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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Gonzales

Introducing New Chicks to Your Flock

Introducing new chickens to your flock can be a tricky business and stressful for everyone. The flock will need to establish a new pecking order and that can be hard for everyone involved. But being prepared ahead of time can help ease the stress and make the transition a healthy one.

Getting the chickens used to each other gradually takes a lot of time and patience, but creates a healthier bond between your existing flock and the new members of your flock, whether it be chicks or hens.

Courtesy of Wix Media

Making Sure You Have the Proper Space

Before bringing home chicks or hens, you need to make sure that you have enough space in your existing coop. On average, chickens need at least 3 square feet of coop space per chicken, but more is always better! You don't want them to be crammed and on top of each other.

If you don't have the proper space you will need to add more space. This can be done by adding on a large chicken run, building a separate pen, making a chicken tractor, or building a new coop. By making sure that your chickens have enough space, you are making sure they are not stressed due to too small of a coop.

Quarantine Your Chickens

All new members of the flock, whether chicks or hens, must be quarantined before adding to an already established flock. This is done to ensure that your new chickens are not carrying any diseases or pests. While in quarantine, you will need to examine them daily for signs of mites and lice, as well as common poultry diseases.

You will need to quarantine your new chickens for at least 30 days because many chickens will not show signs of carrying illness for several weeks, and many pests like lice could take a week or more to hatch. You defiantly don't want to get any of your hens sick, so this ensures the best way to keep everyone healthy!

Be sure to keep them in an isolated area where they are not sharing space with your already established flock. An enclosed area inside the garage or house will work if you do not have a separate coop.

Courtesy of Wix Media

Separate Space Inside the Coop

Once you are done with quarantine and you are positive that your new chickens are disease and pest-free, the next stage is to gradually introduce the new members to your already established flock, but with caution.

Place a large animal crate inside the coop. Be sure that it is backed into a corner so only two sides of the crate are exposed. This allows the flock to investigate the new members without getting too close. They can adjust to each other gradually without any fighting or serious injuries. There will be some pecking through the cage, but this is completely normal!

Keep the new members inside the cage for 7-14 days. Eventually, your established flock will lose interest in the new members. After this time frame, if the pecking through the cage has stopped you are ready to move on to the next stage, otherwise, keep them in there longer. It's very important not to rush this stage.

Free Range

Now that everyone is comfortable with everyone, it's time to let them free-range with each other. This allows them the space to get away from each other when necessary and lots of distractions to keep them from picking on each other too much.

As hard as it is, it's a good rule of thumb to not let your new chickens out to free-range until they have gone through the separate space inside the coop stage for at least two weeks. The two weeks give them time to acclimate to their new surroundings and recognize the coop as a safe space.

For at least a week, only let the new members interact with the established flock for about an hour per day with supervision. You can increase the time they spend together gradually over the course of a week or longer. The key to this step is being present and supervising the interaction, in case you need to intervene. Remember, some fights are going to happen. It's natural and necessary.

The rest of the time the new members need to stay in their crates, even at night. This step can take as much time as needed.

Crate Door Open

Now it's time to leave the crate door open and let your chickens intermingle as they please. This will allow the new members a space of their own to run back to if needed. Remember, chickens are their own unique personalities and have a certain way of intermingling.

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