Need Advice on How to Add New Hens


11 Years
Sep 28, 2011
West Lnn, Oregon
I am looking for advice. What has worked for you and for others?

We currently have 10 hens and one beautiful gentle roo. We have had chickens for the past 3 years, and some are getting old....

We had 4 others, but one died from a predator (unidentified, but may have been a coon), one probably died of old age (a beautiful dignified Buff Orphington named May that someone who loved her gave us because she felt the hen would do better in a place with others.) and two little black pullets with green legs which appear to have been pecked to death just when they were ready to start laying at the end of the summer 2012. r. We are worried the older hens will do it again.

We just built a new coop that is large and very comfortable. It is about 12 by 18. It has one enclosed room for laying and eating, another feeder outside with a beautiful nipple waterer, a large play area/ sun yard, a connecting door to the goat pasture for "free ranging outside" and a set of three 6 foot long roosts at the far end for sleeping. In short, it is essentially a three room condo. We will put a deep layer of litter on the floor made from saw dust, straw and paper shred. There are just a few details in the coop needing finishing. It is currently pouring rain here (Near Portland, Oregon) so everything is on hold!

With this big of a coop, we could put in up to 10 more hens. I want to add at least 5. However, how can I do that? Should I get full grown hens? I prefer pullets which will start to lay when they come of age. However, I don't want the new ones to be pecked to death.

Someone said to just put in the new hens at night and no one will be the wiser. Is that true?

I am hoping to get different breeds: Maybe a Polish, a Turken, and some good layers that are different from our current flock. We have 5 Rhodies, 2 Buff Orphington, 1 Barred Rock, 2 Black Star and the rooster is probably an Easter Egger. I am wondering it anyone predicts certain breeds are more apt to be attacked. Will some little cute animal like a Polish or a funny looking one like a Turkhen be immediate objects for attack? If I get a couple Auricanas, will they automatically be attacked? Is a Rhodie or Buff going to be safer? What is a good type to get that has white feathers?

Should I put the new ones into one of the old coops and let them all meet down in the goat pasture during the day time? I want to take down one of the old coops ASAP, but we can use the other coop for things like sick bay or newbies.
I am in your region, and here is my advice:

Buy chicks! The chances greatly increase if you buy adult hens for you to bring illness into the flock.

Raise the chicks in your old coop (if you buy them now from Wilco - I think they have chicks until the 27th so 3 or so more days) and keep them basically inside during the cold days. But then they will be nice and healthy (hopefully!) and can join your older flock when they are around the same size as the others. The optimal thing is to wait until 16 weeks but I have gotten away with it earlier- it depends on the personalities of the older hens.

I have 5 and 6 week olds now. They will need a 100 watt bulb for a while since they won't have the meat on their bones to deal with the cold nights, even though the "fully feathered" status may have been reached. So use your judgement on lights.

Raising chicks in the winter is possible but they need to stay in the coop longer, have supplemental heat weaned carefully and provided longer than spring chicks, and of course making sure they have enough floor space to live indoors (even if they can go out the pop door if they want).

The more chickens you add to the old flock, the easier of a time they will have of it. So if you add three hens they will be pecked more than if you add 12.

As far as the Polish goes, I have only had one and only for a brief period of time. No one bothered her in her flock that she was in raised as chicks, but I have read stories on BYC about integrating Polish and they were picked on. They can't see well and they become startled by sudden movements.

As far as a white chicken, the best layers will be the Leghorns, but they FLY.

The Easter Eggers are docile and tend to be lower in the peck order from my experience. I like them and have one in my flock now. Your Rhode Island Reds and your Black Stars, if they are aggressive, may make it difficult for integrating a new flock but your coop is so large that you have a good chance of it working out well, IMO.

So, I'd make sure that you have two feeding stations when they are integrated, as they may not let the new ones eat. Also I'd not provide light in the coop until they are fully getting along well, so no pecking on the roost occurs hopefully.

I hope this helps!

(So get whatever breeds you want and see how it goes! It is quite fun to have a variety, since it makes it easier to name them and keep track of who is who.)

Some of the online places sell chicks even now too, and I think McMurray still sells 4 week old chicks even now.
That is so helpful! Thanks.

I was not planning to do chicks since it is a lot of work, and I have so much to do, but I see your point. Perhaps next spring will be good for that. I do not want to get into spending lots of time with little chicks, but I guess I will have to do it to avoid illnesses. There is a nice airtight locking coop and I have a heat lamp. I would need to provide a tub for them to sit in.

We have 4 little Rhodies and 1 huge one! I think the little ones are different: gentler, prettier, calmer, great layers. They are going to be 3 in April. The Black Stars are huge as is the one Rhodie, and they are the dangerous ones. You are right about that. The Buffs and the Barred Rock are gentle.

With a coop the size ours is and 18 feet of roosts (we can add more, too) , how many chickens would be comfortable? The coop is 12 by 18 but one part that is 4 by 6 is storage. So, it is only about 200 square feet, and it is around 6 feet tall. It leads into the goat pasture where they will "free range" much of the time when we are home to ensure predators arent flying over. or otherwise entering their area.
You can get pullets 16 weeks or so and quarantine them for a month to make sure they don't have an illness.

I integrated two new pullets by using hardware cloth to section off a part of the run so the other hens could see them but not get at them (do this for a week). Then I introduced them by waiting until the others went to sleep and slipped them into the coop. I made sure there were several feed and watering stations so everyone had access to food and water. There will be pecking and chasing and posturing to establish a pecking order. There will be chicken segregation where the new ones hang out together and keep their distance. In about a week, mine were completely integrated and laying in a big pile in the sun with the older ones.

FWIW, I've heard of people having a lot of problems with a bully hen so read up on how to take care of that situation. My older hens are still young (20 weeks) so it could be why mine went so smoothly.

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