How to Introduce New Chickens into your Flock, part 1

[This article is part of a series that addresses the question of how to introduce new chickens into your existing flock, along with several related questions. To see all articles in this series, visit Flock Integration Series.]

If you’ve ever raised chicks then later added them to an existing flock of mature chickens, then you know that it is often an unpleasant experience. The older chickens peck the newcomers hard. They chase them, and they try to keep the newcomers away from the food and water supply. Through all of this, the new chickens can become weakened and even seriously injured or in the most extreme cases, killed.

It is difficult to introduce new chickens into your flock, and if you can avoid it by setting up separate housing, we suggest that you do that.  However, if you, like many of us, have limited space and limited housing, then combining flocks may be unavoidable. I will discuss tips for doing that in the best way possible, but first let’s look at several  important related issues.

Pecking Order

Chickens live by a certain type of social order, the pecking order. In a backyard flock, each chicken will have a rank, from the number one, top bird down to the lowest bird. If the flock has a rooster, he will nearly always be at the top of the pecking order.

A chicken’s rank in the pecking order determines what rights he has in comparison to the other birds in the flock, particularly in regard to food. The top bird in the pecking order has the right to eat first and go wherever it pleases whenever it pleases. The top chicken demands respect from lower ranking chickens. Every other chicken in the flock also has a place in the pecking order.  This order continues down the line until it reaches the lowest ranking bird, who is subordinate to all other chickens in the flock.

If a higher ranking bird begins to eat from a feeder and a lower ranking chicken comes near the food, the higher ranking bird may “pull rank” by casting an angry glare at the lower ranking bird. Usually the lower ranking bird will then move away.  If the angry glare isn’t effective, the higher ranking bird may then give a quick, sharp peck to the lower ranking bird’s head.  With this kind of treatment, the lower ranking bird quickly learns her lesson.

The pecking order begins to be established while the birds are very young, and while it seems a bit rough, it does maintain a certain type of order within the flock. Occasional squabbles occur as younger chickens mature and grow stronger and begin to challenge other chickens to work their way up the pecking order.

If new chickens are added to the flock or chickens are removed from the flock, the pecking order is disturbed, and there can be quite a bit of fighting to establish a new ranking. This behavior is what makes integrating new chickens into your flock difficult and stressful, both to you and your chickens.

Introducing New Chickens

If you add new chickens to your flock, you can expect a lot of aggression for a week or longer as the chickens intimidate each other in an attempt to establish a new pecking order. Sometimes this aggression can be very intense, and your chickens can become seriously injured. In most cases, though, if you will follow the guidelines which we will give in this series of articles, the aggression will subside within a few weeks.

The Risk of Disease

One very important thing to consider when bringing new chickens into the flock is the risk of introducing diseases.  There are ways to protect your flock against that risk, and I will discuss that topic in next week’s article.

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169 Responses to How to Introduce New Chickens into your Flock, part 1

  1. phill says:

    Two of our hens laid rubber eggs last night. Is it because we have new hens in with them? They have a separate cage within the coup.

  2. carl miller says:

    I had a leghorn roo that was aggressive. I caught him and walked him around holding him by his comb; he will run from me now. My son had to do this also.

  3. Gina says:

    Can I have ducks in the chicken coop? If so, will the ducks be included in the pecking order? Just wondering.

    • Matthew says:

      Although ducks and chickens can coexist, we don’t recommend putting them in the same coop because the ducks tend to make things very wet and messy, and that is not the best environment for the chickens.

  4. Laura says:

    We have a different approach to integrating baby chicks into our existing flock. While adult hens will kill chicks they don’t hatch out themselves (and sometimes even those they hatch), a rooster, especially a youngish one, will protect new chicks as his “flock.” Although they tend to spend the first day looking as shell-shocked as any teenage boy put into a room full of toddlers, by the end of the first few days you will see the rooster with a few chicks tucked under each wing on the roost at night. If the new flock can be in a wire pen so the older flock can get used to them, the new ones will be lower status since they are caged and the older birds are free, so when they are finally let out there is no problem–the nursemaid rooster will shoo his flock of little ones away from the older hens and their rooster, and they will keep mostly separate all by themselves.

    It really works! I read somewhere that they used to use capons (castrated roosters) for this purpose, but we found any old rooster will do. If you don’t have an extra rooster usually there are lots of people willing to get rid of nice pet-quality birds they would feel bad about eating.

  5. Shelley says:

    When I introduce new birds to my flock, I use a separate area … a “holding” pen. The new birds are put in the holding pen first. I then add one or two of the original flock into the “holding” pen at a time. I remove all the food and water for a couple of hours, they have less reason to fight that way. The original flock is so confused and not territorial at all because they have no idea where they are. I then add the water and feed after a couple hours when they have had a chance to get to know each other. I let them spend the night in the holding pen. I also clean out the original pen and add new wood chips, then I put them all back in the original pen and I have never had a problem. I always leave some kind of box or something there for anyone who is picked on to escape to, but I have never had them use it.

    This might seem like a lot of work, but it has never failed for me:)

  6. karry says:

    I have had a small flock of 2 since last June, a Rhode Island Red and an Australorp. Both are generally sweet girls, but i just got 3 new chicks and was hoping to add them to the flock soon, but the bigger girls aren’t too fond of them. The new ones are a Golden Campine, Dominique, and Silver Lakenvelder, and they’re all almost 8 weeks old.

    I’m asking what is the safest way to introduce these chicks to the older girls. I’ve had the babies outside and exposed to the older ones several times before, and the Red goes straight to attacking them. How can I introduce the little ones without separating them like others here have suggested?

  7. Irene says:

    We have been integrating 6 chicks to 5 year-olds. The 6 chicks are 3 Silkie bantams, 2 Wyandottes and 1 Brahma, all hens. Year-olds are 3 NH Reds, 1 Belgian D’Uccle bantam and 1 Golden Duckwing bantam, all hens.
    1) Used a dog crate to hold chicks out in the yard for 2-3 weeks while the older ones were ranging.
    2) Had several sessions with the two flocks free, ranging in our backyard, not in the pen.
    3) Lastly, introduced chicks into hen house at night time. While there’s some minor squabbling and chasing, nothing serious so far.

  8. Lyle says:

    Looking forward to the rest of the series, and also enjoying all the comments so far!

    I’ve got 4 one-year-old hens (Speckled Sussex, RIR, Ameraucana, and Silver Laced Wyandotte — and FYI that’s their pecking order). We’ve got 6 new 8-week-old chicks. My son and I are are building a new larger hen house with adjoining run. We put the chicks into the new run every day so they can see the older hens through the wire, but put them back in their old brooder box at night for their own safety.

    When we’ve tried integrating the chicks and the hens, the Speckled Sussex, “Cordelia” our Alpha-hen, immediately attacks one of the two fairest colored chicks (a Buff Orpington and very light colored Ameraucana), intent on murdering them. All three of the older hens seem quite okay with the new chicks, and scurry off in terror when Cordelia launches one of her attacks on a chick. (Alas, I’ve had to get pretty good at grabbing Cordelia away quickly.)

    The new chicks will never fit into the our older, smaller coop. For those that have tried the “night introduction” method, what would you think of putting the hens in with the chicks once we’ve got our new larger hen house finished?

  9. Sarah McNeal says:

    I keep the chicks in a temporary run set up next to our permanent run. All hens share food and water for a few weeks.

    At night, I place the chicks in a Rubbermaid shoe box and slide them into one of the nesting boxes in the coop. That way, they’re protected but could get out if they want to.

    They must like it, because when I went out last night to put the chicks in the shoe box, they were already in there!

  10. Lisa says:

    We will try slipping them in at night. We have always kept them in a safe section in the hen house. But when we turn them loose the big girls still get them. I think the red sex links are too mean. They lay well. But they are not worth their trouble. We won’t buy them again. Going to stick with a calmer gentler breed.

    • Katherine says:

      We have the same problem. The red sex link are not nice to each other at all!

      • Keeffer says:

        Black Sex Links are real gentle.

      • Lynn says:

        Not sure what a red or black sex link is. Explain please. Because I want the calmer breeds for my flock

      • Tara says:

        I find that my Red Sex Links are aggressive too. But I also have a Comet that is extremely aggressive towards our new Silkie. New hen is about a year old. My big girls (bigger in size) are about 3 months old. She has been here for 1 week today and last night was the first time the Silkie was allowed to sleep near them. What’s funny is that we also introduced 4 smaller hens (a Welsummer, a Buckeye, a Maran, and a Polish) at the same time as the older Silkie, and they don’t bother the smaller girls at all.

