Topic of the Week - Adding New Chickens to the Flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sumi, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    Pic by @PeepersMama

    At some point most of us will add new chickens to our flocks. Either to replace birds, or to expand the existing flock, or to add new breeds that we like and want to try out, or to add a rooster to an existing flock of hens. Whatever your reasons, the question is how to best go about adding new birds to an established flock? I would like to hear you all's thoughts on...

    - How do you go about introducing new birds to your established flock(s)?
    - What are the best methods for a smooth-as-possible introduction?
    - Do you quarantine new birds and if so, how do you go about it?
    - What is the best age(s) to introduce younger birds? (For example brooder raised chicks)
    - How do you go about introducing a broody hen with new chicks to her flock?
    - How do you introduce a cockbird to a flock of hens and what was your experience(s) doing so?

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    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  2. FluffyButt789

    FluffyButt789 Songster

    Feb 3, 2017
    Northwest PA
    I'm not experienced with introducing new birds, but my method is using a dog cage and putting the new birds in there for a week or more. I leave the cage outside by the chicken coop so they have to get used to each other for a while, and I will put the cage inside the coop as well at night time. I base it all off of the behavior of the chickens. I've never had bad fights between anyone, besides the odd peck or so.

    I am extremely curious, can you let me know what breed is in that picture? My MIL had one that passed away recently and we couldn't figure out what breed she was. Thanks!
    1 person likes this.
  3. nickellmama27

    nickellmama27 In the Brooder

    Feb 21, 2017
    Buckeye state
    Really interesting topic for this newer chicken mama
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    For biosecurity reasons, the only birds I add to my flock are baby chicks, either from a hatchery or that I hatch myself, either in an incubator or with a broody hen. My broody hens hatch with the flock, no isolation. I handle broody hens in two different ways.

    If my coop density is fairly low I just leave the broody hen alone. I put water and food on the coop floor where the chicks can get to it and let the broody hen decide when she wants to bring the chicks off the nest. After she brings the chicks off the nest, I clean out the nest. That’s it, the rest is up to her.

    If my coop density is fairly high I wait until the broody hen brings her chicks off the nest, then I put her and them in a pen out in my run for two or three nights with food and water. After that I open the door and let her raise them with the flock. After that, she will return each night to that pen so I can lock her and the chicks up from predators. I’ll attach a photo of that pen. As you can see it’s mostly wire so they can see and be seen.


    The hen is never isolated from the flock and the chicks are raised with the flock. Integration or reintegration is not an issue.

    My brooder raised chicks are raised in a brooder in the coop. They are raised with the flock. I handle these two different ways for various reasons. Sometimes I just open the brooder door at 5 weeks and let the chicks make their way with the flock. Since they have been raised in the coop with the flock integration is not an issue. I’ll include a photo of that brooder in the coop. As you can see, it’s mostly wire so they can see and be seen.


    These chicks sleep on the coop floor until they are ready to roost. They don’t start to roost on the main roosts until they are mature enough to force their way into the pecking order, for pullets usually about when they start to lay. To keep them from sleeping in the nests I put a juvenile roost over the nests to give them a place to roost. The top of the nests and the top of the brooder are also droppings boards. Here is the juvenile roost.


    Sometimes, usually to do with chicken density in the main coop, I put chicks in my grow-out coop at about five weeks of age. The grow-out coop is at the far end of my main run away from the main coop. A section of the run is fenced so I can isolate a part of the run just for them. I keep them in here until I’m comfortable they are going to return to the grow-out coop at night to sleep and not return to the main coop where they were in the brooder. Usually this works out to about 8 weeks of age. I just open their run and let them mingle with the adults. Now a shot of that grow-out coop.


    I'll include a shot of the overall layout just to help tie it together.


    I have never lost a chick to an adult flock member when doing any of these methods. I think there are two keys to that. First the chicks have been raised with the flock straight out of the incubator, from the post office, or with the broody hen. They grow up with the flock as part of the flock.

    Second, I have lots of room. I don’t have 4 square feet in the coop and 10 square feet in the run, I have a lot of room. The broody hens can keep their chicks away from the other adults if she wishes, many do not do that as much as others but they can. After she weans her chicks or I let them out of the brooder or grow-out coop the chicks can avoid the adults and they do. I don’t force them to sleep on the main roosts with the adults until they have matured enough so they can handle it. I don’t force them to mingle with the adults during the day. I provide several feeding and watering stations so the juveniles can eat and drink without challenging the adults. I give the chicks enough room to take care of themselves, not force them to mix with the adults at close range. I basically just leave them alone.

    I understand most people on this forum cannot do it this way. They don’t have the room, either in the coop or the run. They may not have electricity in the coop so they can’t brood there. For various reasons they may not be able to get baby chicks and need to get older chickens. We are all unique. But I think the basic principles are the same. Give them as much room as you can and don’t try to integrate strangers.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  5. FlyWheel

    FlyWheel Crowing

    Mar 19, 2016
    35.111165 -81.226586
    My Coop
    That's what I used. Once the new chicks were too big for their brooding bin, and too big to squeeze their way out of the cage, I put them into a large dog cage and set it in the middle of the run so they could get to know each other while I built their new coop. I also put a board on top of the cage so the older birds wouldn't poop on the little ones.

