Introducing new Chickens to your flock
Introducing New hens to your flock can be a stressful experience but hopefully this will help you...
When introducing new hens we recommend that at least two birds are introduced at the same time to help reduce the risk of harm from bullying. If you have a large flock of perhaps 6 - 8 birds then it would possibly be worth trying to introduce more - so perhaps 3-4 birds to the established flock.
People often say to me we had 3 birds and one died we only want to have 3 maximum. In this case I would honestly recommend waiting until you are down to 1 bird and then add 2 to the remaining bird. This tend to work well. Customers often tell me that their current hen is very sweet and wouldn't dream of bullying another hen so only want to add one more - I then get a panicking phone call to say the existing hen has turned into a devil and is picking on the new hen and help! This is why we say always introduce a minimum of two at any time to help prevent this from happening.
If possible we recommend setting up a second enclouse as close as possible to your current pen and let the birds see each other for a few weeks through the fencing. gradually they can be introduced to each other perhaps when being let out to roam around the garden.
However - In reality not many people have the money or the space available to have multiple pens. So therefore we need to think differently about introducing new hens.. In this situation we would recommend hen you get your new chickens put them into the hen house with the older hens at night when they are roosting, in the morning let them out and observe them carefully. If you are very lucky there will be a small amount of mild confrontation before they settle together.
Often however this is not the case and fighting may start - I would initially stand back and watch as sometimes they just need to sort out the pecking order.. However sometimes it can get far more vicious and this is when you will need to step in. What we would recommend is to let your older established hens out into the garden and keep the new hens in the enclosure where they will be safe (ensure the older girls still have access to their own supply of feed and water)
At night once the new hens have gone to bed put the old girls back in and hopefully they will settle over night.
Without a doubt the answer to success is normally space... and also the number of hens you are introducing. We always recommend introducing a minimum of 2 hens at a time so that they don't get picked on - if you h ave a larger flock - introducing 3 or 4 is even better.
Space - the more space you have available the better - and don't site your coop in the corner of the run - ideally if this is in the middle the hens can run around it rather than getting trapped behind it.
New hens can often take a set back when they move home. Initially being scared can mean they don't eat for a few days and this is when they can become poorly. If you take your time to introduce them then normally very few problems occur.
A final solution can be to move the whole flock to a new set up for a few weeks - we have had hens come to board with us for a fortnight so that they can get used to each other. As it is a 'strange' environment for all birds none are possessive of 'their' coop and this can work well. - Although please if you want us to board for introduction purposes make sure you let us know so that we can keep an eye on the birds more closely!