      • christa jennings says:

        Sex link chickens are hybrids of two different breeds that have different colored male and female chicks – the color is “sex linked”, hence the name. It makes it simple to make sure which are which. Red sex links have predominantly red hens, black sex links are predominantly black.

  11. Nicholas says:

    When we introduce the year’s hatch to the main flock, we always try to introduce the younger birds in a group and occasionally in a small enclosure within the coop. That way the birds can get used to each other and with many new comers they all can’t gang up on one one new individual.

    Roosters that are new being added to a flock with other roosters seems to take the longest to warm up to each other.

  12. Rachel says:

    If you take both groups of chickens to a new place . . . barn stall, shed, what ever, and they meet in the new area that they will do a lot better getting along since the area is new to both groups. We’ve been upgrading/enlarging chicken coops this year and so far it seems to be working – but it isn’t practical unless you have lots of outbuildings or not very many chickens. I love the night time, stick them on the roost plan . . . that I haven’t tried yet, but sounds like it would work fine. We introduced 4 goslings to a batch of slightly older goslings and ducklings by separating them with a puppy fence (I could use more of those) for two weeks. By the end of the two weeks, the 4 baby goslings were begging to be let out with the older flock, and we’ve had zero problems since — but they were only about 3 weeks apart in age. In another week we will be adding the young ducks/geese to my adult flock of 20 chickens and 3 ducks . . . I’ll be doing the separate but together thing there too . . . but it may be that I have to create 2 areas with my portable electric fence (could use more of that too!).

  13. Margaret Terrell says:

    Thanks for all your answers, they are GREAT.

  14. Cindy M says:

    I’ve learned the hard way over the years the flock doesn’t tolerate new comers. Mostly I’ve done what most suggest here and made a separate area in the coop which creates additional work and limits the space in the coop. If you have a small coop to being with, this is sometimes not feasible. Once, after losing an adult hen I re-introduced after she brooded a clutch, they promptly killed her by the end of the day. So my neighbor made a suggestion that I’ve tried and it works every time: He said he goes out at night without a light and puts the new bird on the roost while everyone is still sleeping. When they wake in the morning, they wake with the new bird and think the newbie is a part of the flock. Of course during the day pecking order has to be determined but they are less inclined to aggressively go after the new hen. I’ve done this several times and it has worked for me every time.

    Has anyone else tried this and what were your results?

    • Maria Terry says:

      That is the only method I use and it works great!

    • Janet Kline says:

      I was told about this method and used it. I had a young rooster last year so he was the first one I added to the house at night. There was a few seconds of noise but then it went quiet. I added several other pullets after that and all was fine. They did try to run back out the door, but I blocked it for a few seconds and things were fine. I did open the door a few minutes later in case something went wrong.
      Before this, I did have the chickens near each other but with fence in between so they would get use to them.

  15. julie nash says:

    My hens are pecking each others back feathers out constantly. I just got rid of my rooster and they are a lot calmer now and some of them are starting to regrow the feathers. Could he have been the problem all along? We dust them regularly to keep the mites away. Is this just an over zealous pecking order, jealously or what. HELP!

    • Jeff says:

      It’s common for hens to have bald backs when there is a rooster around. The feathers get rubbed off when the rooster mounts the hens during mating, and sometimes the rooster will also aggressively pluck out feathers. The hens will not do this to each other, and now that your rooster is gone, the hens’ back feathers will return.

    • Kimberly Simpson says:

      If in fact later on you do decide you want a rooster with your flock again, but don’t like seeing the bald backs on the girls, you can order or like I do, simply make a chicken saddle for your girls! This prevents the other hens from plucking or irritating the wounds if there were any and helps with the healing/re-growth of new feathers!

      If for some reason even without a rooster your hens are still plucking feathers off each other’s backs, keep dusting like you do, but also put a chicken saddle on those who have bald backs! I have experience with them picking just the shoulders, shoulder pads are also made like the saddle to prevent further irritation!

    • Tammy Hanrahan says:

      Of course it was the rooster!

    • Delita says:

      I agree that the feathers on the hens back are missing possibly due to the rooster mounting during mating. Solution could be to remove the roosters spurs. I recently received a short video showing how to do this and was surprised at how simple it was to do.
      Also, I introduce the younger pullets to the older flock at night. Works great!

    • Janet Kline says:

      I had two rooster and one was so aggressive that he was hurting the hens. I got rid of him and things calmed down. The second rooster was more gentle and secure in being boss. I did sell him because he was too nice to have here where I am not interested in breeding. The hens all recovered ~

  16. Kim says:

    I’m looking forward to your advice! This is the first year I have had 25 new hens to introduce to our exixting flock.

  17. Ginger says:

    My older (1 year) hens are still chasing the baby (14 week) chicks some, but they are almost the same size now, so I am hoping it becomes a more even match. Also, among the babies are 3 little roos, and I suspect that soon when one goes to his new home and the boys get a little older (they are starting to crow) things will settle down a bit. Is 2 roosters to 16 hens an okay ratio? They are RIR, BO, and B.Rocks, and have been fun to have.

    • Matthew says:

      Two roosters to 16 hens is a good ratio for the dual purpose breeds that you have.

    • d says:

      I have read that 1 rooster for 30 hens is preferred number for adequate fertilization of eggs
      so long as there is not a lot of fighting though; you should be good!

    • CAROL says:

      Actually, I have around 4-5 roosters per hen in my small flock of 17. That is a bit high but 2 of mine are favorite pets so I keep them as they come to my hand. However if you have free ranging chickens like I do you will notice that the roosters tend to stay away from each other and stay near their choice hens. All roosters have favorites, those are the usually noticeable by their bare backs. Since they are the favorite them and many other roosters will “cover” them more often. Hence the feather loss. Anyway, I like a few extra roosters, and when they are separated in the yard there are more roosters to look out for the hens. Yes they fight a bit more, but they keep an eye out for the hens, and I lose a lot less hens to predators. They are definitely worth having.

  18. Robin says:

    I have always just added new adult hens by just putting them in with the others at night and in the morning the old chickens don’t seem to notice there are new ones!

    I have silkies who are made to set on eggs and I frequently let a couple of them (at least) raise a brood. I put the silkies with their eggs in covered dog crates outside the main pen. After the chicks hatch, I let the mamas and their babies hang out in that separate space until the chicks are a few weeks old. They have the run of the “common space” in the hen house in the day and go in their crates at night so I can lock them in. There is a chicken wire door the adult birds can see mom and the kids through.

    After a few weeks, I move the crates into the main chicken coop so mom and the babies have a place to sleep at night and then open the dog crate door in the morning so mom and babies can go where they want. Generally, mom keeps the kids in the hen house while the other adult birds go outside. The real beauty of this system is that if the adult hens try to fool with the chicks, mom protects them. Eventually mom leaves the kids on their own but by then the older birds are so used to the younger ones they have just accepted them.

  19. Craig says:

    I have 6 production reds, about 5 months old. I also have Barred Rocks, Buff, Welsummer,
    Ameraucanas and 1 Blue Cochin, all around 1 month old. A couple of weeks I tried to introduce them with the older birds, and it didn’t go well. So I built a divider out of chicken wire so they all had interaction with each but could not peck each other. I left it like this for 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks I took down the wire and all heck broke loose. It seemed that what I did had done very little to introduce the new birds. The production reds were so aggressive they wouldn’t let up on the little chicks. In fear of them killing the young ones i put up the divider again. Now I’m back to square 1. Maybe the production reds are just to aggressive.

    • Kimberly Simpson says:

      I had a flock that I had raised from chicks that produced 7 Roos and three hens, so I got rid of all of the Roos because they were just too aggressive towards the females and fought constantly! After getting rid of the Roos, I put in a divider because i planned on getting more!

      Soon after I rescued two Black Cochin bantams, and what I was told was a female Porcelain d’Uccle. They were all malnourished scrawny looking things! When I introduced them to my older birds I was in the coop with them sitting. At first the newbies sat on my shoulder, but when I left, I divided them, letting only the newbies have run of the coop with some of the run and the older girls on the other side with food and water. When they would go in at night their was no fighting because the newer ones had already taken a spot on the roost. Put them all together, they established pecking order, but gently!

      Not 2 weeks later I ended up rescuing two more D’uccle hens! These were in better condition then the others, but their previous owner had no idea what they were doing. Anyways, I took the lowest in the pecking order and also the only original D’uccle I had left and put her with the newbies, letting only them have the run of the coop until everybody got used to each other. I have had no problems since!

      But yes there are birds that are just too aggressive! if you haven’t tried what I did, letting the newer birds have run of the coop and part of the run with the older ones on the other side with no access to the coop and making sure the new ones go in first at night, then I suggest trying it, it might just work. If not, you may just have to make a separate coop for the new ones or simply give away the aggressive ones!

