Have chickens already and want to add some new ones to an existing flock? Introducing new chicks or hens to the flock can be a nerve racking time, especially if your not sure how to go about it. Before you go putting new chickens in with your already existing flock, you need to do so gradually.
Introducing New Chicks to The Flock
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You’ve already raised chicks, you know about the cleaning, watering and feeding that you have to do just about everyday, so no surprise there. What you should realize is that now you’ll be pulling double duty because you have baby chicks and a flock to tend to. Don’t worry though you’ll have a system and it’ll get done and you’ll know all this extra work won’t be forever.
Then before you know it thankfully, move in day arrives! The day you’ve decided the two flocks are ready to coexist. So you put your chicks in the coop and run area and realize the ladies aren’t taking so kindly to the newbies. Well no surprise here, there is a pecking order you’ve now just disrupted and no one is happy.
To make the transition go more smoothly, you need to do some things prior to just throwing the chicks in with the hens.
Gradual Introductions is Key
A few weeks before I’m ready to make the introduction between flocks, I like to set the babies up next to the hens for a few hours. So if the hens are confined to a chicken run I put the baby chicks next to the run in a dog crate. This way the hens get to see that chicks without being able to do any harm to them.
If the hens free range, put the chicks in the range area once again confined so they are visibly seen and heard. I do this as much as possible before the next step.
If your hens are confined in the run during the day, quarantine an area for the baby chicks to have space where the hens can’t get them. By this time your chicks should at least be six weeks old. I do this for about two weeks and then transition to the complete no barriers living! If you have all bantam chicks, use your best judgement because they are smaller and may need more time to grow.
The first day or few when all the chickens are together I like to set up distractions. Food, toys and the like make the perfect distractions to steer aggressive hens away from the chicks. Here are some ideas:
- Hang food from a string-lettuce, broccoli, etc. Keeps them busy for a long time!
- Busy box- I have a plastic box set up in the run at all times. It’s about 6 inch high and I fill it from time to time with dirt, scratch grain, etc.
- Use tree stumps, roosting bars or similar devices to create a place for the chickens to jump up on. Adding in structures also allows the baby chick to hide should the hens act aggressively.
After letting your chicks in with hens always observe the behavior of both groups. Chasing and pecking is going to to be normal for the first few weeks. What you need to be aware of if any chick gets an injury from the hens. If the hens breaks skin and there is bleeding you need to intervene. First, you don’t want the wound to become infected so spraying with a wound care spray is helpful. Second, you might have to remove the chick from the pen to avoid pecking from not just the hens but chicks. Pecking at a wound is normal behavior for all chickens and you don’t want the injury to worsen.
I wouldn’t completely remove the chick from the pen because then you’d have to reintroduce to not just the hens but the chicks as well. Place the chick within the run in the dog crate or other structure that you initially used to house the chicks until the wound is healed. Only if it is winter i’d place the injured bird in the garage or basement until they are healed.
So with a little forward thinking and some work, introducing new chicks to your flock is possible without an all out war. Patience is the key and honestly at the very best you want your birds to at least tolerate each other.
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