How to Introduce New Chickens into your Flock, part 3

[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.]

Below are some tips to make it as painless as possible to introduce new chickens to your existing flock. With these tips, you may still see some aggression, but hopefully it will be minimal.

Side by Side

Temporarily install a partition in your existing coop or pen so that your new chickens can live right next to your main flock. Use mesh so that the chickens can see, hear, and smell one another without being able to attack one another.  If you are only introducing a few birds, a dog crate or small cage will work well. Depending on your flock, the chickens may try to fight some through the wire mesh, but they won’t be able to cause serious harm.

After a week or two of this separation, the chickens will be much more used to each other, and you should be able to tell this from their behavior.  Then, using the other tips below, you can remove the partition and let the new chickens into the main flock.

New Coop and Run

If you are not able to use the approach above, then another approach you can take is to move both your existing flock and the new chickens to a new chicken house before introducing the new chickens. The change in housing will cause both the old and the new chickens to feel somewhat unsettled and disoriented, and it will make it easier to add the new chickens.

Introduce them at Night

Wait until nightfall to add the new chickens. You can quietly set the new chickens onto the roost next to the existing chickens. This will give the chickens a chance to be together and get used to each other overnight.

Provide Hiding Places

Have places in your chicken coop and/or the chicken run where less aggressive chickens can hide from those who are more aggressive.

Extra Food and Water

Aggressive chickens can keep newcomers from gaining access to food and water. Provide extra feeders and waterers so that if some chickens block others’ access to one feeder or waterer, there will still be another feeder and waterer for the newcomers to access.

Isolate the Aggressor

If one bird is particularly aggressive toward the newcomers, remove her to a separate area (a dog crate works well for this) then reintroduce her to the flock a few days later. This will usually take her a few notches down in the pecking order. If she continues to be a problem, consider having her for dinner.

Introduce Several Birds at One Time

If you introduce only one bird into a new flock, that bird is likely going to be on the receiving end of most of the aggression and can be seriously injured. It is better to introduce several birds at a time, so that the aggression is spread out rather than being focused on a single bird.

Dim the Lights

If the birds are in a confinement house, dim the lights, so that the birds can’t see each other as well.  Over the course of a week or so, gradually restore the original lighting after the birds have gotten used to each other.

Caution about Introducing Roosters

If you have a rooster in your existing flock, then introducing another rooster is asking for trouble. Roosters can be very aggressive toward one another in a mixed flock that contains both hens and roosters. Depending on the breed, the individual chickens, the amount of space available to the chickens, etc., you may or may not be able to introduce a new rooster successfully, so if you need to introduce a new rooster, please proceed carefully.

Keep a Watchful Eye

The first few days after you introduce new birds into your flock, keep a close eye on them. Watch to make sure that no one becomes injured to the point of bloodshed. If you see any chickens that are bleeding, remove them from the flock and isolate them. If you find one particularly aggressive bird, remove it from the flock temporarily. Watch for chickens that are not getting access to waterers or feeders because of more aggressive birds. If everything goes well, the aggression will settle down over the course of a week or more, as the new pecking order is established.

Do You Have Other Questions about Flock Integration?

In the next articles in this series, we would like to answer questions that you may have about introducing chickens.  If you have questions, please post them as comments below this article.

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55 Responses to How to Introduce New Chickens into your Flock, part 3

  1. Larry Salas Sr. says:

    Can you tell me why some of the chickens are eating thier own eggs, I feed them well and also let them free range. But there are some days that there will be 16 eggs, and others there will be 4 or 6 eggs and some eggs that have been eaten by some chickens. Also I noticed that a chicken was laying on her eggs for several days behind a wooden pen and when I removed it the next day the eggs were scattered all over the ground, did the rooster do this? Should I have removed the rooster first? Thanks for any advice !!

  2. Gina says:

    Is all the aggression and stuff pretty much because of the pecking order?

  3. ted says:

    I have found that trimming an agressive birds beak will often cool it down long enough for new birds to joining the flock, not a popular procedure among many, but if it were me I would prefer to have my beak trimmed if it would keep me FROM GOING IN THE SOUP POT.

