To add or not to add to urban flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chickychicks, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. chickychicks

    chickychicks In the Brooder

    Jun 2, 2010
    Denver, CO
    I am looking for opinions/experiences. We got our first chickens last June and had a flock of five (started with six, but one was a roo who got re-homed). This weekend a fox got two of our girls. We have a spacious coop and run (built for six girls) and are contemplating adding two or three to our flock. I've been reading out bringing in new girls to a flock and am questioning if we should do it right away; be happy with three girls; or wait a until Spring of 2012 to stagger ages/laying. If we brought in new girls now they would be 4 - 6 months old (ours are 6 months old and not laying yet).

    I am a bit worried about the quarantine period. How have folks done that in a city yard? We have a big lot and can probably borrow a small coop and run from a neighbor who hasn't gotten her chickens yet. Though it has a small hardwire run, we won't be able to bury hardwire cloth around the temporary run/coop. I am worried about the predator proofing aspect, especially since the neighborhood fox(es) have figured out where a meal is.

    Our original flock was VERY happy and content. My other worry is about bringing in new girls and it not being a happy and content flock.

    What are people's experiences with adding to a small backyard flock.

    Thanks all!! Appreciate any experiences/input/advice/thought.
  2. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    If it was me, I'd wait until spring. Quarantine, plus integration, plus winter? That would be too much of a hassle for me to deal with. When you add chickens to a flock, there is always a period of stress as the new pecking order gets sorted out.

    Plus in the spring, you have the possibility that one of your hens might go broody, and then you could get some hatching eggs to put under her. That's how we added to our flock last spring. There's nothing like it! It was one of my life's most memorable experiences. If none of your hens cooperates and goes broody, you could always get chicks in the spring and brood them yourself. There is much less risk of introducing disease into your flock when you get day old chicks, and you'll be housing them separately anyway until they're almost as large as the adult hens anyway.

    Did you figure out how the fox got your other hens?
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2010
  3. chickychicks

    chickychicks In the Brooder

    Jun 2, 2010
    Denver, CO
    Thanks for your thoughts - very much appreciated. I think part of our concern is we have this big coop that we thought was going to be occupied (are warmed by body heat) by six birds and now there are just three girls huddled in there at night. Might have to rethink winter coop warmth.

    We think s/he got in one of two ways. The fencing goes up 6 feet on side with the interior side of 7 feet and then we had plastic fencing on the top -- more to keep the chickens in. There were a couple small gaps that the fox could have jumped the six foot fence from the neighbor side and get through. The other possibility is that the door was not completely latched (it still is heavy and hard for a human to get in as you have to lift and pull at the same time...but I think if s/he was determined he could have pulled it open). When I went outside to check on the girls the door was wide open with one dead chicken in the coop and the rest scattered in the yard. Two of the girls were injured and one died while we were cleaning her puncture wounds (pretty sure her lungs got punctured through the wounds on her upper back). We are still baffled because the door is hard to open whether you are inside or outside of the coop (it catches on the cement based we put below the gate so that predators could not dig below the door).

    Again, thanks for your input!
  4. cobrien

    cobrien Songster

    Mar 16, 2009
    Oakland, CA
    One thing to think about is what you plan to do with your hens as they get older. Will you keep them through retirement or will you cull them and/or eat them?

    If you plan to retire them as I do, then read on below. Otherwise, I think there are pros/cons to adding now vs. later. Since they aren't laying now, the stress of adding new birds now won't disrupt your egg flow. But I agree that winter + quarantine + integration all have individual challenges and you'd be taking all on at once. So it would seem to depend on your setup and ability to deal with winter and quarantine to understand how much of a pain in the butt that would be vs. waiting in spring. If your run gets filled with snow, then I think I'd definitely wait till spring because once quarantine is over you will have added stress of having less space. Integration is ALL (or mostly) about space.