  20. Lori says:

    Regarding roosters – I think a mean rooster is a mean rooster and best just to move them on – one way or another. Chicks raised by a hen just seem to naturally merge in to the flock. I also have never had trouble introducing fully feathered babies – dog crate first, and they tend to stay underneath things at first but quickly adjust when turned loose.

  21. Jonathan Stephenson says:

    I am fortunate enough to have a whole barn, so I let my youngsters get to 12 weeks old and just put them all together. The youngsters are fast enough to avoid the older hens and roosters, and by the time they slow down a new pecking order has been established.

    One thing I have found is it is not advisable to keep gentler birds like Brahmas with more aggressive strains like Black and Red Stars, so check the temperament of the birds you are adding to your flock, and if you don’t have room to separate the gentler breeds from the more aggressive breeds, stick with one or the other.

  22. Kazz says:

    About the pecking of blood on a chicken and keeping the light low. I always have a red light on in the hen house. In summer I use a compact florescent “party” bulb in red. It lasts for ever and uses very little electricity. In winter I use a 75 watt flood light or a heat lamp depending on the temperature. I always used red lights in the broody cage to prevent pecking. You can’t see blood if the light is red–especially if you’re a chicken. I started using red lights in the coops to keep the visiting skunk out. It works. I love visiting my chickens at night and being able to see them all lined up on the roosts “purring”. The light doesn’t hurt egg production either. I recently had a hen with a torn comb. Beulah is a large Buff Orpington. Even though she had blood all down the left side of her face, no one pecked her. I cleaned off the dried blood the next day, and her comb is fine now. Thank goodness I had the red light!

    • Kristen says:

      Why does the red light keep the skunk out? Does he not want to be seen in the red light district? ;p I had been thinking of keeping a greenish nightlight on (costs only pennies a year to run) in my coop, but not sure it won’t attract predators or bugs…I guess I could try it out somewhere outside the coop and see what happens.

    • Kimberly Simpson says:

      I do the same thing being as my bird’s are Bantams, and they Are D’uccles, not real tolerant of the cold, but having the red light keeps them from pecking or fighting in the coop as well as the unwanted guests away because of the light!

    • Gail Walton says:

      What about red led lights? Do you think they will work? Led lights are really inexpensive to use.

  23. Krista says:

    I have 4 roosters right now and 36 hens in my coop….I have 50 baby chicks now, when they are old enough I’m going to add them to the coop with the rooster are pecking my hens a lot . so I thought it would be best to add some more hens to the coop. How many roosters are you suppose to have per hen? My chickens also free range. I also have 12 Ducks (Rouens and Pekins) and 8 Guineas. So whats the best way to introduce 50 new chickens?

    • Matthew says:

      For heavier breeds of chickens (dual purpose breeds), 1 rooster per 8 hens is a good ratio. For lighter breeds (like Leghorns), 1 rooster for 12 hens is recommended. For bantams, the ratio can be increased to 1 rooster for about 18 hens. For more information about this, see Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Damerow).

      Later in this series, we will discuss how to introduce new chickens. See also the other comments in this thread.

  24. Laura says:

    I introduced two new girls to my existing flock of 9. There was so much pecking so on, I couldn’t stand it, so went to Lowe’s and bought 15 feet of white picket fencing (with wire in between the pickets). Formed it in a circle in my existing run and put the two girls in there with food and water, even left them a nest cardboard box. Then put a window screen over the top. They stayed in there almost 2 weeks and when I finally let them out, all was fine. The older girls could see the new ones through the wire fencing. At night, I secured the two new girls in a small dog crate, so they wouldn’t be pecked at. Took about 2.5 weeks until they were integrated into the flock.

  25. Elizabeth Page says:

    I have had no problem integrating brand new chicks with slightly older ones, as I was bringing home another half dozen or dozen every week or so until I reached 50. I just kept plopping the new ones in the brooder with no problem, as they were very similar in size at that point. Our existing flock is 31 layers and one rooster. We have an egg and produce business. Since we will be adding a large number like this every year or two, we just purchased a separate new coop, 6×8, just for a brooder/grower house, and fenced our orchard where it sits. Newbies will be raised here until nearly laying age, then assimilated into the main flock in the big barn. The main barn is divided in two with chicken wire, where the new hens will be kept apart from the old for a week or so. We may also connect the outdoor runs in a similar manner… kind of waiting to see the follow up articles here. i think we did it years ago with very little problem.

  26. Elisha says:

    I have raised chickens for 3 years and have had to introduce new chickens to my flock quite a few times. We created a run that was big enough for the chicks to go out in from the time they were almost feathered out until the time they could be out with the big chickens. The run is about 2 ft. tall and about 8 feet across. The babies stay in here until they are old/big enough to fend for themselves. This gives the older chickens a chance to “play” with the chicks and get to know them even though the babies are in the run. When the chicks are old enough to fend for themselves (about 1-1/2 to 2 months old) open up the run and set them free, the big chickens wont bother the babies because they are use to them already, however, there will still be the pecking order stuff, but it won’t be as violent.

  27. Marti says:

    I have raised chickens for as long as I can remember…. Back on my grandmother’s farm she would wait until after dark and set the new brood on the perches in between the old flock…. Chickens known for not being the sharpest tack in the box… accept them by the time the sun comes up… could be they have short memories when it comes to who was there yesterday… chuckle chuckle… any way it worked 99.9% of the time for us… worth a try….

  28. Jill Ghirardelli says:

    We’ve been proud chicken farmers for 3 yrs now and due to our rural location with multiple predators, we have to endure this transition every spring. Knowing ahead of time the horrible possibilities, my husband and I were prepared for the initial introduction. We each took one 5 month old chicken into the old flock pen, put the girls down for about a minute (that’s all I could take) then picked them up quickly before they were pecked to death. We did that a couple times a week until all were comfortable together…so far no losses! I do like hearing these other options and it’s quite possible we will try one in the next month or so…Thanks for the tips!

    • Ken Fugate says:

      I tried this last year, and it seem to work for me.
      I started putting my new chicks out in a covered pen so that the older chickens could be around the new one (but not get in with them). I would start letting the babies out, first for about 30 min. at a time. Within a month I did not have that much trouble. Sure they would peck each other, but not nearly as bad as if I had just turned them loose with no introduction.

  29. Alice says:

    We have 2 1/2 year olds, 1 year olds, 10 month olds, and now we have 6 week olds and 4 week olds. When we introduced the younger ones to the older ones we have a 2 step nursery. The first is in our front garage so we are with them a lot, and the second one in a closed off corner of the coop with chicken wire with their own chicken wire play area with the older girls. They get to see each other and interact some. They do get pecked on, but they are learning. The day we do introduce them to the main coop. We do it at night with a dim light on. Works great! Less fighting.

    • Alice says:

      Also you need to think about their feed. Our young girls don’t get lay pellets until they are 14-16 weeks old, so we keep them separated.

  30. becky says:

    I have a separate shade room in my coop for my girls. I made it from chicken wire and reed fencing. I put all young and brooding hens in there, though not at the same time. I keep a gate to keep them apart but still see and hear. After a month I usually let young out – no issues, yet!

  31. Kaye Wefelmeyer says:

    This is coming at a great time for us. We have seven chicks that are 4 weeks old, 4 that are two weeks old and three that are not yet a week old. I’ve been awake at night worrying how I was going to integrate all these babies together when they got older. Right now each age group are in separate brooders. I wonder if I can start integrating the two younger groups soon??

    • Elisha says:

      I actually just did that same thing a few weeks ago. I would put the two younger groups together now… they are still young enough to be put together with out any problems. When this group is a little bigger, you can put them together with the four week old ones! Good luck!

    • Debbie Shankle says:

      I have found when chicks are very young like yours you can put them together very easily. I have been working hatching eggs from a particular breed I just acquired. Every week, once a week, I set the eggs I gathered from this pair. Therefore I have had eggs to hatched about a week apart and I have chicks that range from about 5 weeks to 1 week of age. Just yesterday I was able to move them outside and put them all together with no problems!

  32. Cynthia Hoffman Phillips says:

    We hatch chicks several times a year with our incubator. After about 4-5 weeks in our house, we shift them out (we live at a mountainous location at high elevation) to the insulated big coop with the adult birds. We set up a low 3-sided wood shelter they can duck under but the big chickens can’t. It has the front side totally open and a small back opening, with the feed at the front so it can be accessed by all chickens large and small. The back opening is adjacent to their water supply which is a rabbit water bottle with a dish to catch any drips. We teach all baby chicks to drink from the water bottle at 4 days of age.