  4. alice pye says:

    This is my first time raising chickens. And I need to know, can bird stay out in the rain without getting sick? I put them in the coop because I think they may get a cold. I’m I nut? Help

    • Jerry says:

      No, you are not a nut. I am not a chicken expert, but my chickens do not like to get wet and will go into the chicken house if it is raining. They can catch colds or worse so you did good. They will play around while it is misting or a light sprinkle but chickens and rain do not mix. Good luck.

      • Lynn says:

        Some of our hens love the rain and refuse to go inside, and we haven’t had any chickens get sick from it. The only time we’ve had any serious illness was when the chickens had to be confined indoors over 1 winter (because of foxes). So far, it seems like the outdoors is better for their health overall.

  5. Alice Tapp says:

    I have 13 (various breeds) hens who are all laying very well. Sometimes, they make a whole lot of noise and I don’t know why so much noise. I don’t want the neighbors knocking on my door asking what’s up, and if they do inquire I would like to know what’s up, myself, so I can tell them. Not that it matters, because their dogs bark incessantly when they are not at home. I have 5 new pullets, I’m introducing slowly and will soon be adding them to the main coop and hen house. Should I expect more noise? And also, how do I keep the flies away from the yard? I do not like so many flies around. Thanks to whoever can help, love the site and information.

    • Sherry says:

      Alice,
      I find if you feed up in the evening, your hens will lay pretty much at the same time in the morning, when the hens lay an egg, they cluck, sometimes this can be loud, but if they lay in the morning, instead of the afternoon, your neighbors may be at work. As for the flies, were you have animals, you will have flies. I hung up the fly bag traps, you can get them from the feed stores, and around my home, I have hung up quart size baggies of just water. Place them above your head level. The flies will not fly under them. I do not know the reason, but at least they are not in my house! Hope I helped a little. Have fun with your birds.

  6. Cathy Sennett says:

    Hi, We are in our 3rd yr of chicken raising, the originals are doing well so we decided to add 6 more (now 10). We used your intro steps & have had good luck. It’s been interesting to watch the “pecking order”. We’re surprized at how sociable they are. The things they like to eat is humorous, esp. a chicken cleaning off Buffalo chick wings. Their other fav. is corn chips. The eggs are so good. We have also raised turkeys, ducks & single pigs. We knew we were country folks when I had to take a turkey to the vet, only to have a lady walking behind me with a goat. A little side note the city of Buffalo is allowing it’s residents to raise chicks, no roosters allowed, what a nice thing to do in this economy. Thank you for all your advise. Cluck cluck, Cathy

  7. Lynn says:

    I have 15-8 week old pullets. I have 25 more chicks coming from McMurray on July 5th. Can I put them together right away or do I need to seperate them for a while? If so, how long.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Lynn,
      I would keep the new chicks separate, they are too young to be with older chicks…at least this is what I would do. I would wait at least until the new chicks were 10 wks old before putting them with the older chicks.
      We too have chicks coming the week of July 4th, 30 meat birds and 6 pullets chicks. We raise 30 cocrails in the spring and 30 more in the fall to fill our freezer for the winter. We are trying geese and ducks this year too.

    • Alayna says:

      Don’t put them together right away, unless your eight week olds are on the small side. And even then I’d say to wait about two weeks (at least) so that the younger ones are bigger/ stronger. We have about 40+ free ranging hens, and a couple roosters. This year our hens hatched out about 60 chicks so far. We are limited on cage space for the chicks, and so have been known in the past for penning different breeds/ species/ ages together. What I’ve found is that if you add day old chicks to an existing pen of older ones, you’re liable to find a couple flattened on the bottom of the cage the next day. The bigger chicks are just so much heavier that even if they don’t peck the younger ones they might sit on them. So it’s best to wait a little while.

      When you do add them in though, be careful that you don’t add them one at a time. The reason is that if you put in just one or two, they others will notice that they’re different, and the natural pecking will all be directed at those few birds instead of spread out throughout 25.

