Have you been thinking about getting more chickens? There are many swaps and meets coming soon, where you may be enticed to get more chickens. There are some important things you need to know before adding to your flock.
First things first. You must keep all new birds away from your current flock for at least 30 days and preferably more. Yes this means they need their own housing along with a chicken run, or fenced in area. Some diseases are airborne, and some are parasitic which can spread to any available warm body nearby, so it is essential they do not share the same airspace. Why 30 whole days or more? Chickens may get sick because of the new environment, or they may already be sick but are not yet displaying signs. The worst thing that can happen is that your original birds may get sick and die. No one wants to bury a favorite chicken. The first ones you get are always special!
During the Quarantine:
- Watch for signs of sickness, parasites such as lice, mites, breathing problems, discharge from eyes or nostrils, fungal problems on combs or wattles.
- Adding a little apple cider vinegar to their water (a couple times a week) will help protect them from parasites.
- Wash your hands between handling or tending to the original chickens, and the new chickens. It is best to care for your new chickens first, that way anything on your shoes or clothes will not transfer to your original chickens.
- Give them meal worms or another protein snack. Moving is stressful to these new birds. They may lose a little bit of weight and sometimes they may lose some feathers.
Any sick birds will need 1 of 2 things, either treatment or to be put down. Check out this post by the Chicken Chick on How to Help a Sick Chicken.
After Quarantine – Getting to know you…
I like to officially introduce the new birds first with a fence in between them, for the first several weeks. They will still go through the fights, puffing their neck feathers and bumping chests, jumping on each other, and not allowing some to access to food and water, when they meet without the fence.
They are basically fighting for their spot in the pecking order. My smallest hen was dominant before we got our new hens (which were much bigger than her) and she went toe to toe with these bigger hens and even the VERY LARGE rooster!
I don’t get involved unless it is very serious. It all looks so brutal. If you watch the video you will see what I mean. The only time I would stop this behavior is if I see a chicken being denied access to food and water, or if one of them is really getting wounded. That bird would need to be pulled aside, treated and quarantined until feeling better.
Check out the video I made of my chickens meeting without the fence for the first time. This is great to watch so you will know what it’s really like!
It is hard watch, but the pecking order is essential to happy and healthy chickens. I found it very interesting that once they were all one big happy family, the rooster would alert the girls to good water, food, and even danger! The rooster has several different noises he makes. One of them sounds like an alarm, and that is exactly what it is! He is very protective of all of the girls. I had no idea what I was missing out on before I had him!
If your old chickens do not want to hang around the new chickens, don’t worry about it too much. In a few short weeks they will most likely all be hanging out together. I felt really bad for my original hens when we first got new chickens and a rooster, but they are doing really well now!
Introducing Chickens face to face – things to do
- Put out extra feeders and waterers.
- Make sure each chicken gets food and water. Sometimes this means standing between old and new hens to make sure they have time at the watering and food stations. Yes, I have done this!
- Monitor fights and squabbles to make sure no one is getting hurt.
- Inform your husband that the rooster is mating with the hen and not trying to kill her… and that he should not kick the rooster for trying to kill his favorite chicken… Yes this happened too. Lol!
It is not advised to introduce only 1 chicken into a flock. The attention from all of the birds will be directed on the one new bird, and this could prove fatal. I suggest you get a couple of new birds at a time.
Also, it is suggested that you introduce chickens around the same size as other birds. Placing very young and small birds into an existing flock can be fatal. My original hens were much smaller but older than the new hens. It was hard to see the large rooster jump on her and refuse her food, but we watched closely and they did work everything out. I am considering buying chicken saddles for my smaller birds. This whole mating thing is so rough sometimes, especially with smaller hens.
Introducing New Roosters
I added a rooster to our flock. We did not have one previously. It is suggested that you have 1 rooster to about 10-13 hens. Adding more than one rooster can add problems. They will fight for dominance. The best option for having more than one rooster is that they grow up together and live without hens or with more than enough hens to share. Or you could choose to have them in separate pens. There are so many different options to choose from. If it works for you and they are not continuously fighting then I say go for it!
I hope this little guide helps you. Adding to your flock is a lot of work but so worth it in the end! We love our new hens, they are eggcellent egg laying chickens.
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