How to Introduce a New Chicken into your Existing Flock

How to safely introduce a new chicken to your flock

I didn’t think I would ever be writing a post about how to introduce a new chicken into your existing flock, but alas – my chicken adventures keep on coming. I recently shared with you all how the lovely Trish shared her best chicken with my Grace after the loss of her own sweet Ginger.  We are enjoying Miss Dawn very much! But it’s always scary bringing a new chicken to meet the others. Chickens are very territorial and don’t allow other chickens into the flock quickly.

So I read online. And watched youtube videos. Then read some more – all about the best ways to add new chickens to the flock. And found out that you really need to let the chickens get to know each other safely with a barrier so they don’t hurt each other.

Rhode Island Red Chicken

So we brought our new Rhode Island Red (Dawn) home and put her right away into a metal cage with some food and water. She was really excited to see all that lovely grass and began to eat it up.

Then we let the chickens out to meet her.

We were all a little bit nervous.

Lacey, Goldie and Pepper came up to the cage, and all seemed okay. They acknowledged that Dawn was there but went about their business. You know, pecking grass and the like.

Introducing NEW chickens to your existing flock

Heck, Lacey seemed so disinterested that she took a dust bath. And the other two chickens followed suit.

I felt like I was on National Geographic filming a documentary or something. 🙂

Chicken taking a dust bath

Chickens in the garden

Lacey finished her dust bath and decided to come over to Dawns cage to get a better look.

Chickens getting to know each other

The necks went up and they started pecking each other right through the cage! Poor Dawn g0t a peck right on her little red wattle which caused some blood. I was pretty shocked that Dawn stood her ground.

I had to break it up of course… and shook my naughty naughty finger at Lacey. Told her to be nice in my mommy voice. Too bad chickens don’t understand what I say.

Shame on you chicken!

After that it was bed time so for the first few days we put Dawn into the box we brought her home with inside the house. Then everyday we put her out with the chickens in the cage. There was no more of that fighting stuff but I wanted to get them all used to each other for the week before taking her out of the cage.

After 4 days I started to put her cage in with the other chickens at night. This way they could wake up with each other, but still couldn’t hurt her.

After one week I let Dawn out of the cage to be around the other chickens. Lacey went to peck her right away as she is the queen chicken. I was all mama-chicken though and kept her safely away enough not to get pecked.  The next day though, whenever Dawn would get  pecked she would just run away from her. They all eat grass together and seem to be fine.

Rhode Island RED chicken breed

Dawn has already found a little place in Grace’s heart. She loves her! She really is a sweet sweet chicken. And a smart one too! Always digging for bugs in the places my chickens never had looked before.

I will tell you Dawn is going to be #2 on the pecking order though, because she pecks Goldie and Pepper when they come near her. It’s pretty funny to see a pecking order established.

Now it’s been 2 weeks and we are able to keep them all together in the coop. Dawn is laying eggs all over the place instead of in the nesting box, but I am sure she will figure it out soon.

Chicks eating together

Here is a few pictures of them all together now that time has passed.

Introducing a new hen to the flockIntroducing new chicken to the flock - chicken coop

So all is going well with the new chicken. There is a lot less pecking and they seem to be getting along nicely.

Now to round this whole process all up!

How to introduce a new chicken to an existing flock - great thing to know when we get more chickens!

So here are all the best tips for how to introduce a new chicken into the flock. 

1.) Have a small cage that your new chicken or chickens can be in with fresh food & water. This keeps them safe and lets the other chickens get to know them. I would keep them in this for at least the first 4-5 days.

2.) Have the new chickens wake up with the old chickens – still using the cage for the first little while. I used the cage inside the roosting area for the first 6-7 days.

3.) When you do let the new chicken out of the cage stay close and pretend to be mother hen if needed by shooing away any pecking chickens if you can. Or make sure the new chickens have a safe place they can run to if they are getting pecked.

4.) It can take quite a long time – up to 3 weeks for new chickens to get to like each other. Be patient. There will be pecking orders established so some pecking is okay. Just watch to make sure they aren’t fighting for more than 20-30 seconds, drawing blood. A chicken with some blood can be attacked quickly by all the chickens and killed.