    Our coop door is then set partially open so it allows the big chickens out and in but is far enough away to not be a temptation for the little chicks as going out into the big yard is when they are at greatest risk.

    Usually, the little chicks spend their time under their shelter and safely move between water and feed as they learn how to avoid the bigger chickens and which are in charge. In a week or so, the little chicks have the dynamics down enough to roost first on the shelter roof and later on the roost with the bigger chickens.

    We try to first place the little chicks out in the coop early on a weekend so we can monitor that a curious little rooster chick doesn’t get adventurous the first day or so and go outside where he is vulnerable. When the chicks gain enough size and avoidance skills, they will begin to go outside on their own which may be about a month later. We have found early blending works best.

  33. Brenda Lakin says:

    I have 3 LF EE’s in a separate small coop that is inside the big chicken pen so they can get to know the older girls and 1 rooster. I am starting to leave the door open so the younger (6 weeks) ones can venture out and the older ones also go into the smaller coop and look around. It is going fairly well but how do I keep the younger ones on the chick feed and the older ones on their laying food? I am afraid that the younger ones will eat the layer food.

    • Carol says:

      Depending on the size of your chickens, you can always make an area with a specific sized fence that only the smaller chicks can fit through and put the chick for inside of it. That way only the smaller birds can get to the chick feed.

  34. Annette Gross says:

    After years of raising chickens and bringing in 10-12 new laying hens every six months I have found that the best way to introduce new laying hen to the flock once they are off chick starter is by keeping them in an adjoining coop for a week so that all the old hens and rooster can view them through the chicken wire fence in between the pens. Then after a week I lift the gate between the two pens one night and spread out some nice cracked corn on the ground in the adult pen. The next morning while the hens from both pens and rooster get to work eating the nice treats they merge into the adult pen and by the end of the day all the chickens are in one coop together. The rooster usually rounds up the new hens to show them were the roost is but sometimes they need encouraging to go into the new house and a little cracked corn inside the coop usually does the trick. I have had little to no problems with this method since the hens have all gotten to know each other through the fence.

  35. Karen says:

    We separate our newbies with a chicken wire wall as well, when they are still quite a bit smaller than the current flock. We cut a small flap in the chicken wire large enough for the newbies to go in and out, but not large enough for the existing flock. This gives them a “safe” area to retreat to. Separate food and water are in the safe area. The new chickens gradually assimilate to the existing flock, coming in and out more each day, often when the older chickens are outside. It seems to work for us.

  36. Kat J. says:

    I didn’t realise how lucky I am. This year I’ve introduced both new hens and chicks at different times. The chicks were feathered out but still small.

    There weren’t any problems with the Barred Rock chicks – the rooster is a Dominique/Barred Rock cross who was raised by a hen. He’s a very mellow guy – very tolerant of the mixed sex chicks.

    I did have some trouble introducing the Brahamas – they are a different color and were pecked and chased more.

    Do you think that it was easier to introduce the same breed to the flock because the older ones were raised by hens?

    • Kat J. says:

      I’ve noticed that Rhode Island Reds, production reds and Comets ARE more aggressive. In some places where there are a lot of predators (our place before it was fenced) that is a wonderful trait. There is nothing like a flogging to keep the dogs away from the hens.

      I’m interested in the Brahmas because I’m looking for a large, decorative chicken that is fertile and can raise their own replacements. If this experiment goes well, I’m going to switch over. The Buff Brahamas are so pretty!

  37. Judy says:

    Hi , my barn has 5 separate rooms for the chickens; I just usually put the new hens in and let them duke it out, I haven’t had any serious problems doing it that way, but there is definitely a pecking order, and occasionally the hens fight but never seem to draw blood. My biggest problem right now is an old hen who has taken a dislike to the barn cat lol. Looking forward to more articles.

    • Kat J. says:

      Isn’t it odd how chickens react to different animals? I had a hen who liked to chase one of the dogs. They were always chasing each other – it appeared to be aggression on the part of the chicken – but the dog thought it was a game.

      Another hen who was fond of the horses – she was always in my old mare’s stall. It might have been that the mare dribbled a lot of grain on the ground.

  38. Gordon Fritz says:

    I am about to introduce 12 six month old guinea hens into my 30’x40′ chicken run (25 hens and 2 roosters – Silver Spangled Hamburgs). I plan to keep a trio in the run to replace the guinea hens that become prey to the hawks and raccoons. The rest will be free range to cut into the insect and tick populations. Do I need to take any precautions when I introduce the 12 to the run? I plan to separate them with chicken wire for a couple weeks.


    • Gail Walton says:

      I have had guineas chase and kill my hens.

    • Savanahh says:

      I would recommend next time raising the guinea hens with the chicks from the start. We raised 5 guinea hens with our baby chicks and they literally cry loudly when they are taken away from them. Never seen any aggression from the guinea towards the hens, they actually nest with one another and cuddle together. It’s quite cute to watch.

  39. Dalia Castello says:

    I always have to add new birds; this time my girls were allowed to keep a clutch of eggs. I have discovered if they older ones get used to hearing the younger ones it’s not that bad, and losses if any are minimal or non-existent. After a couple of days they get used to the presence of the new additions. Once I let them out, we supervise activity so that the big birds don’t mess with the little ones. I keep them caged in the same area. My older birds run free, but I keep the 2 week old biddies in the same pen area with a net separator, closed in. I never let them sleep over in the bigger birds coops. I do a head count for about 3 weeks and make sure everyone goes to their own cages at night. Remember if you cannot supervise, do not let them intermingle alone, and let them out an hour before sundown so that it’s not a hassle.

    • Francine Clouse says:

      Last year we let one of our old hens set. The eggs started hatching, and the other chickens went in the box and ate the baby. Mother hen was put in a cage inside the hen house with the rest of her eggs, and when the next one hatched, somehow the others got it from the cage and ate it too. I went out to check on Momma, and she was frantically looking for her just hatched babies and still had 2 eggs left in the cage but wouldn’t set on them. That was a really bad experience for us. We have had chickens for 2 years, and that was the first time we let a hen set. To prevent this from happening again, what do we do?

      • Matthew says:

        It’s best if you have a separate “broody coop” that you can transfer the mother hen into. They she can hatch the eggs and raise the young chicks without any problems from other chickens.

  40. Jim says:

    I have had success introducing new chickens by placing the young chickens (just after they are fully feathered) with the older chickens in the coop. I install a wall of chicken wire with smaller holes at the bottom (young chickens can pass, but older ones can’t). At first I place food and water on both sides then after one month I move all food and water to the big bird side. After 2 more weeks (providing no problems are observed) I remove the wall and my flock is integrated.

  41. Savanahh says:

    We introduced 5 new layers to our established flock of 6 layers (1yr olds) a few months ago. The newbies are around 2 yrs old and were the more aggressive of the lot&emdash;definitely NOT hand raised like our pride and joys.

    Beastie (aptly named because she became the aggressive dominant) was of the new lot and quickly took over as the dominant hen, and drew blood from everyone of our original 6 before an hour was up. We read up on adding the girls at nightfall, and also using vinegar. So I dampened a washcloth with vinegar, lightly coated EVERY bird all over and voila! By the next morning most of them had settled down (although we confined Beastie for half the day to let the other newbies adjust). Now we are getting ready to introduce our newest babies that range from 3-6 weeks old. This time though because of the age difference we are introducing some of the original 6 to them one-on-one first. Beastie and Chip will be absolutely last.

    Nicole, our Buff Orpington, has been doing well modeling chicken behavior for the newbies in a separate area. Seldom does she even peck at them (usually if they gather too close around her, or the 6 older roosters peck at the babies she will go after them).

    We are also introducing Dawn who is our NH Red, but with an injured foot to them as well, she is recovering and therefore a bit more calm in nature than normal. Charity, our Black Austrolorp, doesn’t do quite as well, she gets a bit overwhelmed with almost 50 newbies around her, and runs the other way. Cilley, our Light Brahma, doesn’t seem to care either way-she wants her own babies, but we keep stealing her unfertilized eggs. We still have Hope, our Silver Laced Wyandotte, and Chip our Auracana (she’s a bit ill tempered) to introduce to the newbies and then Beastie and the other 4 that were recently added. We are hoping that by keeping Nicole in with the babies for most of the day and then allowing her to go range with the others that she is building a protective bond and if not&emdash;Vinegar will be next :)

    OH, make certain you have SEVERAL water and food dishes available to help limit the newbies from being starved or dehydrated. This is extremely important and is mentioned in the article. Also, I would suggest the 30 day quarantine. We didn’t and the newbies passed colds onto our original 6. The newbies LOOKED good, and I made a poor judgment call. I found a chicken “health booster” online that consists of oatmeal, honey, cooked egg whites, yogurt (plain), and canned cat food which I fed them for about a week, and also added gatorade to their water.

