here is no one right or wrong way to add to an existing flock but it can sometimes be easier to mix new chickens if they are of a similar size (chicks will also have a bit more resilience against any bacteria etc. they might pick up from the flock by then aswell) . If the new chickens are coming from someone else as opposed to chicks bought and raised yourself then it is usually wise to have at least a 30 days quarantine period. This is because a flock will tend to build up immunities to its own environment, and even seemingly healthy chickens can ‘catch something’ (or give something) when mixed together straight away. If the new additions are ex battery hens then keeping them seperate for a while will also help them regain their strength and confidence as they get used to their new way of life.
When it is time to mix the flocks it seems to help if they can be seperated but seen and heard by the other ones – in practice this could mean a partition in the coop itself or it could be free ranging in a nearby area. That way they can get used to each other. After a week or so you might try to mix them in together and see how it goes – this is best done at night. Waking up together seems to make integration easier. Some people just go straight to the mixing them in together at night.
However you do it, there will probably be a little bit of scuffling for a pecking order, but that is quite normal. In the majority of cases integrating new additions to an existing flock can go very smoothly but you will need to keep an eye on things to make sure that there is no one being singled out particularly and picked on and everyone is getting a chance to eat and drink (if that is a problem having an extra food and water container in a different area may help everyone to get what they need). If any squabbles result in bleeding then the blood in itself can attract pecking attacks from the rest of the flock and so the injured chicken(s) should be seperated until healed.
Below are the mixing flocks experiences of two keeping chickens newsletter subscribers.
Christy Weick : “12th June I’m thinking about introducing our two flocks (Barred Plymouth Rocks are 11 weeks old and the Rhode Island Reds are 4 weeks old) together next week. The RIRs are climbing the recycle green chicken fence that I have around an oak tree for them during the day. The cat, Gre-Gre, has an eye out for them. The dog, Lay-Lay, has left the chickens along since the 10 BPR got out the other day and jumped her. La-La weights as much as a BPR. No matter how I look at the calender the two flocks will be 7 weeks apart. The RIRs are half the size of Patrick’s BPRs and they are gaining weight fast. Any suggestions on introducing them to each other or should I hold off another week or two?”
15th June “Well we put the two flocks together Friday night in the rain. When they woke up Patrick and I let them out into their 30′ pen. We took a cleaned mineral barrel and cut an entrance hole and several small vent holes around the top of the barrel (so that all 7 chicks could get into it when the rooster BPR goes on the attack). The older group is going after the male RIR and leaving the hens alone.
Patrick kept a close eye on them yesterday. When night came we put the BPR into the coop first and then around 9:00 we put the RIR into a cat taxis cage without the gate and placed the cage into the coop (In case they need protection). We place several water tanks and feed bins for the chicks to get a bite while they work things out. We throw a lot of garden scraps for the bigger ones to eat. The BPR seem to dig the red tomatoes and cucumbers and they leave the lemon (yellow) tomatoes alone. So far so good and I hope the cat doesn’t get in the mix, while they are working things out.”
20th June “Well it’s been a week since we put our two flocks together. They have their scuffles every now and then. To say that they have totally accepted each other would be telling a lie. The BPRs seem to single out the male in the RIRs. They each have their own “country” in the yard and the only ones who are aloud to cross the imaginary line is the humans. The only neutral ground is the coop and when we first put them in for the evening they have to get the pecking order just right. We still have a lot of hiding places (in the yard) for the RIRs because of their size. Patrick put together another perch for those who like to get up high. In a few more months Patrick will have to decided which on of the males he will keep and we will set the other free with his Uncle Gordan’s free range group (about 3 miles through the woods) from our house.”
8th July “Just recently Patrick and I took most of the extra hiding places out of the yard.
- Reason 1 . . . in dry weather snakes will find cool places (and lucky the other day in the chicken yard when I turned over the tan tub, like I do every morning, it was a King Snake (non-poisonous). We’ve had a string of copper heads (poisonous) lately under our house (which is off the ground).
- Reason 2 . . . the RIRs are getting bigger (they are almost the same sizes as the BPRs and they are starting to fly).
- Reason 3 . . . during the day the BPRs take turns flying over the yard fence to chase grasshoppers (leaving the RIRs to the yard and dealing with the 1 BPR that was elected somehow to stay behind and give them a run for their money).
Do they really eat the grasshoppers or do they just “play” with them? I’ve noticed that when one get a hold of a grasshopper, they spend more time running from the others (like watching football).
This week the BPRs are 15 wks old and the RIRs are 8 wks old. Gre-Gre (cat) will walk with La-La (dog) and I to the chicken yard. She gives them space (but keeps a close eye on any of them that are not paired together) and La-La has gotten braver and is walking in the yard with me. Sean (my husband) says that I am the “mother hen”.
The chickens are slowly accepting the bulls in the Pecan Field. They found out that if we feed the bulls, they have a chance to get some left over corn and other grains once the bulls leave the feeding trough.”
Another Method Of Mixing Flocks
Another ‘Soft Release’ method – this comes from Linda
29th June “I have a situation that is something I have never seen in all the years I’ve been around chickens, and for sure never in raising our own.
Seven hens, one or two days old, purchased. Raised together, on ”starter lay mash”……..introduced to scratch at 2 or 3 weeks old, and yes calcium/gravel/grit added in that same time frame. Still on starter lay mash too. A month and a half now. Very healthy looking, and seemed to grow faster than the first ones we purchased in early April.
The 7 lived quite happily together in the house on the heating pad, when they were very very little, graduated to larger cages, to much larger and at a month old, put in even larger housing, and on the enclosed porch. This is how we introduce them gradually from inside, to outside, to the real outside, by degrees.
This method has never failed.
So today was graduation day to go to the main enclosure/coops/hen house, etc. Took them all together in a large cage out to the enclosure. As usual, we left them in the cage for a couple of hours, in the shade so they could look/listen, and the others could look/listen.
Again, this method has never failed us.
Then, towards later afternoon, we opened the cage door and left it that way. This ”soft release” allows them to come and go……if they want to.
I went out to check them, as usual, every three minutes (worried mom here) and all was well. The one young one has bloody tail feathers! I grabbed her up and brought her in, since I have heard horrible stories of ”once they see blood they keep on a pecking at it”…….and got her washed off, dried up, ”quick-stop” on the area. I put her into a cage on the porch. After she was all seemingly okay, I put on ”anti-peck” and some other stuff along the same line, for chickens, that is suppose to keep the chickens from going near that spot OR wanting to.
I put her back in w/the group. It wasn’t a minute and her own cohorts were going after her tail again, AND she was bleeding again! She is back inside the porch now.
I did bring in her cohort (another same age leghorn gal pal) and the two have been happily staying safe and sound back on our porch. Getting spoiled rotten too:)”
6th July “On a fluke, chickie all healed, and doing very well with her leghorn cohort, I mucked and yucked the tail feathers with VICKS. The minor wounds were well healed.
I took her w/her cohort out, in a carrier. I observed for 99% of the day…….(leaving the carrier there, in case I had to pull them again). Had I had to pull them I would have returned them back at night, as suggested.
Again, it was not the oldest, nor the newer, but her very own lot she had been raised with, minus the leghorn I pulled out to be with her.
Well, lets just say, ONE COULD READ the minds of the two that went after her tail feathers, tasting the Vicks! Problem solved. Everyone is happy and involved again.
The one thing I did find a bit interesting: These little ones were only separated from the original ones (5 others) less than a week! Yet, back in w/the tribe, and although ”accepted” by all, the two leghorns stay to themselves, rather than pecking around with the ones they were raised with. HOW SOON THEY FORGET!”