      Hope this was helpful!

  8. Ronna Brandt says:

    Well now that I’ve read everyone’s comments I see we all have common questions.”How old should the new chicks be” Maybe the question should be how fast do they need to be to get away from mean old hens! Thanks! Ronna

  9. Elaine says:

    My 26 hens are just turning one year old and are molting. I have eleven, three month old girls to introduce to them, anytime. Will it be to much stress on the 25 hens to put them together during the molting period? Should I wait or no big deal?

    • Alayna says:

      We have 40+ free ranging chickens, and have never had a problem introducing any hens in the flock, though we don’t turn extra roosters loose because of the fighting. Since we have many different breeds and they free range, we’ve never had a problem with any chickens getting stressed out at all that I noticed. If your hens have a large cage or free range it shouldn’t be a problem for your older hens. Just make sure the young ones can take a little bit of pecking.

  10. Kathy says:

    I have laying hens and chicks that are about 6 weeks old. I do not free range my birds, they have a fairly large coop set up (the kids call it the chicken mansion) which they seem to love. The coop has 2 separate spaces so they don’t have to be together but can see each other and as you have said this is working great. Okay to the question…… food needs? Everything says the chicks have to have their food and the layers need their food, so how do you integrate them when they have different food needs? From what I have found it looks as though the chicks have to be on something different for about 5 months and the layer feed is not good for them. I’ve looked everywhere for the answer and was so thankful to come across this forum!

  11. Julie K. says:

    I couldn’t stand to see my broody hen sitting on her nest any longer (she’s gone broody 4 times in the last two years) so after four weeks I finally put a 4-day old chick under her and they’ve bonded wonderfully! She’s a great little mother. They are currently separated from my other two hens by partial plexiglass panel, but are in the same coop and can see and hear each other. My question is: will integrating the new chick (when it’s old enough) be as difficult as bringing in a completely new young pullet, or will they be used to her by then and consider her a member of the flock. I’m also wondering if the mother hen will always consider the chick “her baby” and protect her from any naughty behavior from the other two. There isn’t really an established pecking order among my girls; they all get along equally well. Thank you!

  12. Sheree says:

    I’m new and trying to learn. This is my first year with baby chicks. Everything has been going pretty good for the most part. Sunday, one of my hens introduced 5 new chicks while still wanting to stay on top of nine more eggs. I quickly removed her from the coop with the other twelve into the other area (and another coop) with one hen who already had 2 chicks that are now 3 weeks old. So I had been keeping the door shut on the coop with the new babies so the two 3 week olds and mother would not interfere during the day and they can free range. Then at night, I kept them in a dog kennel with plenty of room, but inside the coop with the hen and new 5 baby chicks. So today, I found the hen kicking and scratching around the eggs while trying to take care of her new 5 chicks and two different times, I found eggs cracked open with chicks that were not ready, suffering and dead. Is she trying to take care of too many things; taking care of the five little ones and tryings to incubate too many more eggs? I put the eggs in a different nesting box, hoping she will go between the chicks and the nesting box. HELP!!

    • Karen says:

      Usually a hen will abandon any eggs that have not hatched within a couple of days, and the baby chicks are born prepared to wait for food/water til the hen is finished setting and most of the eggs are hatched. Since you moved the hen (or did you move others?) it may have interrupted her and now she is not quite sure when to quit setting! I put out a small waterer for the babies as soon as I see even one hatched, so at least the hen can get off the nest to show them how to drink (and she’ll cluck them over to any food you put out as well before she goes back to the nest) and that way they’ll be ok while they wait for her to finish hatching the others.

  13. Candace says:

    I raise backyard chickens and have two older hens (3 yrs and 2 yrs) and four 11-week old pullets. They are currently side by side in separate coops and runs, but I have been hosting “meet and greets” in a separate grassy pen which is neutral territory for everyone. This is working out great. The hens have pecked at the youngsters, but mostly ignore the pullets. The grass and larger space provide a distraction. I’m sure there will be more dust-ups when the pullets move into the main coop, but in the meantime, everyone is getting to know each other during these daylong outings. For a small flock, where you have more pullets than hens, I’m finding this a good way to integrate.