    • Karen says:

      Could you tell me a little bit more on the vinegar trick to introduce new birds.


      • Savanahh says:

        Karen, all I did was dip a cloth in white vinegar. Ring out the cloth and wiped down the birds.
        I mentioned this to a gentleman that just bought a year old Silver-Laced Wyandotte and 2 month old NH Red Roo off my daughter. I think he put a bit more vinegar than I did, but he definitely didn’t have any problems after doing a vinegar treatment. Have seen pics of Hope and Judd they are doing extremely well in their new home and not bothered by the other hens since he vinegared them.

    • Savanahh says:

      Have since added all the newbies including the 5 guinea hens that were raised with the chicks. The guinea go inside the coop just like the hens, and do not like to be separated from their “flock”. All of the chicks, and hens get along great – didn’t have to vinegar anyone. The original 6 are down to original 5 due to sale of Hope, so now have our 5 yr old and 5 newer “Older” layers about 2 yrs old, 5 guinea hens and about 50 baby chicks.
      Working on 10 2-wk old bantams and 6 day old chicks now. Keeping them separate even though the same size for another week or so until I am certain newbies are healthy and then will begin integrating them into one pen to acclimate. Then after a month or so will acclimate into the entire flock. Hoping the guinea will accept them just as they would any other chick. Would hate to think the guinea would kill off my babies :( as another post stated.

  42. margie says:

    I have 6 new chicks. One is a rooster. My friend gave me 16 chicks. 3 are roosters. I put my 6 in with her 16, but I had to take my rooster out because they were nasty to him. So he’s in a cage by himself. I hate to see him all alone in that cage. At least he is safe from the others. I think it was the other roosters that were nasty to him. I’m not sure what to do. Thanks.

  43. I have divided my coop into two sections for this reason. I keep each batch of chickens based on when I ordered them in it’s own section. I order a new batch every year and phase out the oldest one. The new batch then goes into the newly emptied coop. I order different breeds each year so it is easy to tell when a chicken has gotten into the wrong side. When I have had chickens out in the field in chicken tractors all year, the pecking order needs to be re-established. I do this by putting the chickens from the tractors in a different side than the one they were in before. Having two sections also allows me to have a foyer in the center where I keep the feed, with flaps on each side that open into nest boxes so I don’t have to enter the coop section to retrieve the eggs. The outside runs are also separate with a door separating them for me to go through to feed them. This also provides some additional security if a predator where to get through an open door there is another set of doors and wire it has to get through to reach the chickens. The same holds true if a predator gets into one side, the other side is not affected. The total dimensions of the coop are 21 feet long, 8 ft wide with each coop section being 8 X 8 and the center foyer being 5 X 8. Each coop section can house 20 to 25 hens with five next boxes for each side, which just fits allowing for a 3 ft door to each section from the foyer. The roosters have a small separate coop in another yard with their own run.

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks for your excellent ideas and descriptions! I am moving my chickens to another part of the property, and I think I’ll copy your setup for the new operation. Much better to learn from others than to reinvent the wheel at the expense of innocent chickens’ lives, eh?

  44. Barbara Robinson says:

    I have more different kinds of birds than just chickens together. The older ones get along ok but I have 2 younger ducks and a young turkey that I am going to have to integrate into the flock pretty soon as they are outgrowing their carriers. I have been letting the older birds (which are 4 hens, one rooster a couple of geese and a couple of older ducks out into the yard during the day and putting the younger ducks and the turkey into the pen during the day. Since I have already split the hen house into 2 sections it isn’t really optimum to split one half into a quarter and there really isn’t room to put bulky carriers in there either. My only hope to integrate them seems to be to build onto the existing house…is that right?

    • Cindy Nickel says:

      We also have several different breeds of birds: Chickens, Guineas, Turkeys, Ducks, & Geese. The older chickens and guineas are in one pen, and the rest in another coop. The new chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese have been together since they were very young, so they were used to each other. I am in the process of introducing the new chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese to the flock (older chickens/guineas/ducks)–I have a separate pen outside where they can see each other to get use to each other. I have started opening this pen for a select number of hours each day so they can interact–so far no problems. I did the same thing when introducing the guineas to the older chickens last year and now you’d never know they use to be separated. The only little bit of trouble I’ve had is with my older ducks, but they seem to be settling down. Good luck on introducing your new babies!

  45. Roger Frazier says:

    We have had a real problem with our young rooster that was raised with our young hens when we introduced them in with may 3 Red Sex Link hens. The just about killed him, and I put him in a large dog crate and had to doctor him back to health. We recently got another rooster to add to the flock because the other rooster is terrified of the hens to date. I tried to introduce him back into the flock with no luck. I though about putting his large dog crate in the pen with the rest of them for about a week and see if this works. I have 16 hens to 2 roosters so I don’t think my ratio of hens to roosters if off. Any suggestions?
    Thanks for the help.

    • Leah says:

      We have Sex Links, and they killed two roosters that we tried to introduce. We have 11 in that flock. I’ve got 27 Production Reds that will be “loosed” in the next few weeks. The ‘juvenile’ coop is next to the established flock, but I still plan on using a separating fence in the yard. At least for a couple weeks. Decided the rooster we have now just needs to stay in the yard!

    • Swant says:

      Eat him. A rooster who can’t do his job goes into the pot.

  46. Dana says:

    When we start our chicks, they are in a brooder for the first 3 to 4 weeks then they go into a rabbit hutch with wire floor for another 2 weeks or so, this rabbit hutch is in the chicken run, about three feet off the ground, this way they get used to each other before they are ready to be put with the older hens. We have not had a problem so far. The older hens get used to the younger ones, and peace seems to prevail.

  47. Bill Nobes says:

    We have two coops and pullet introduction into each has been very different. In one it’s rarely a problem, in the other it tends to be a nightmare. Our personal experience in coop two has taught us a few important lessons: 1) Keep the light low when introducing new pullets. Pullets will choose the darkest corner to hide in. The less light, the less pecking seems to happen. 2) If a pullet is bleeding remove it immediately until it heals. Once aggressive adults see blood they tend to attack relentlessly. 3) Age at introduction has been a big factor. Eight weeks seems the magic number for us. Once we waited much longer to give them “a better chance” and 1/3 were killed in two days. 4) Reduce places were they can pile up and suffocate. For example we always close off the lower row of nesting boxes.

    Again, experiences can vary greatly. In coop #1 we’ve introduced one or two broods a year for seven years with very few problems. Coop #2 has been nothing but problems.

  48. Krissy says:

    I agree the dog cage trick works great, and it does only take about a week! They get to smell and hear each other and still be in the warmth and safety of the coop. Troubling part is that you can’t fit more than two to three inside the cage. This year I have 18 little ones…thinking I’ll bring them in small groups. Might take me all summer! Unless the rest of these articles offer a better solution! (-;

    • Judi says:

      Hey Krissy,
      How did that work out for you?
      I have an 8×8 coop and have had two 24 week old reds in it alone for about 5 weeks. My 15 various chicks have outgrown the brooder box in the garage, so today we built two chicken wire panels 44×44 and sectioned off the part of the coop floor where the nesting boxes are for the pullets. It also has a makeshift roof and an exit door to the outside where they can continue to free range. I’ll be giving them their food and water outside for the rest of the summer.

      The remaining “L” of floor space and the roosting area is for the chicks. There exit door goes into the run. I have food and water both inside and out for the chicks. They can all see and smell each other, but unless the chicks get too close to the chicken wire, the pullets won’t be able to get to them.

      Hoping this will work tonight at bed time and we’ll see how everyone is in the morning! Any last minute tips?

  49. Lorrie Brown says:

    Thank you for writing this series. We are in the same boat as many of the others that have written in. We have 7 hens and are going to introduce 5 new little ones very soon. Can’t wait for the next article.

  50. H. F. Harrison says:

    The title of the article is How to Introduce New Chickens Into Your Flock. But there is NOTHING in the article telling you how to do that!! It’s all about pecking order and nothing about what to consider when putting different batches of chicken together. Am I missing something? Is there another page?

    • Matthew says:

      This is the first article in a series that address the question of how to introduce new chickens into your flock. This article covers the introduction and provides background information, which has to do with pecking order. Guidelines for integration will be discussed later in the series.

    • Mike Burney says:

      This is the first in a series of articles. There are more to come.

    • d says:

      The “pecking order” is the reason for almost EVERY single problem with integration! it is generally the reason babies “suddenly” die…

  51. Jeff Parmley says:

    Does it make a different if a hen sits on and hatches eggs within the flock?

