How to Successfully Introduce Chickens
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The first thing you need to understand is that chickens have a pecking order. It’s really their chain of command. The issue with this is, that when determining who is in charge of the flock, the hens will quite literally peck and bully each other, to fight for their position at the top. The hens will always pick on the weakest link, so you must be careful when introducing new chickens which may be smaller, younger, or even just a different breed. Some breeds of poultry are less aggressive, but they will usually still have a pecking order of some kind. So how can we introduce our new chickens successfully?
There’s safety in numbers. If you are looking to add new hens make sure you add more than one at a time. That way the flock won’t gang up on the one poor defenseless chook, she won’t take the full brunt of the attack and she won’t be completely alone if the others choose to isolate her.
When selecting a new hen, try and find one which is of similar size and age to the rest of your flock. For a more seamless transition, you need to minimise the differences between the hens. This will help reduce bullying and fighting.
For the first week after getting your new hens keep them separate from the rest. Have them on opposite sides of a fence, that way they can still see each other, and get use to each other but have the barrier for protection. After the week, their presence won’t be such a shock to the flock, then you can add them to the enclosure.
Introduce your new hens at night while the rest of your flock is sleeping. This will give your new hens time to become familiar with their surroundings before the confrontation come morning. The transition would be even better if all the hens, new and old, could be introduced into a new location, that way everyone is on ground zero. We know this won’t be possible for everyone, but if you can do it the results will be worth it.
When morning comes, make sure you are present when the birds come in contact for the first time, that way you can stop any nonsense before it begins.
Offer distractions. Change up the surroundings, try adding a few bales of hay, a mirror, include some extra perches, or a swing. Just some boredom busters to take their focus off the newbies. You could even add a chicken “pinata”, which usually includes tying up a broccoli or similar treat with some string and hanging it up, so that it swings when they peck it.
Acceptance. Be prepared for the chickens to fight. It’s in their nature, so chances are it will happen. You may just have to wait it out, after a week or so things should settle down, with a new established pecking order, but if you feel one of your hens is in real danger or looking overly stressed. Remove them from the flock.
If you have done everything in your power to minimize the damage, then hopefully you’ll only lose a few feathers rather than the hens themselves.