  14. Suzanne says:

    Does anyone have experience raising chicks and a lone rabbit together? I have 14 Cornish Cross, 1 Golden Polish, and 12 Buff Orpingtons 4 weeks old living in a new coop with a smallish lop bunny (female). So far so good. I just wondered if there were any issues mixing these 2 species that I am unaware of. The bunny seems to enjoy her new chick friends (probably more than they enjoy her!). Eventually, I’m hoping to integrate the Buffs, and the Golden Polish with my 6 Rhode Island Red hens in an adjoining coop — hopefully before winter as that coop is insulated but the other one is not.

  15. Shelley says:

    We built our coop with nest boxes back-to-back in the middle. That leaves a doorway sized space to pass from one side to the other. It is easy to close the “doorway” with a section of stiff wire mesh. We do this when we move youngsters from the brooder into the coop. They can see the older birds and the older birds can see them but can’t get at them. We free-range our birds during the day whenever we are home. Once the pullets are big enough to not be easily picked off by hawks and have been in the coop long enough to know it is home, we let them outside with the older birds. The flocks claim different parts of the yard and pretty much leave each other alone. Everyone goes back to her respective coop at dusk. We eventually take down the divider and they gradually intermingle without much fuss. When it is time for a new batch of pullets to move in, we just divide the coop – confining all of the older birds into one side – and start the whole process over again. Has worked like a charm for us at Crescent Oaks Farm.

    • Ronna Brandt says:

      I think these are great solutions and I’m actually doing this right now with a batch of little ones. I’ve got them in a bunny hutch inside the bigger coop. I let them have the run of the big coop during the day while the old flock runs around the yard. What I was wondering is how old should the pullets be, to be smart or fast enough to integrate? They are fully feathered, but still peeping. Is there a good time rule? Thanks, Ronna

  16. Julie says:

    Can I introduce a turkey? My husband is taking a rooster back to the feed store today since we can’t keep roosters in the city over 4 months old. I will have 5 pullets left (age 3 months). Can we introduce a young turkey into our flock in the same way as a new chicken? All the official literature recommends never combining chickens and turkeys because of disease but all the people out there talk about how they’ve done it anyway without complications. I’d like to try it and wonder if I should acclimate the new turkey in the same manner as a new chicken. Thanks.

  17. Leslie says:

    I have four chicks and five turkeys that are about 6 – 8 weeks old. I have 25 existing hens and 2 roosters in another pen. (They are out roaming all day and penned up at night). I was going to introduce the new chicks and turkeys to my big flock but have decided to just let them out during the day like my older flock and close them up at night. Will I still have trouble with aggression???

  18. Joely says:

    Can you have ducks & chickens in the same coop? I heard you can’t due to disease but wasn’t sure.

    • Hope says:

      I tried keeping ducks with my hens, and for a while it seemed to be okay. Then we found a dead hen, and then we caught the ducks. They would corner a hen as a group and savagely tear at her while she was trying to hide. They tore away so much of her from her back end that I had to put her down. These were buff orpingtons so it was particularly heart breaking. We got rid of the ducks (we only had 3) and I will never again do that. They were introduced when they were young by the way but not brand new.

      • terri says:

        I have kept chickens for several years. A couple of years ago I took two ducks from a girl at work. (She had gotten them as an Easter gift from her boyfriend, and they were outgrowing the bath tub). It worked out for a while, but they ended up getting very aggressive with my hens and had to find a new home.

    • Alice says:

      I agree. We have RIR’s (established hens and rooster) and got ducks, geese, turkeys and some Easter Egger & Leghorn chicks all the same age.
      The turkeys started out “top dogs” and pecked at each other’s and everyone else’s eyes. But they didn’t really do any damage, it was just disturbing.
      Then, the geese and ducks grew like some sort of weird alien dinosaur things. The geese are just interested in chasing off anything that gets more attention than they do, but the ducks are flat out MEAN.

