Introducing New Chickens To An Established Flock

“Hi, it’s Drew here. I really enjoy your articles. I have 3 black cross Rhode Island Reds, 1 Campine pure bred which does not lay any eggs and now my daughters have sucked me into buying 2 Lohman Brown chicks to hand raise. During the night the chicks sleep inside for warmth, during the day they free range in what we now call the nursery which is secure from the adult chooks.

The youngies are 3 weeks old. What age can I introduce the chicks to the flock and is there any special tricks to make there introduction easy? I am not sure about having 3 different breeds in the 1 roost can you please let me know what to do? Once again, your information is invaluable and I can’t thank you enough. Looking forward to your reply. Kindest regards” ~ Drew

Drew,

I’m so glad you wrote.

It sounds like you and your daughters are on an adventure.

First, it shouldn’t be a problem to have the different breeds together.

If you can keep the chicks secure, you can start introducing them to the older girls anytime.

I don’t know your particular situation but if you can allow the two “flocks” to see each other but be kept separate, that would be ideal.

Typically, you’ll want to allow the new birds to be close but separate for at least 2 weeks before you add them to the existing flock. In this way, the birds start getting used to each other. Then when it comes time to combine the two groups, they’re not “strangers”.

When young birds are introduced into the coop, they need to be old enough to be fully feathered. This refers to the adult feathers. It won’t be long and your new Lohman Browns can be combined with the others but it is very important that they be fully feathered and closer to adult size.

When you introduce new birds into an existing flock, there’s bound to be bickering. The older birds see the newbies as a threat to the pecking order. The seasoned birds will try to put the younger and/or new birds in their place, which is at the bottom of the pecking order. By introducing birds that are big enough to “hold their own”, they will be better able to sustain this period of bickering.

When chickens fight or challenge each other, they peck at one another.

By making sure your new birds are fully feathered, the older birds will be less likely to draw blood.

We’ve talked before about chicken’s propensity to peck and peck and peck at a bird once they’ve drawn blood. Often times they will peck until they’ve killed the wounded bird. This doesn’t always happen but it is something to be aware of so that you know when and if you should intervene. If fatality is not a concern, it’s best to just leave them alone and let them work it out.

Rhode Island Reds have a tendency to peck more than some of the other breeds. I don’t want to worry you Drew, but I do want you to be aware.

A few ideas to try if you are having trouble getting the older birds to accept the younger birds;

If you are free ranging you flock, a few days before combining the two flocks, release the younger birds first for the day. After ½ hour or so, release the older birds. In a large space, the older birds won’t feel as threatened by the younger birds and they’ll start to get to know each other better.

However, if after you have combined the two, the younger birds aren’t getting as much to eat as you’d like to see, release the older birds first. In this way, the younger birds will have a chance to eat without getting harassed.

Provide places of refuge for the younger birds to hide if they need a break from the older birds.

It’s always important to introduce new birds in at least pairs. This ensures that no one bird receives all the pecking.

Finally, and I haven’t personally tried this, I’ve been told that chickens identify each other by smell. Try spraying each bird with white vinegar. The vinegar disguises the natural smell of each bird and may fool the older birds into accepting the new birds.

Again, I haven’t personally done this and would be interested to hear if anyone has had success with this method.

Drew, I hope this has been helpful and wish you and your daughters all the best in your adventure.

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