Just getting started and need advice on new chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Heididi, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. Heididi

    Heididi Chirping

    Dec 5, 2018
    Hi, all! I've just joined BYC and have some pretty big questions that I'm pretty sure all of you can answer for me. I've paid close attention to all your comments on construction of a coop and run, and I have built a set up appropriate for 6 hens (they have a coop that is 4' by 4' by 4' and a run that is 8' by 12' by 6.5' high). They will eventually also be given a mobile hoop run that will move progressively throughout my yard, where I hope they will eradicate much of the grass and grubs during the day, before returning to their coop and run in the evenings). I live in San Diego, which is currently entering its coldest weather of the year (we will rarely get into the 30s at night, up to high 70s and sometimes freakishly hot 90s during the day).

    I'd like to know if I should start with all 6 hens that I will eventually have, or if I should start with two or three then add more. I would begin with just two for two reasons: first, the poop will be lesser, and I'll get the hang of keeping the coop and run tidy without becoming overwhelmed with manure to compost as I learn the ropes (I'm afraid of an onslaught of new flies), and second, because I've heard it is an absolute pleasure and addiction to procure new hens once one has begun, and I don't want to overpopulate the space I have allocated for the hens.

    Are there problems inherent in introducing new hens to a flock? Will the hens be happier if they are all introduced to the space at once? My greatest goal is to reduce the stress on the flock and myself. So I am more than willing to start with all 6 hens at once. What do you think?

    And finally, what age and breed hens should I start with, and any advice on how to procure healthy hens? Things to look out for??? I am looking for good layers and good personalities as I have kids and also teach gardening to kids who will want to meet my ladies.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!!!!
  2. Welcome to BYC! When getting chickens you should add them all at the same time. If not, there might be disputes between the hens that cause problems. You can start with chicks, or get laying hens; but I would get chicks to enjoy the experience to it's fullest. To keep your flock from getting sick, look at all of them every day and look out for:
    • Runny noses, watery eyes
    • Redness on the feet, bumps, scratches, or brown plugs on the bottom
    • Droopy appearance
    • Blood anywhere on the body
    Good luck and be sure to ask any other questions you may have!
    sourland, Heididi and DobieLover like this.
  3. DobieLover

    DobieLover Crossing the Road

    Jul 23, 2018
    Apalachin, NY
    My Coop
    Hello again Heidi!
    If I were you, I would just get all 6 girls at the same time.
    I bought all of my current flock as day-old chicks and raised them together. I think that would be best for you. Not to mention, it is very rewarding to raise chicks. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Although you certainly can introduce new pullets to your existing flock, it is not without some level of stress and inconvenience. I also did this! Chicken math! AND I'm getting more chicks in the spring. :clap
    You should also chose breeds that can handle your warmer weather.
    Good luck selecting your flock! Keep us posted on what you ultimately decide to do once all the votes have been tallied.
  4. Chickassan

    Chickassan Wattle Fondler

    Hi! It depends how up for a challenge you are lol! If you want smooth and fairly easy get all six at once. If you want to see the "darkside" then add some later, you'll do it eventually anyway. As for breeds i'm going to reccomend some big cuddly ones that are awesome for kids, faverolles and brahmas. The only thing is you might want to go with four instead of six just due to the size. Since you're set on what you're wanting to do, to get healthy chicks i'd wait until spring "better shipping survival" and order from the hatchery nearest you.:)
    Heididi and DobieLover like this.
  5. I know fevs are really nice, usually, but it's funny because mine is really mean and tries to eat my finger(s). :lau
    I agree with chickassan, those are good breeds, but maybe get ones that are a bit hardier towards heat.
    Heididi and Chickassan like this.
  6. Chickassan

    Chickassan Wattle Fondler

    They handle heat better than you'd think. Like any other ones if they've got shade and a little pool to dip in they're o.k. This is dealing with S.C summers where temps over 100f are pretty common. Your fav bites fingers? That is funny.:)
  7. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Crowing

    Jul 29, 2013
    Cleveland OH
    Either way has it's advantages.

    Getting all 6 at once is least stressful for the chickens for sure. But you make good points about trying to get a handle on caring for chickens. That matters too. Don't underestimate the value of having some experience caring for and knowing your birds. Will the stress of your learning curve outweigh the stress of later introductions? No idea.

    Having said that, introducing birds to a flock is not hard and something that most flocks learn to deal with. It's not like it's a monstrous thing to do. But it's assuredly effort.
    To introduce new birds, first quarantine them, usually for a few weeks, to make sure they're healthy. I use my garage usually. Then isolate them for about a week or two in sight of the current flock. Then slip them into the coop at night, placing them on a roost bar. When they come out the next day there will be some fussing/fighting but it will be very little and should be a relatively smooth transition.

    I do suggest introducing two or three chickens at a time, never just one. Introducing just one tends to instantly make them the odd duck and they get bullied.
    Chickassan and DobieLover like this.
  8. DobieLover

    DobieLover Crossing the Road

    Jul 23, 2018
    Apalachin, NY
    My Coop
    I swore when we decided to get chickens, I was NOT going to be one of those people! No way, no how. We'll only have 11 chickens.
    When I get my chicks this spring, I'll have 20. :th
    Chickassan likes this.
  9. Chickassan

    Chickassan Wattle Fondler

    Oh I know! I started out with four now iv'e got eleven and iv'e built onto the coop twice. I had every intention of not being one of them.:lau
    DobieLover likes this.
  10. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    It's far easier to bring in/raise a full flock at once, however one thing to keep in mind is that egg production will start to drop off as early as 2 years. For that reason many keepers have flocks with staggered ages, to keep egg production rolling along more smoothly.

    You'll still have downtime especially if you don't provide light in the winter (I haven't had eggs since October or so, as my hens are over 2 and molting and my pullets are still too young) but once they start up the younger birds should help with production.

    As a continuation from above, the reason it's easier to bring in a flock all at once is because chickens are territorial and adding new chickens can be a real headache. The flock can attack and injure birds they don't recognize. Integrating new birds requires TIME and SPACE - even introducing chicks to a mature flock (the "easiest" integration) can take several weeks. With your current planned setup you may find it tight space wise for integrating birds, as it helps to have room to put in extra feeders, waterers, and obstacles to allow new birds to get away from bullies.

    That said, I haven't had issue adding birds thus far but I've only ever added chicks with adults and pullets with pullets the same age.

    Would you be interested in starting with chicks or are you interested in older birds only? Obvious advantage with chicks is they're cute, easier to source (you can order from a hatchery or go to a local feed store or breeder), and if you handle them from the start they're more likely to be friendly as adults. Downside is they're obviously a little more time consuming and depending on breed(s) chosen and source there's the possibility that you'll get a male.

    As far as breeds, IF you want to start with chicks and want to make 100% sure you don't get males, then any of the sex-linked types would be an option. If you're not a fan of high production hybrids then I'd recommend having at least one Easter Egger, as they come in almost every possible color and their eggs come in a variety of colors too.
    aart likes this.

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