Laying hens have productive life spans of only a few years, so most chicken owners periodically add new chickens to their flocks to keep eggs coming regularly. Chickens are notoriously social birds; the set rigorous hierarchies, and they can react poorly to the addition of new birds into their flocks. Introducing young hens properly to your existing flock minimizes problems.
Mixing Old and New Hens
Your older hens will have already established a flock pecking order. New, young hens will disturb the pecking order when you introduce them and attempt to create one flock containing all of the birds. Chances are you will have dominant and submissive hens in both your existing group and in your new additions. These hens will have to sort out a new pecking order. Age is not the pecking order determinant.
The more room you have for your chickens, the easier it will be to get old and young birds to mix together without major incidents. Free-range birds may form their own cliques and stay in separate areas; free-rangersare less likely to fight than birds are all being kept together in a coop. To minimize problems introducing birds in a coop or in open spaces, ensure the birds have plenty of water, food and nesting space.
Introducing Your Birds
It generally works best to introduce younger birds to your flock gradually over the course of several days or several weeks. Start off by completely cleaning and sterilizing your chicken coop so that everything inside it is clean and fresh. You can place a small enclosure, with the younger birds inside of it, inside the larger coop. Introduce your young birds slowly to the older animals by allowing the young hens out of their coop into the larger coop for a period of time every day. As the hens adjust to one another, you can leave the younger hens out for longer periods of time each day until all birds are acclimated to one another.
Hens who are sick or submissive, or who simply do not get along with other hens, will have a difficult time adjusting to life in a flock of both young and older hens. Watch your birds for signs that any one hen is being significantly picked on, bullied or abused by the other hens. Hens who are very aggressive and hens who are very submissive may wind up having to be removed from the coop permanently for their own safety or to protect the safety of the other hens.
- Rooster Hill Farms: Basic Chicken Care Beginner's Guide
- Mother Earth News: Help for Aggressive Roosters
- Hencam: Frequently Asked Questions: Pecking Order
- Raising Chickens: Rooster Questions
- United Poultry Concerns: Introducing Roosters and New Flock Members
- Hobby Farms: Chicken Diseases and Prevention Tips
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