    • paula ebert says:

      We had that situation last year, and we kept the chicks in a separate pen, close to the bigger chickens until mamma hen was getting less protective of them, as they got older. We opened up the pen, but they could still go back into their sheltered spot. We free range, and they ran around as their own little flock most of the time, but as they got older, they integrated with the bigger flock just fine.

      • Rachel says:

        We had a dedicated bantam hen that couldn’t live without being broody. She hatched out several batches. A bantam hen of a different breed attacked and killed most of the babies from each of the batches. We got rid of the aggressive hen, and kept the broody.

  52. Santo DeMauro says:

    I’ve also kept them in the same yard but caged in for several weeks, and in that time I only let them out when I could keep a watchful eye on them, so I was the one in charge. Eventually I let them stay out longer and longer and have never had a problem.

  53. greg says:

    I have tried this method and it seems to work. I recently introduced 3 month old chickens into a flock of 3 year old hens and what I did was spray the new ones with vinegar and it seems like this deters the older ones from harassing the younger ones. I have not seen any negative effects although maybe McMurray can comment on this practice?

  54. John W. Johnstone says:

    I have raised chickens over many decades and have encountered the problem of introducing new birds to various pens quite often. I have found placing the new birds on the roost at night when it is dark often leads to less friction between the old birds and new birds. In the early morning, they still may spar some, but nerves are not as frayed or short as in the evening. The birds seem to have more patience when morning rolls around, and within a week or two there is no more fighting to establish dominance.

  55. Terry says:

    I am glad you are doing this for me. I introduced 35 new chickens to my flock this year
    and lost 7, and I still have some that do not want to come out of the chicken house unless I force them to. So any help will be good.

  56. Nancy says:

    I have a very large wire cage that I start my new chicks in. I move it into the outside run of the existing flock for several days. My chickens free range so they come and go. I then open the chicks’ cage into the outside run and let the old flock only go out of the hen house door and keep the outside run closed to just the newcomers. They all get to know each other before they are all loose together, and by the time I let the younger ones loose, I never seem to have any problems. Everybody comes home to roast in the hen house at night.

  57. Katy says:

    When my chicks are old I put them in a big wire cage and put cage in the chicken coop with my hens and roosters. When they are old enough to eat scratch I let them out since they have been living in the coop the hens and rooster just think they belong.

  58. Sandy Kugelman says:

    Thanks for this. I have been reading a lot on this subject lately as we have a bit of a different situation. I had three beautiful hens- the leghorn and barred rock were killed by a neighbor’s dog. Now I have a production red all alone. We tried to integrate her into a friend’s flock of two, but it was a disaster in spite of doing all the right things. She is sweet and tame and friendly and they were extremely aggressive to her with no end in sight. She is home now and needs a friend. This evening instead of returning to her coop, she jumped into my lap and eventually went to sleep. So… my question: I would prefer to have another who would be acclimated to humans and have been leaning toward chicks but there is a feeling I have that she would accept one more easily than two. Could you tell me if there is any truth in this? I understand that they often do best if the bird introduced is of equivalent size but what are the chances of her accepting a baby?

  59. johnny says:

    I have found that integrating baby chicks as well as adult chickens to my field works best by (like someone replied earlier) putting the new ones in a wire cage. Be sure to place cage in a spot that in an all day shaded area only!!! If sitting in the sun you have the chance of loosing a couple before it’s all over. I leave the cage for about 4 or 5 days being sure they have plenty of food and water daily. Sometimes the commander and chief of the field will jump on the top of the cage and sit. I am not sure if he does this to let them know his rank or to manure on them to show them their rank,lol.

  60. Mary Page says:

    Now I think I know why some of my hens would be healthy one day and dead the next. No sign of foul (yes I did that) but they were in a corner with their heads toward the corner.

  61. Virginia says:

    I cut the tip of my rosters beak after he killed 4 chickens. He’s little (mixed breed) and 1/3 the size of my hens. He has pecked the hens in the back of the head. So
    I decided if he lives he’s got to be punished, so I took toenail clippers to the top and bottom of his beak. One hen still hates him. Will she ever like him, or is she the boss?

    • d says:

      Good to clip the beak, but NEVER the bottom beak. You can kill him. Only the top beak. If he’s really so mean he must be a banty “short man’s syndrome” but if he’s too mean he needs to go in the pressure cooker, or at least be thrown out of the coop so the ladies can recover.

  62. cole johnson says:

    The separation idea works very well. I have also put the chicken who is being mean in jail; so to speak. I separate the offending chicken from the rest. It removes it from the pecking order. All the other chickens can walk up to it and not be hurt or intimidated, it loses rank. After a week or so release it. Most of them calm down. Aome are stubborn and continue to be aggressive. Dinner time! Thanks

  63. Toots says:

    I look forward to this series. The following worked well for me as a chicken free-ranger: Last year my husband sectioned off part of our coop with temporary chicken wire dividers. I put the new chicks in a small section when they were about 4 weeks old. I let them finish growing in there with access to an outdoor run where the adults could not get to them, but could see them while they were free-ranging. When the chicks were about the same size as the adults I began letting them free-range with the adults. The new pecking order had to be established, but everyone had plenty of room to escape until retiring back to the coop together for the night. I made sure I was up early to let them all out again before they fought in close quarters within the coop with nowhere to run. The dividers had been removed, and after about a week or so everyone was settled in together. When the young ones reached about 5 months old I kept them from free-ranging until they had all learned to lay their eggs in the coop. This usually works to keep them coming back to lay their eggs in the coop and not all over the property. I have 14 new chicks this year, and they have been behind the dividers for two weeks. They are about 6 wks. old, but still about half the size of the adults so it will be a little while yet before I let them free-range with the others.

  64. Issy Powell says:

    I have chicks that are 5 weeks old and plan to add day old chicks next week to my little peep flock. Should I be concern for the safety of the day old chicks when adding to the 5 week old flock?

  65. Julie says:

    I want to know how to introduce the chickens to the dogs. They seemed all fine with them (we have 30 young pullets) when they were small and in the brooder, but now that we are ready to put them out at about 4 months old to roam the yard and peck bugs by day (they have a henhouse for the night to be locked in where they stay all the time now but it is getting too small as they get bigger) – My friend said if I get a shock collar and make them (the dogs) think that the “chickens bite their necks” by shocking them hard if the dogs even go near- that this will work. I don’t want a bunch of dead chickens as my 11 year old is very attached and mothers all of them. Will this work?

    • d says:

      My dog is “used to” my chickens… but most dogs will chase things that run. I recommend taking the dog up to a calmer chicken and holding him by the collar and telling him in a warning tone to “be careful”… then move to a happier tone of “who’s that?” so that they understand the chickens are not a threat and can be sniffed… Oftentimes though, the chicken will peck at the dog anyway, and my dog is jealous of my chickens!!! The young ones follow me around, and he tries to stand in between me and the birds!!! Occasionally he will snap harmlessly at them, but I correct him immediately, and there have been no problems… If your dog insists on chasing them endlessly though, use a shock collar so he knows he’s not even allowed to sniff them.

    • Rachel says:

      It depends on the dogs . . . some dogs can handle it, and some can’t. Loose, fluttery, hysterical chickens are one of the hardest things for dogs to get used to. If the dog is young, sometimes you can take a broody hen with chicks and expose the dog to her – she’ll usually attack and the dog may remember that and leave them alone. Or an especially protective rooster. Might work with a smart older dog. Some breeds that are especially prey oriented may never learn. I would invest in some kind of fence – moveable or not — between the chickens and the dogs before you try it out. There’s advice online too — sometimes training methods/clicker training etc will work . . . but don’t rely on it at first! We have lost a lot of chickens to neighbor dogs . . . our current dog is an australian shepherd/bernese mountain dog mix, and he ignores them. He also was an adult rescue. I’ve heard of other shepherds being difficult around chickens so there’s really no guarantee.

  66. lil-beth says:

    I have 20 hens and 13 roosters (always have an odd number of roos)….and yes when new chicks are born, I have them close in a wire run so the others will get used to them and visit within boundaries of the wire…then when big enough and always at night (switch to in the group roosting) so that in morning they all wake up and out the door together…..some pecks but all has gone well thru several hatches successfully!

  67. Brenda says:

    I have not had any severe issues in the past with chickens, but I have a special “baby pen” in the chicken coop that helps to introduce them as well as keep them from sneaky predators). What I DO have a terrible time with is DUCKS! They are AWFUL to new ducks, young or adult, added to their flock. I’ve come home more than once to raw, bloody necks from incessant ‘pecking’ (if that’s what you call what a duck does). Can we talk about them in this series too?

