my experiences it is.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Nov 27, 2012
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My Coop
My Coop
How big is coop and run, in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics would help here.


Consider biological/medical quarantine:
BYC Medical Quarantine Article
BYC 'quarantine' search

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.
 

Ridgerunner

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is it better to introduce a single bird, or a couple of birds at the same time?

I agree that more is better. Chickens are social animals and can get lonely when by themselves, lonely as in they don't thrive. That's not just for the quarantine period but later with the flock. Even when fully integrated, birds often form cliques. Birds raised together or introduced together often stay somewhat separated even after full integration.

How old are the "hens" you are getting? If they are laying they can be considered adults, if they have never laid they are still adolescents. There is a lot of difference in how immature females interact with an adult flock versus how other adults interact when introduced. If they are not laying I would absolutely have a minimum of two and would prefer three. Immature females tend to form a sub-flock until they start laying and are mature enough to force their way into the pecking order. When they do join the pecking order it is usually pretty peaceful. A mature female will typically immediately join in the pecking order but it might be a bit more violent. People do both all the time but the actual techniques can be a bit different.

Speaking of quarantine--how long should we keep her/them separated from the flock? We will be keeping them in a small coop, which is portable. How far from the main flock should we put them?

Disease and parasites can be transmitted from them sharing food or water, living in dirt the others have lived on, by insect vectors like mosquitoes, grubs, or grasshoppers, or by the wind. You can transport disease or parasites between flocks on your clothing (especially shoes) or by using the same buckets to carry food or water to them or maybe even feeding from the same storage container if you are not careful about cross-contamination. The further apart the better, but most of us can't manage a really great quarantine. It's a case of doing the best you reasonably can.

30 days is a typical recommendation for a quarantine. For most things that's enough time for new disease or parasites to show up. It's also a good time to check for parasites like mites and lice or even treat for worms. Usually I don't suggest treating for something I don't see symptoms for but this might be an exception. Or check with a vet to see what it would cost to check a fecal sample for worms.

Don't put too much faith in the vet checks for chickens at fairs or shows. Typically they have specific requirements for certain diseases but those requirements are often very limited. Too often it is the state NPIP requirements only, which can be limited. I know someone who brought home fowl pox with his chickens from a show.

How important is quarantine? That's a hard one to answer. Many people house new chickens across wire as soon as they bring them home and think that is a quarantine. It is not, yet they seldom have serious issues. If they do have issues it is most likely to be something easily treatable like mites, lice, or Coccidiosis. Yet the possibility always exists that you could introduce something that will wipe out your flock. The more they have recently been exposed to other chickens the higher that chance. I believe the chances of a disease wiping out your flock is pretty low, but if it happens to you that low percentage immediately jumps to 100%.

I don't want to scare you away from getting the new chickens. People do that all the time. But I'd suggest you do the best you can for a quarantine. That's probably better than the vast majority of us could manage.

Good luck!
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
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Nov 12, 2009
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I am not sure what you mean by your quarantine quarters, so just for clarity, I would not lock up birds inside a coop (building) for 30 days. Birds need fresh air and sunshine.

Most backyards are not set up for quarantine. In order to truly work, it needs to be stringent. It is not a kind of, sort of thing. If you can't do a full quarantine, you may as well not do it.

However, I have added birds to my flock numerous times. To me, healthy looks healthy. I would never add a bird that I feel sorry for. And I only add from nearby established flocks. Not from swap meets where birds have been exposed to who knows what.

As for birds from the county fair.... they are right in saying could be a disaster, but a bird taken to a county fair, then brought home to a new place, new food, new shelter... that is going to stress that bird, and if she was going to get sick, I would expect it to show up quickly.

If loosing your flock would put you into a state of decline, don't get the birds. If you are the type that will medicate and try and save the bird or birds, don't get the birds. But if you can quickly deal with a diseased bird if needed. Well then I think I would risk it.

Mrs K
 
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