      The other problem I have with ducks/geese in with chickens is their poop. Nothing makes a sloppier, poopier mess faster than ducks. And the way they gobble their water and filter it through their beaks is VERY messy. Way too messy to be in a “coop” with chickens. The flies will eventually make everything sick. The black fly killed 7 of my 14 turkeys (this fly carries a special bacteria).

  19. Jennifer says:

    I have one solitary rooster that i saved from my sister’s soup pot. He has acclimated to his new home very well. Now comes my question. We would like to introduce a couple of laying hens to him and start a small flock. Can you please tell me the best way to go about this? Do I start with chicks, or are older birds better? Do I follow the same separation rules? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Sheila says:

      Start with some older hens and put them in at night. Do not put young chicks in as the rooster will kill them.

      • Tom Twuist says:

        Good advise on the age of the pullets. The rooster will display to adult hens and whip them into a flock in short order once they are introduced, or the mature hens will initially simply ignore the rooster in spite of his best efforts. If you have a rooster and hens and introduce additional hens, you might find that the rooster pecks them and keeps them away from special foods that he reserves for “his” hens. They do play favorites. This will improve with time.

    • Savanahh says:

      I have a friend that the hens ganged up on his rooster … be very careful. Even older hens may decide they don’t want him around. Younger hens he may decide to attack. Chicks – he will kill. Introduce at night, make certain there is PLENTY of room for everyone to get out of one another’s way, always have several food and water dishes – he may deprive them of food or water, or the reverse can happen. I always keep vinegar on hand. Wet a cloth with white vinegar and wring out. Wipe them all down and this helps mask the scents and keeps them from being too aggressive.

  20. wowama says:

    I am going to be introducing a new female who just finished with her eggs. How do I put her in with the rooster (he is a bully)?

  21. Mac says:

    Lots of space is always a key factor in how well the birds get along… us, too, I think. :) But I really have had excellent luck at flock integration by taking our “head” rooster to the new birds and having them live together for a couple of weeks. Then I let him bring his new girls in with the old, and he tends to straighten out any unnecessary arguments. The pecking order will be established, of course, but without much mayhem. He likes a peaceful flock. I do the same with baby chicks and a broody: he goes with them a week or two before integration, and then the chicks have two protectors when they join the flock.

    Whenever possible (like using a broody to raise my incubator chicks), I let the chickens do the work. They tend to do a better job than I can, anyway.

    • Alice says:

      Mac, excellent advice! This seems to be the best advice I’ve heard so far, and now that I have a broody with several eggs under her (and one very fabulous RIR rooster – Elvis -) I will be using this method to introduce the new chicks.

      We also have 10 or 12 week old Leghorns and Easter Eggers that sorta roam around on their own and roost with everyone at night. I just have to make sure the babies can get out early in the morning or Elvis’ Groupie Chicks beat up on them. >:-( (meanies).

      Thank you!!!

  22. Kim Kruse - says:

    I have 8 2-year old hens and 25 8 week old chicks. I want to know the best age to integrate these two flocks. I will be moving the old hens into a new coop.

    • Sheila says:

      I had to get rid of my older hens and just keep the babies, or I have heard from other people to put them in other chicken house.
      But do not put them together as they will kill and eat them

      • chickpower says:

        I have 2 pullets and 7 chicks I have been putting them all out side to free range, and they have been getting along great, I think my older pullets like having the company, I only noticed my Wyandotte, goes after them if there is food in the area.
        hope this helps

    • Debbie says:

      We integrate our chicks with the older hens at about 18 to 20 weeks…there is some fussing, but it usually goes well. We have them in a pen next to our older hens so they can get used to seeing and smelling each other until put together.

    • Thanks! I think I’ll try for the 18 to 20 week age to integrate. How long does it usually take for the pecking order to be reestablished?

