It is never easy to introduce fresh birds into an established flock. As mentioned in our previous post, chickens establish a pecking order based on biological fitness so as to protect the flock from predators and keep order during feeding. Once chickens have gone through that tough phase of establishing order, they are nervous of strangers.
Here are some things you should know:
1. The process of reintegration is not a day-long event– it will take about two weeks. Try not to get discouraged or worried. This is a natural process which will work itself out.
2. If possible, try starting to integrate your chickens by placing the new-comers in a run while the old-timers remain in the hen house. This way there is a barrier between them: They can see each other, but they do not yet have to interact.
3. Never introduce only one chicken at a time. This is never a good idea, because it already may create a precedent of power for the poor new chicken which was never intended. The old flock should have their energy dispersed among at least two or three new chickens at a time.
4. Wait until the new chickens are at least 12 weeks old or until they have developed all of their feathers– then introduce them to the flock. At this point they have a much better chance of keeping their ground and not becoming completely helpless and singled out.
5. Introduce the new chickens only after you have completely cleaned out your hen house. This way there is a clean slate of scent, and neither old-timer nor newcomer feels too territorial.
6. Attempt to create a bond through distraction.Throw in scraps of fruit or vegetables so as to bring both old- and newcomer together in the heat of the moment. (Do not be dismayed if this method completely fails– these things require trial and error).
7. Be around while your chickens are re-integrated. You act as a common presence which brings unity and comfort to the entire flock.
After much struggle, you will see that in no time your chickens will begin naturally creating and re-forming bonds. This is an entirely natural process, and should be seen as such. You will have great new egg-layers working in peace in a jiffy!
Thinking about re-introducing maybe more than a few chickens? You may need a bigger coop for that. Check out our larger coops.