Introducing new chickens to the flock

There are things you should seriously think about before adding chickens to the flock; how many chickens / hens will you have? How many eggs will your chickens produce? What will adding new chickens do to the current pecking order?

There are several things you need to take into consideration when adding new chickens / hens to your flock.

1) Disease

Disease should be the first thing you think about when adding new chickens to your flock. Your current chickens or their living environment could contain bacteria that's fine for your current chickens but could prove fatal for the new birds. E.g. a chicken could become immune to one of the nine strains of Coccidia (this is a common bacteria that's present pretty much all the time with chicken flocks) but the chickens / hens you add to the family may not be immune if they are introduced to a flock that has a different strain of the bacteria.

2) Social Interaction

Birds have a pecking order which is basically a hierarchy and social structure. Who's at the top, the bottom and anywhere in-between is very important. Any sudden disruptions to that pecking order by adding a new chicken / hen may lead to serious injury, or worse, death for a bird, which is the last thing you want to happen.

3) Environmental Change

Hens / chickens are by nature very suspicious birds, they are wary of new surroundings, sights and sounds. Some, the daft buggers, would even starve to death instead of changing their diet. Others will just need some time to adapt to their new surroundings, but until they have adapted they will appear shell-shocked and uncertain for about a week.

What to do when introducing a new chicken to your existing flock

1. Vet the chicken / hen

Take the chicken to get a check-up at the vet. Check for and treat diseases, communicable or not, also assess the general condition of the bird.

2. Quarantine the chicken

Check with your chicken vet to see what amount of time they recommend to quarantine the chicken for. During this period the chicken may show signs of a disease developing, if this happens take it straight back to the vet. If not, move onto the next stage.

3. Slowly introduce the chicken / hen to the flock – do this in the following steps

A. Let the bird listen first – Place the chicken somewhere where it can hear the other hens but not see them. This allows it to get used to the sounds of your flock and also for your flock to listen to the sounds of your new chicken (s).

B. Peek-a-boo – After a few days has passed move the new hen house so all the chickens can see one another. This allows the new member of the family to see its new flock and interact more personal with them.

C. Meet and greet – Allow the new chicken / hen out of the hen house to interact with the other members of the flock. I would recommend supervising this and also doing it in an open area, that way if anyone needs to run, they can.

D. New Housemate(s) – If step C goes smoothly try caging the chickens together. It is very important that you keep a close eye on the chickens once caged together and especially look for picking around the head and eyes. If there are signs of this remove that chicken immediately. They may have to be held in a separate hen houses.

If there are no signs of picking then congratulations you have successfully integrated a new chicken to the flock.