    • Rachel says:

      That is good to know — I have 7 ducklings that I’m going to introduce to my main flock and I’ll be sure to watch my three adult ducks.

  68. Joseph Rampata says:

    Just in time for me also, I have four Rhode Island Reds about ten weeks old and plan to receive five more chicks in September, Three Golden Laced Wyandottes and two Double-Laced Barnevelders chicks on the nineteenth of September.

    By then my Reds will be adult layers and wondered how I would introduce them to my small flock.

    My coop is 4’x3’x4′ with a integrated 4’x6’x6′ pen, and I plain to add 164′ electric fence for free range, any help would be appreciated.

    Thank You

  69. Marian says:

    We tried to add a young rooster to the flock of 5 laying hens. The hens almost killed him. They pulled all the feathers off his legs and bruised his legs until they were bloody. I guess that’s where you get the term, “hen pecked”. We sectioned off his own space to keep the biddies from the rooster. They all hang out next to each other with the fence between. I don’t dare try it again. Now this spring we have 6 new chicks that we will keep for laying hens. My husband is going to build another coop so they will have their own house and yard.

  70. Chickenlovur says:

    What I did is just put 3 in at a time when they are 2 and a half months old with the other chickens, and they all did fine.

  71. Kazz says:

    I get new chickens every year. I have a baby yard with cane applied to the fencing on all but the gate which is chicken wire. The young chickens stay in the baby yard until they are 3 to 4 months old. They are exposed to the old chickens via the gate. When they are a good size I remove all roosters except the “head” rooster and open the gate. The other roosters are in a separate but connected yard for a few days. I add an extra feeder or two and an extra roost. This is easy because I do it in the summer and have a portable roost I set up for the summer. All the chickens are on the same level for choosing the new or additional feeders and roosts. Once they are getting along well I reintroduce the other roosters one at a time and then, come winter, I remove the portable roost and move all the feeders so everyone has to figure things out. So far it has worked fine unless I have a new rooster that doesn’t “get it”. I have a rooster confined away from all the hens right now because he just stands on the hens as he wants to. If he doesn’t learn the error of his ways, he’s cock au vin.

  72. Bonnie says:

    I have found that keeping the newbies in a crate inside the coop for a few days and adding them at night works, plus I have a lot of room for them so they can escape. I bought an old crib at a yard sale and covered it with chicken wire for a brooder and now with my brand new 10×12 coop the crib fits nicely in one corner. I leave the teenagers in the crib with the other chickens all roosting with them at night. I plan to turn them loose this weekend it should go well.

  73. Janie Perry says:

    There are a couple of people that seem to have the same approach as I do. After they get to be the size of a Cornish hen and they don’t require a heat lamp I put them in large wire crate with their own feed and water and leave them in the coop with the rest of the chickens and roosters. After about 2-3 weeks I open the door and let them come out of the crate when they feel ready. There is usually a short period of the older chickens chasing them around but for the most part it is an uneventful stress-less (for them and me) introduction. Usually the older birds are so curious about exploring the inside of the crate (to see what they’ve been missing) that they don’t pay that much attention to the new chick’s.

  74. Candace says:

    Just wondering if it would be ok to add a bantam barred rock hen and rooster in with some chicks that are about 5 weeks old. I really love my babies and want them to be ok, but don’t know when it is alright to put them all together. Any advice?

  75. Cindy says:

    We have just started mixing up our gang of older hens and 3 month olds. We have wire mesh still separating the two groups, but when a few stronger young ones started to fly over we cut holes a ground level that are only big enough for the younger ones to sneak in and out through. Like creeper feeding calves. Seems to be working. We did have to put our 4 “top hats” in a dog kennel–and are going to need to make them a separate pen or they are not going to make it.

  76. Suzi Fire says:

    I have found that if I let the new ones babies run around in the yard when the established older ones are out as well, they don’t have much conflict…Eventually the small ones will become part of the flock on their own.

  77. Jonathan Harris says:

    Hi this is so effective I just got 27 new ones.
    thxs so much

  78. Holly says:

    Thank you for your post. I have 4 larger chickens and three 6 week olds I am trying to integrate. I tried to throw them in together at one time at first… bad idea. Now I have a little coop to put the 3 babies in that are in the yard of the larger chickens… so far so good… I am glad to hear it just takes a few weeks and they will get used to each other. Can’t wait to see next week’s post.

  79. d says:

    I have had several integrations over the last year and am more than happy that I am lucky enough to have 2 coops that are connected with a small doorway. I seclude the babies in the East coop to adjust to being outside “the water trough” that I raise them in from incubator until fully feathered. Once they are comfortable in there I start letting them free range for just a few hours in the evenings with the other “ladies,” and there is some picking, but mostly they can run back into their coop for cover or across the yard until whoever is chasing them tires–the young always seem to effortlessly outrun the older…. Once both flocks are free range the entire day I allow both flocks access to both coops and start only supplemental feeding in the West coop and eventually close off the East coop for the next round (I do feed smaller amounts several times a day once they are integrated and scatter plenty on the floor for the young to adjust to getting in there to eat!). Integration actually take a few weeks. I have also learned that you MUST have several roosting areas or the new ones will be picked senseless at nighttime.

  80. Amanda says:

    I have a flock of 44 total chickens (7 of which are roosters). I only ordered 5 roosters, but were sent a couple of extras. They are 17 weeks old, and all seems to be well even with all of the roosters, except 1 of the Rhode Island Reds (there are 2 roosters of that breed) is very mean. I have hand raised them all, but in the last couple of weeks he will actually attack me when I come into the hen house. Should I kill him off, or will another of my roosters just become the “mean one,” and I will just be one less chicken with the same problem? Does anyone have any suggestions. Should I just keep him there and just watch my back while in the coop?

    • Kelly P says:

      We had an issue with an aggressive rooster. My chickens free range most of the time, and he would chase you and kick if he got close enough. If you attempted to enter the coop with him in it you had better had steel gloves on. He even pecked a hole in my leghorn’s leg, and she needed to be nursed back to health. Needless to say we put him down due to his aggression.

    • Marlin Kittrell says:

      Anytime I have an aggressive rooster, I get rid of him, as I am an older chicken lover and can not stand up to an aggressive rooster. My other rooster did not become aggressive. I believe some are by nature more aggressive.

    • Leah says:

      We had 2 yard roosters. The one who was obviously “top roo” would plot on us whenever we walked outside. Got spurred a couple of times. It drove me nuts. He met an untimely death when he attacked someone bigger than he. The other rooster has been great. We can walk all around with no worries. He did not become mean. (He’s a good egg!) I will say this… it’s a lot less stress when you DON’T have to watch your back!

    • Swant says:

      He’s mean, but he’s doing his job, protecting the flock. Up to you whether he goes too far or not. He’s unlikely to hurt you, other than a scratch or two, but small kids are a different story.

      My experience is that they have whatever temperament they have, and position in the pecking order doesn’t change its expression. Most of my dominant roosters have been quite friendly to people. One wasn’t… he ended up in the pot because there were small kids around. The one that replaced him is a gentleman to people, but hard as nails where other roosters are concerned.

    • julie nash says:

      I also had a RI red rooster that started flogging after he “got his crow.” Once they start doing that you can’t stop them. I had to take a spray bottle filled w/water with me and douse him every time I went into the hen house. I finally had to just give him away (I couldn’t stand the thought of killing Buzz) when he got me on the back of my hand and bloodied it. The upside of this is that all my hens are a lot calmer and are actually starting to interact with me again.

      • Rachel says:

        We’ve had roosters — same age/same breed/same genetics and one would attack and others wouldn’t. We keep the ones that don’t attack and get rid of the others . . . there are too many other things to worry about without dealing with a rooster too . . . the nice roosters stayed nice even when the violent one went away. Our bantam rooster that is scared of people attacked and survived several neighbor dogs . . . so it isn’t like he doesn’t have the right instincts. : )

    • Savanahh says:

      You have plenty of roosters for the size flock you have. I would make him chicken stew and that might send a message to the other boys to behave :). We just sold our alpha 2 month roo, and I am breathing easier. He wasn’t agressive with us (yet) but I could see it coming by fall. He was handraised, but always getting into mischief, bossy and very cocky. I believe in letting boys be boys, but I would rather sell him off now, than have to eat him for dinner after he has hurt someone. He went to a good home, was vinegared down and voila- he’s finding his purpose with a bevy of beauties elsewhere.

  81. Romas says:

    I always introduce new chickens in a bunch of 5 or 6 at a time, then they hang together in a group and are less prone to getting picked on, its scriptural ( 3 cords are not easily broken) 1/2 dozen newbies even less… has worked for me repeatedly. One or 2 new chickens? Forget about it!.