    If you DO plan on retiring them, then I will share my approach with you. There are 2 adults in my house and we eat a lot of eggs, probably on average a total of about 2 per day (we're vegetarian and almost vegan so we get a cholesterol intake "credit"!). So 2-4 actively laying hens is a good number for us. We need to add a few hens every 2-3 years to keep up egg production. So far, I've added to my flock 2x in the last 6 years and we've been able to keep the total hen population to about 7 (retirees + layers) which is about as many as I want to keep. Bottom line is that if I were starting from scratch, I'd get 3 hens now, and expect to have 2 remaining in 2-3 years due to natural / unnatural mortality. Then I'd probably add 2 in 2-3 years, and re-assess my chicken population / egg production as needed over time. I'm hoping by the time my retirement community gets too big that I'll be out of the city and in the country where the girls can retire in style [​IMG]. I'm telling you all this because if you want to retire hens and you start with 6, you could quickly end up with lots of chickens for a city coop within 3 years. Note that many chicken folks advise against adding a few hens every few years due to the stress on the flock and potential for introducing disease - which are important to consider. But for me, culling or selling my pets to be eaten is not an option so I quarantine for 2 months just in case and go through a lengthy 2-3 month integration period by partitioning my large run so everyone can get used to each other.

    Good luck,
  5. chickychicks

    chickychicks In the Brooder

    Jun 2, 2010
    Denver, CO
    Wow. Thank you both for great posts! We are still pondering the choices and issues.
  6. KC n KY

    KC n KY Chirping

    Oct 10, 2010
    Grayson, KY
    Correct me if I am wrong, but I have heard that if you buy birds from somewhere local( app. 30 min drive), then you only have to quarentine birds for one week ( or just enough time to make sure the birds do not have any disease). I think this is true because locally grown birds have the same immune system functions as your birds, and part of the time of quarentine is to allow the new birds immune systems' to function properly. I am no expert, but am pretty sure that this is true.

    If that is the case, then having a bird in quarentine for only a week or so is not to bad( if you have the proper means for quarentine), and as cobrien said, because the hens are not laying, it will not dissrupt their eggflow. This is just my 2 cents, I am no "expert", but I buy chickens locally, and just keep them isolated long enough to show signs of illness.

    So, in conclusion, it depends on where you are getting your birds. If they are from local, then go ahead. If they are not, then wait till spring.
  7. chickychicks

    chickychicks In the Brooder

    Jun 2, 2010
    Denver, CO
    I love this message board -- lots of valuable opinions. Our first step is to meet some young pullets (2-4 months) to see their personality and such and see if we bond and want them to ultimately join the flock. And then contemplate the option of adding in baby chicks next spring or so.

    Stlll open to hearing experiences of others!
  8. Dixiedoodle

    Dixiedoodle Songster

    Apr 14, 2007
    I have done both--adding adult stock and chicks..Both had their advantages and disadvantages...The adults were 4 months old and very flighty when I got them. I quarantined them for 35 days..trying to handle them each day--wormed and dusted them.. They are beautiful and healthy but still very flightly after being here 13 weeks.. Finally, they will let me touch them or pick them up but aren't happy about it...

    Chicks: I loved having the time to get to know/handle my chicks.. They are by far my friendliest --social birds.. They love sitting w/ me and will come over to be cuddled.. BUT they were in their own pen away from the main coop for 30days --away from the big girls for 17 weeks total....because they were so much smaller than the big girls.. I divided the run and they have been in their section for 4 weeks and sleeping in a cage inside the coop at night -- more work for me but safe for them. I let them all free range at the same time but they were not together.. little girls stayed w/ me and the big girls did their own thing.. So today, for the first time they are all together in the same coop, run w/ out dividers or cages...

    It was MUCH easier to quarantine the adults for 35days, keep them in a divided section for two weeks and then open them up... It was more work to shuffle the little girls into their cage at night and into their run during the day.. BUT I got the chance to tame them down- right from the start... the older girls cost more but I got the ones I wanted from a good breeder.

    Good luck w/ your decisions..
  9. Knock Kneed Hen

    Knock Kneed Hen California Dream'in Chickens

    Feb 15, 2010
    So. Cal.
    Quote:Not true. Birds coming from your next door neighbor could be carrying a disease that your birds haven't been exposed to yet. (ex: Coryza). They may have something in the soil or not a good house keeping regimen. You should always quarantine birds no matter where they come from or how old they are.
  10. flakey chick

    flakey chick Songster

    May 3, 2007
    Do you have a broody breed? I think letting mama do the work is less stress for all. I think the 3 you have left will keep each other warm enough, even in a big coop. I would wait until spring and hope for a broody. You could give her eggs or graft day-olds underneath. I have done both.

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