Introducing chickens can be quite worrying, especially as you really do have to let them find the order of things – and a lot of the time that involves squawking and pecking. I’ve learnt how to lesser the arguments with my flock though, and wanted to share with you how I introduce chickens to one another.
My chickens – well, all my pets and animals – are like my children. I don’t want them to get hurt or upset, I have a cupboard full of medicines and potions to keep them healthy inside and out. Most of them I’ve hatched myself, and the others are semi-rescue.
I kind of went into overdrive when we discovered we had red mite, one of the troubles of living in the woods, I suppose. I now even hoover out the coops every weekend.
At first I didn’t know how to introduce chickens to each other. What I found online and through friends who kept chickens, they tended to just let the new chicken/s in with the flock and let them sort out a pecking order. I didn’t want to do that, as I feel it also encourages bullying down the line. Here’s how I introduce my chickens.
How to introduce chickens
When we moved back in May, all the chickens got split up for the move. One of them had just hatched chicks as well, so she was separated from the rest too. Once we got here, it was a task finding who got on with who, and waiting to see if we had more cockerels or not from the brood.
As is always my luck, we had two boys and a girl.
Right now I have three small coops, each with a boy and two girls in. I’ve not had any arguments between them, except for Pumpkin who gets a little jealous if we’re about. So, how have I managed to stop arguments?
I took my time. Sometimes weeks!
We have a little rectangle rabbit run, which we use for this as well as putting them out of the way when their coop is being sprayed.
I put up a mesh barrier in the middle, so they can see, smell and be near to each other, but not actually harm each other.I also put their drinkers and feeders next to one another either side of the mesh. I’m not sure if my theory is correct, but by seeing them eat and drink from the “same” place, stops fights over food and water later on I believe.
I put one chicken in one side, and in the other it’s usually an already introduced pair. Having two girls be coopmates and introducing a boy is a lot easier than getting a girl to share her boy! It will always be different though, and that needs to be a big part of how long it takes to have them properly introduced and sharing a coop.
Loki, Raven, and Stripes took the longest to get along. Loki (boy) and Stripes (girl) are brother and sister, and have never been separated. Raven is actually their aunt, but she’s quite a tiny thing even for a Bantam. Loki really showed no interest at all – there’s no rank disagreements as he’s the male, and he wasn’t sexually mature yet. Stripes, on the other hand, was automatically put down a rank because she’s the younger pullet. This made it a little trickier. Raven is a quiet little thing, but Stripes would be straight on her every time we tried to remove the mesh barrier. In all it took some anti-pec spray and around 6 weeks of them spending their time in the rabbit run with the barrier.
Ov, Shilling, and Tuppence, were an absolute breeze. Shilling and Tuppence have been together for years, and get on really well. Ov is the boy, and it only took three days of them being in the rabbit run to get them in the coop together. Not a single argument or peck has taken place. I put that down to there not being any competition between Shilling and Tuppence, and Ov being the boy doesn’t lose out.
Pumpkin, Modi, and Fig weren’t as difficult as Loki, Raven and Stripes were, but almost. Modi and Fig had no problems getting along, and only took a couple of days to get along properly. They were then put on one side of the mesh together, and Pumpkin introduced. After a week or so, all seemed fine, until Fig thought it a good idea to challenge Pumpkin, who is quite a bit older and bigger than Fig. Pumpkin didn’t like than, and will remind Fig and Modi regularly who’s boss. Anti-pec spray has come in handy! After another week, Pumpkin seems to have calmed down and they get on just fine now.
When it comes to introducing your own flock, it will be a lot easier than introducing a completely new bird. If that’s what you are doing, make sure all your birds and the new bird are completely healthy and have been wormed and dusted.
I do advise setting up a system like our Rabbit Run System to introduce chickens or any birds you may have. I know a lot of people who do just let the new chicken into the flock and let them get on with it, but that can lead to injuries. If dealing with bigger and smaller breeds – Shilling and Tuppence are Leghorns, the rest Bantams – it can even lead to death is it goes wrong. Let them take their time, and I also supervise mine for the first 10-20 minutes of the mesh being removed. If it gets too much I can stop it and put the mesh back for a few days.
If you can have the birds sleep near each other, even better. If not, leave them all in the run until they curl up for the night, and then put into their separated beds. This way they get used to going to bed together, and it all becomes a habit before they even do it.
Just a recap…
- Use a system like our Rabbit Run System
- Keep anti-peck spray to hand
- Have them go to bed together, or sleep near each other (but still separated) during the introducing process.
- Let them dictate when the mesh should be removed. Different birds will react differently and need more or less time.
- If introducing completely new birds, make sure they are healthy and parasite free.
- If splitting up your own flock into smaller groups, try to keep already made friendships together.
- Supervise if necessary, but stay close and don’t leave the newly introduced group alone until you’re sure you’re not going to come back from the shop to a bald chicken.
Have you any tips or advice on how to introduce chickens? Let me know down below!