Adding New Chickens To An Existing Flock
Adding new chickens to your flock is easy. Just follow a few steps for success.
Quite often, we find the need to adopt new chickens into our existing flock. That action sounds simple enough. However, if not done with the right amount of care, it can have heartbreaking consequences. The following items are some actions to take to make that transition as safe and as smooth as possible.
Before you bring the new additions to your property look for:
Wounds- Your new chicken(s) should be free from any open wounds. Other chickens will peck at the wound and make it worse or even kill the new chicken. They could also bring an infectious disease to your flock. Chicken feathers and skin are good at hiding infections. inspect under the feathers and look for swollen joints. Green spots are a sign of a bruise and may not be serious. Trust your nose. If a chicken has an off smell, don't take it.
Lameness- Your healthy flock will reject and peck a lame chicken. Its a terrible death. Skip lame chickens unless you have a specific treatment plan in mind.
Parasites- Lice and mites are the most common. Look under the feathers down to the skin- in the wing pits, on the back between the wings, the neck, and vent. If you find them, quarantine the bird(s) and treat with Ivermectin. Do not visit your existing flock after handling infested birds. Immediately remove your shoes and clothing (I stand in a contractor size trash bag and seal it.) and wash or discard them. Take a shower ASAP. Bird lice don't like humans, but we can easily transport them to a healthy flock and create a huge problem.
Quarantine & Observe
It is a good policy to keep any birds being introduced from other flocks at a separate location a good distance from your main flock. Observe them for a few days and watch for any illness, wheezing, sinus discharge, and pay close attention to the color and consistency of their poop. Watch for blood, worms, diarrhea, etc. If their droppings are abnormal, a simple starter solution is to feed medicated chick starter to the new chicken(s). This can clear up many pathogens that chickens have in their gut. Worms will need to be treated with Ivermectin.
Introducing new bird(s) with bad habits into your flock can create a nightmare. Feather pecking, egg eating, etc. behaviors will spread to everyone else. If you observe the newcomer behaving this way, cull them ASAP.
Introduction To your Flock
For a small flock it is as easy as having a cage or a fence to separate your existing flock from the new chickens. Keep them apart for about one week. During that time, they should get to know each other and the old flock will accept the new ones. Then one night, in the dark, go into the coop and open the cage door. In the morning they will slowly mingle and all should be peaceful.
If you are merging large flocks, construct a floor-to-ceiling fence. The procedure is the same but I give it about two weeks. Then I open a hole about the size of two chickens in the fence and leave it for a few days. Then, as I slowly enlarge the gap, the flocks slowly mingle and it is usually a peaceful transition.
I also helps if you have a separate feed and water setup for the new chickens so that the old ones don't feel the need to defend their territory.
Roosters are peace keepers. If you live where you can have one, a good rooster will shut down any fighting between hens very quickly.