  23. Kay Sowdon says:

    I am on 3 acres, and my flock of Americanas have about 5,000 sq ft of outdoor room, a enclosed screened area, and a room the size of a bedroom in the barn. The Ritz! I intergrated 12 more into my flock of 9 including a rooster. They seemed to do just fine without too much trouble. Now I find one of the so called hens is about to crow anytime now as he produced a lovely hanging saddle on his lower back, comb is quite large. In fact he is quite large! The new hens are sticking with him rather than the older roo. When does the trouble start, when the younger rooster starts to crow or when he starts to mount? The older roo is 2 1/2 years, is it time to switch roos?

    • Tom Twuist says:

      We had a similar issue with our very nice but somewhat small longtime Polish rooster and our new “hens”, two of which became rather large roosters. Initially, our Polish established himself as the cock of the walk and had the new roos buffaloed. Then one morning, I found my Polish cowering in a corner of the coop with many cuts on his wattle and comb and the pecking order was changed. The new roo in charge was maybe a month and a half after having gained his full size, and he had no spurs yet. It happens quickly. I’ve pulled the two new roosters out of the flock and will be either giving these lovelies away, or putting them in the freezer.

  24. Gene says:

    At what age can chicks that are 2-3 weeks apart be put together? They are next to each other now in separate pens and runs.

  25. Lina says:

    I have the same question as Jennifer! We have 20 1 year old hens (no rooster currently, lost a fight with a hawk) and have 12 more 7 week old chicks that we’ve been housing inside the coop and run but in their own cage, like you suggest. They all seem fine but we’re wondering when we can go ahead and integrate them – in terms of their age. Thanks for the series!

    • DENICE WALTER says:

      I have 37 mixed hens,(bantams, hybrid, and assorted brown layers) that are 1 and 2 years oldand will be introducing my 44 new pullets & 1 Rhode Island Red rooster to them at 18 weeks old. That is the time that the pullets can eat the layer pellets/crumbles. I buy feed from TSC and go by the age of the chicks when to mix the group. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and everything works out ok. So I think it is ok my flock is doing fine and giving me lots of eggs.

    • Lorna says:

      We have 27 1 year old laying chickens, 2 roosters, and 30 12 week old chicks. We are waiting for the chicks to get a little closer in size, and for them to eat the same food. The younger chicks cannot eat the layers crumble/pellets as it has more calcium for egg production. Additionally chick food is higher in protein. I believe they can start to eat that at 16 to 18 weeks of age. Good Luck!

  26. Monica says:

    I was wondering that as well. I have 6 week old chicks (may be a roo in there but too soon to tell) plus 5, 6 week old Guinea fowl cuurently in the shed in an animal play yard with a top. I was hoping to get them all into the main coop soon. In the coop currently are one rooster and 7 hens.
    Also, is it harmful for them to eat each others feed? The older ones eat egg layer pellets and the younger hens are on chick starter while the guineas are on game starter. How do I keep them together while separating their feed?? Does it matter?

  27. Lashanda says:

    I wonder the same thing as Jennifer – my little ones are approx 9-10 weeks old – they’re a good size and seem to do okay with the big girls so long as I’m watching (I’m the ‘roo in my relationship with my flock!) but I do have a Gold Lace that’s something of a terror when no one is watching. She may have to be isolated if she keeps it up. Trying now to figure out when they’ll be ready to move into the coop.

  28. Jennifer says:

    Is there an age that is appropriate to introduce new chickens to an existing flock? I have twelve 7-week-old chicks (6 hens, 6 roos) that I’d like to put with the existing 4 hens and 1 roo that I have. Do I have to wait until they’re a certain age? Should I integrate the new baby roos with the existing flock, or leave them separate? Thank you for you answers! -Jennifer

    • Susan says:

      You will have too many roosters for the number of hens (10 hens, 7 roosters). I would leave the young roosters separate. One rooster for 10 hens is fine. I usually put mine together once they are similar size to the adults, not based on age. You can integrate them based on the previous guidelines.

      • Thomas J. Balkema says:

        I had three roosters already, and then I got a bantam rooster, and about a day later I introduced him to the flock. he isn’t fighting with the roosters yet but he’s not that nice to the other chickens. Should I separate him or just let him be and see if it gets better?

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