    By the time I was done with the coop they were large enough to defend themselves from the older birds I let them co-mingle. It helped that by this time I was done with the coop, so after herding all the oldsters into it I let the youngsters out into it as well. With this whole new thing to explore I'm sure that distracted everyone enough that they were all more interested in looking around than squabbling amoungst themselves. In fact I hardly heard any 'pecking order' noises at all while they were locked in there (I had them all sequestered there while I built their new run).
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
    1 person likes this.
  6. sdunmoyer

    sdunmoyer In the Brooder

    Apr 1, 2017
    Portland, Indiana
    I'm transitioning 6 2 month olds into original 6 hens. It's my first time so I don't have any advice of my own. I've read several threads on this topic and an older topic of the week about this. Someone I can't remember who advised hiding spots in the run. I hadn't thought of this and thought it was a great idea. Yesterday I built some and let the teenagers out to explore and they found one and seemed to like it very much. So whoever it was thanks for the ideas.[​IMG]
    Almarma and Shepshill like this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Never added any adult birds due to bio-security concerns.
    Have added chicks(hatched here and from local mill, grabbed right out out of shipping box) several times.

    I designed my coop with 2 people doors and a temporary wall to partition off one end of coop for integration/segregation purposes.
    It's been a great asset.....partition area has roost w/poop board, feeder/waterer, floor nest, and a separate run and pop door.

    First couple times chicks went to partition after off heat in brooder in the house,
    then I waited until new birds were laying before integration, just removed was tumultuous.
    Tho the partition amenities still helped with giving the newbies their own place to eat/drink/roost.

    Have had a broody hatch chicks once.
    Put her in the partition area due to high nest ratio and cold weather, removed wall when chicks were about 2 weeks old.
    That was integration was rather tumultuous also...but it worked out OK.
    Read the whole saga here....

    Last year I brooded the chicks in the partition from 1 week old and started integration at 4 weeks finished at 6 weeks.
    It worked great, don't think I'll ever do it any other way in the future!!
    Here's the deets with pics...
  8. Chic Rustler

    Chic Rustler Chirping

    Feb 11, 2017
    Imno kind of expert and im trying to introduce chicks for the first time to my flock. I raised the chicks in a brooder made from an old kiddy pool in my shop. At about 5 weeks i put the newly feathered chicks in a smaller coop inside the chicken run that i fashoned from an old dog house and wrapped with a cage. When they out grew that at 8 weeks or so i released them with the rest of the flock. They have been with the flock for 2 days now and so far the only issues i have had were getting them into the main coop at night. I have also changed the feed for the flock over to a 22% grower crumble with oyster shell and grit available.
  9. jennyf

    jennyf Songster

    Apr 24, 2016
    As the next step after look but don't touch, does anyone try free ranging? I don't normally let our hens have free run of the backyard, but I'm wondering if that would work to my advantage when trying to integrate. Neutral territory plus new distractions!
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I have done this several times, with different ages:

    I have added adult chickens. I never have added just one. And I don't quarantine, to me healthy looks healthy. However, I don't buy adult birds from auctions or swap meets, but rather from other people who have chickens like me in similar set ups. It is a risk, but I don't have a huge number of birds or a valuable flock. I have several hideouts in the run. I have only had one bird be a bit cantankerous, but I let them sort it out, and eventually they did.

    I have for years, let a broody hen raise chicks in the coop. With my first broody hen, I tried separating her, she went back to the nest she liked. I decided she knew more about it than I did, and gave her chicks. Since then, I let them do it their way. Sometimes I get chicks, sometimes I don't. The broody hen introduces them to the flock, and protects them from the flock until they get used to them.

    Many people with the best of intentions, separate the broody hen, and the flock forgets her. Then they wait until the chicks are 5 to six weeks old. The hormones for broodiness are falling or are gone all together. At that time they try and reintroduce the whole works into the flock. The hen is a single adult bird being introduced to an established flock. She is in a desperate situation of establishing her pecking order, has hormonally forgotten her chicks, and they too are at the mercy of the flock. Put that broody hen with the flock when her hormones are high, and the chicks stick close to her and you will have success.

    I do think that there is a very big difference, in a static flock. One that has not had change their whole lives. Flock mates raised together for three years for example are going to be very territorial. Flocks that routinely have had chicks in them, are much more tolerant of chicks, I think.

    I successfully introduced brooder chicks to my flock just recently. They were less than 3 weeks old. I did not pen them up, but I did give them a safe place to retreat. Much like a broody hen, if you think about it, a successful broody hen is a place where a chick can go for a warm up and be protected from bigger birds. The chick needs to know where this is. I used lattice panels. My chicks could go through them like water. They were not trapped on one side, big hens on the other. The chicks can venture out on their terms, scoot back into protection when threatened. These chicks quickly learn chicken manners. It took less than a week, and there was no signs of strife.

    Mrs K
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017

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