So that’s it! Have any of you introduced a new set of chicks or old hens into your existing flock? Any other great tips to share?17 Comments

How to Introduce a New Chicken into your Existing Flock was last modified: May 23rd, 2014 by Karrie

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m so glad that Grace found a second little baby to spoil and for her to be the mother again.(Even though miss Ginger has her first place in Grace’s heart, Dawn will be hers until she sees Ginger again 🙂 That silly chicken, does she really just lay them all around your yard? Sounds like lots of fun! keep on adventuring Karrie, and keep on sharing with us, I love to her your stories and adventures. Tell your little Grace that we are so happy for her and care about her. 🙂

  2. Very patient indeed, I used to just put them in separate cage for about a day, then let them fend for themselves. No one ever got mauled, as long as there is enough room for them to run. Great story.

  3. Thanks for the great guide! gonna keep this on hand for the near future as I’m hoping to get new chicks this coming spring! love the photos!

  4. This is great information. One thing I had a question about is how long do you leave your chickens in isolation/quarantine before beginning this process of introducing the bird to the rest of the flock?

    Thanks!

    • I quarantined the chicken for a week but always tried to keep her near the other chickens during that time so they could get to know each other.

  5. I definitely advocate quarantining new chickens for up to 4 weeks before intergration into the flock, they need to be wormed and pest dusted in that period as well. By week 3 I allow the free range hens to feed around the outside of the double fence, as eating together is the most socially inclusive thing to get the hens to do. It makes it so much easier on their day of release to get along successfully. Please never skip quarantine.

  6. I gave a bunch of chickens to my friend, and her theory was to put them in the hen house at night. Darkness. They existing chickens dont see the newbies and never notice them the next day. I saw this work…..and does she get eggs!!

  7. We added a new chicken to our flock of five a few months ago…just stuck her in there at night since we knew the home she came from she was healthy…the five red girls picked on her constantly..she spent a lot of time in the coop away from the others…we let the five out every day to free range and kept the newbie in the run to have some free time safely…after about 4 weeks, they get along okay now. They still run her off from the scrap bucket, but she manages to get some too. They all free range daily together now and don’t have any issues.

  8. I always put the new hens in the hen house at night when it is dark. Best if you have more than two news hens of the same breed to be introduced. Then come morning I let them all out at the same time to free range after keeping them in the hen house for about 4 weeks so the new hens know where to roost at night. Seems to work well for my girls.

  9. Would you mind if I shared on my blog? Thanks for a great article with excellent tips!

  10. I just put them in together this fine weather.

    Chickens are some of the oldest birds on the planet. They know more than us. Put them together and they will work it out. Its nice of you to do all this. But its too much fuss. They know the pecking order (so to speak) and they will live according to this order.

  11. AccidentalFarmer says:

    I have tried both ways: just throwing them in together (usually at night), and the way described in this article.

    I like the isolation way better, especially since I tend to buy pullets that are usually smaller than my existing laying hens. I keep them in the “cage within a cage” for up to 2 weeks, and have never had an issue once they were released, even with the size difference.

    In contrast, I have lost new pullets when I just did the “throw them in together” method because (as a former poster mentioned above), once the slightest amount of blood is drawn from an errant feather being yanked out, the other chickens will move in for the kill and not stop until the chicken is dead. They really can be quite vicious and territorial.

    I pay quite a bit for my new pullets because I like to collect rare breeds, and therefore I’ve learned to be more careful in the introduction process (not to mention that being pecked to death is a horrible way for the poor girls to have to go!)

    Great article.

  12. that’s all great.. but truly.. that first all together intro works the best if you offer treats that has the regulars so busy they don’t notice a new face.. they then might squabble a moment or two.. but within mins of intros.. it’s all good. I try to always intro 2-3 at a time.. less chance of being isolated and picked on..

  13. Have you ever thought about giving a broody chicken a few fertile eggs to hatch ( the problem you may get roosters not the hens you want ) I have seen you can buy them, or adding peeps to a nest they are trying to set on ? I want to add a few more chickens as peeps and have been thinking all these things ( there are a few more breeds I want ). Kathy

  14. The farmer who we buy our chickens from told me to put bacon grease on the beaks of the existing chickens to de-sensitize their sense of smell. Within one day the new comer was accepted by the existing three girls! I’m not sure if it truly desensitized them or if everyone is just happier when they smell bacon!

  15. we have a young old English roo and an adult Japanese black tail roo with 3 hens of multiple ages and want to put them together

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