Thursday, April 16, 2015

Introducing New Chickens to Your Existing Flock Part 2

In my last post I covered how to introduce chicks to your existing flock. I think this is by far the best method for expanding your flock.

But let's say you are a backyard chicken enthusiast and you happen to stumble into a free chicken giveaway from a trusted friend. Can you adopt the giveaways? Should you adopt the giveaways???

My practice, which is shared by many large flock owners, is "All in, all out" meaning all hens stay together and I treat them as one unit. I usually do not add more to an existing flock. When it's time to get new birds, I cull the existing flock, clean and disinfect the coop and move the new girls in. All in, all out.

But, sometimes it doesn't work that way. Sometimes you may have to introduce new hens to an existing flock. If this happens to be you, follow these steps to introduce the new birds safely without too much anxiety. The following steps apply to adult chickens only. Do not blend adult and juvenile chickens.

1. Before bringing the new chickens onto your property, visually inspect the birds to make sure they are healthy and fit.

2. Even if they look fine, isolate the new birds. Set up a temporary pen away from your current chickens. Do not put new chickens next to existing flock until they have been given a clean bill of health by an avian vet. Sometimes chickens can be carriers of disease and show no outward sign.

3. Chore your old birds before your newly acquired birds if wearing the same clothing and boots. Do not chore the new birds before the old birds without changing clothes and shoes. This helps to prevent spread of disease.

4. Once you are sure the chickens are healthy, set up their temporary pen next to the pen of your existing flock. Do not allow the chickens to mingle yet. Let them get used to each other for a week or so by living next door.

5. After the hens seem to be friendly toward each other (one-two weeks), you may put them together. Do this after dark when the chickens are on the roost.

6. Re-establishing the pecking order. Keep a close eye on the hens during the next few weeks. Chickens have a pecking order. This is a hierarchical system innate to the chicken. You cannot prevent the pec
king that occurs within the pecking order, but you can influence it somewhat.
  • Provide extra areas and roosts for chickens to retreat from bossy hens. 
  • Use Blue Kote or other pecking deterrents. 
Here's what I used to do. If one or more chickens is suffering from too much pecking, take out the most dominant BOSSY hen, not the poor beat up hen. Put said BOSSY hen in temporary isolation crate out of sight of the rest of the flock. Treat beat up hen(s) with Blue Kote. Leave BOSSY hen in isolation for a week, or until an obvious new bossy hen emerges. Re-introduce BOSSY hen. She has now lost her place as the dominant hen. The whole pecking order of the flock must be re-established. Many times, BOSSY hen will find herself a few rungs lower than when she left. Continue to watch hens and repeat BOSSY hen removal if needed.

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