  82. Jessa says:

    I’ve had good luck with introducing a few new chickens into my existing flock by 1) waiting until the new birds are similar in size to the old and then 2) introduce them at night. I wait until both groups are asleep, then as quietly as I can, set the new ones on roosts next to the older ones. Come morning, there is still some pecking order work for them to do, but this has been far less dramatic now that I do the evening intro.

  83. Sherry says:

    I use a wire dog cage when introducing new chickens. I place it in the middle of my big pen so everyone can walk around it and get use to the new chickies. I leave them about a week depending on age. I have to Welsummers, 2 months old right now in one of my smaller Americauna pens. So they will have to wait a bit to go into a bigger area.

  84. Yoya says:

    My young daughters usually take care of the chickens. This past March they had two dozen fertile eggs in the incubator. We were offered more eggs recently but were afraid to take them because of all the stress involved with introducing new hens with older ones.
    Some of these tips are just great! I think I will not be afraid to try some, especially that last one from Mac.

  85. Ann says:

    I raised new chicks in a large seperate box….few weeks anyways. Segregated off a section of my big coop with a chicken wired barrier, but the top of it was opened. Was hoping all would be safe, and a few days later I went down in the coop in the morning to find all my mature hens in the “segregated” section enjoying their new coop mates !!

    Had visions of the meeting being disastrous, but all was fine, and the pecking order began…I never should have worried about it :)

  86. Jackie says:

    I am down to one hen. When she hatched her own chick, she was so excited. She was a good mother until a hawk killed it. She is brooding right now and I have day old baby peeps coming can I put them in her bin at night while she is sleeping?

  87. Eunice says:

    Thanks for this info. I had bought 25 new baby pullet chicks, now about 3 months old, and put them on the other end of the chicken house. We have put a screen door between them, for air as well as to get to know each other, in hopes that they will not fight when we put them together. I will wait for the little ones’ feed to be gone, then turn them together at night. I will be putting my 3 roosters on the end where the little ones are now. Just in case. I don’t need any more bare backs running around. I hope that it all works out. First time at putting chickens together.

  88. Tonya says:

    I’ve got a flock of older birds that we’ve had since last fall, as well as a flock of younger birds that we got in March of this year. I’m concerned about adding the younger ones in with the older ones because of recent unexplained deaths. I’ve lost 6 birds in the past 2 months that were fine one day, and found dead the next. The only thing separating the flocks at this moment is a panel of chain link fence. Should I continue to wait for integration or take my chances?

    • Mark Sahy says:

      you have to be smarter than the chicken. know ahead of time what to expect, be patient, let them slowly get to know each other, have plenty of feeders, be smarter than the chicken.

    • Linda says:

      Great info. I am new to this and every bit helps. What about chicks that are hatched from a hen already in the flock?

      • Marlin Kittrell says:

        Usually the hen will protect their babies that they hatched out. Just watch them and make sure she is doing her job;. otherwise remove the babies and hand raise them.

    • Savanahh says:

      I wouldn’t introduce any new birds at all at this time. I would send the birds when they die to an local extension in your area that can test them to see what they died of. Also, spend a few minutes daily watching and documenting any changes in behavior, eating habits, etc…to try and trouble shoot.

    • Bridget Nichols says:

      You may be losing your chickens to Buffalo gnats. I’m in Louisiana and last year I lost several chickens in one day before I knew what was going on. I had to dip all of them to keep the gnats off of them. It is gnat season again now and it lasts for 4 weeks. The saliva of the gnats poisons the chickens and the constant biting will make the chickens pile on top of each other and suffocate the ones on bottom.

  89. Louise says:

    I always make a chicken wire “wall” to separate the newbies within the coop. This stays up pretty much until they are all ready to be switch over to layer feed. By then, they are used to each other- then the wall can come down. The new hens will be big enough to defend themselves, so there are less problems. This method works well for me!

    • greenriverkate says:

      We had an older flock also. We would order the new chicks, keep them in the house a couple weeks and when warm enough (days), we put them in a pen in the coop, safe and sound. We had a heat lamp for night and plenty of hay and hiding places in there. When big enough to handle themselves, we let them out occasionally or for good, depending on how they did with the older hens. We had to get rid of the roosters, however as they all but killed the hens and even then, did kill a few. We also had a problem with some hens just up and dying with no sign of illness. We spent a great deal of time with hens as they ran free in the daytime and we were outside all day, every day. They really were our babies and tame as all get out with individual personalities!

    • Yvonne says:

      That’s what I did after a little trial and error, first I tried to introduce the chicks when they were fully feathered. That failed miserably as my existing flock pecked at them mercilessly, so I divided the chicken run with chicken wire, and set up a brooding area in the coop and in a couple of weeks I opened everything up and the existing flock almost didn’t seem to notice when they all came together, I also set up several feeding areas in the chicken run with water and food dishes. The smaller ones feed together and I scatter seed in the run for them all to enjoy, nobody goes without.

    • karen says:

      What is layer feed?

      • Kristen says:

        Layer feed is 16% protein feed used for hens when they are in egg production. It has added calcium, which is not good for youngsters.

    • Melissa says:

      We also put up the wire wall to separate the adolescent chicks from the adults. This allows them to become used to one another. We also let them all out in the yard together so that they have lots of room to work out their pecking order, which allows the younger ones to get away easily. I also scatter scratch grains throughout the yard to allow everyone to be able to get to some. So far, there are very few, brief squabbles with no injuries. As my chick roos grow and move up the pecking order, I do expect the squabbles to become more serious.

  90. Dawn says:

    Perfect timing! We just brought home 10 new pullets….and even tho right now they are housed warmly in the barn. I was wondering how this was gonna go with all these gals in one coop! Thank you for all your help!

  91. Mike Gardner says:

    I have used the following method and just used it again when bringing home 6 new ones. Since we have large dogs, we have large dog crates, and the crates have little feeders and waterers for the doors, depending on the size of the chickens, one to two per crate. Our 6 new chicks fit in a very big crate that we have used for injured or nursing dogs.

    So, the new chickens get brought in at dusk into the enclosure and everyone wakes up together, and in about a week everyone is happy, and now after 3 weeks all is well.

  92. lee says:

    This is one of the most stressful items I have to endure every year. I ate all my roosters last year thinking it would reduce fighting when the new flock is added and new flock of roosters would develop from my straight run but I was wrong. Even in the absence of roosters the hens can be as mean as the cocks and just as damaging to the new chicks. Looking forward to the info.

  93. Terry McGinnis says:

    We purchased 4 silkie chicks and raised them in a big box for 6 to 8 weeks separate from the big chickens. Then we put them in with the big chickens but they were in a wire cage with their own separate food and water. After one week all were used to the chicks and when we let them loose with the big ones they hardly noticed. Our single adult rooster is a game rooster and doesn’t seem to mind that one of the silkies is a rooster. I suspect he may not even understand there is another rooster on the premises.

    • Donna says:

      I noticed the same thing with my flock. I combines Silkies (2 roosters and 4 hens) with Rhode Island Reds and Cinnamon Queens…I don’t think the CQs and RRs even know the Silkies are chickens..I saw a Silkie go up to a big hen and I thought oh oh,, she’s going to peck him but she started grooming him! Maybe they think they are their chicks?

    • margie says:

      I think I might try that for my rooster. Thanks, Margie

  94. Connor says:

    Thanks for putting these up!! I have 7 laying hens and 25 new 3 month old chickens and I need to put them together… THANKS!!

  95. Ronna Brandt says:

    I am so glad you’re publishing this! I have 6 little ones right now and no idea how to keep the old Biddy from killing them! She is MEAN! I can’t keep them seperate forever, the sooner you get this out the better! Thanks!

  96. terri says:

    Thanks for the article! Can’t wait for the next one in the series!

  97. Mac says:

    We’ve had good luck putting the resident rooster with the young birds for a couple of weeks. He’s already head of the hen’s flock, so when he comes back with a new group he’s bonded with, the older hens don’t make such a fuss about it.

    • June says:

      I have three hen houses and three runways all made of heavy gage paneling–when I am in the need to mix new hens with my older ones to update my laying herd I run the new chickens in the runway and henhouse close to the old hens for a week or two. Both batches are completely separate from each other but see each other through the panels–on the day I want to add them together I move them all to the third runway and henhouse–thus everyone is in a brand new area–after a sleep over here I put them all back into the old hen house and there is no problems. Moving into the new area they soon start all over with the pecking order. This has worked well for me for many years. If I had any aggressive hens I would move everyone (both old and new ones) together at night so that they wake up together in the morning. Seems to work great.

    • Cindy says:

      Mac, that’s one of the best ideas I have heard. I am going to try it.

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