I have one hen who went ”broody” this summer. I decided to let her hatch a few eggs for us so I could increase our flock size instead of buying chicks at the feed store. Well, she hatched 3 little chicks all in a weeks’ time (week of Jun/28th)! But, she still wouldn’t leave the nest because there were more eggs that her sisters had snuck in and laid in her nest (sometimes right on top of her!!!). So I took the chicks and hand-raised them myself. I was also afraid the babies would fall out of the nest and the other chickens would kill them. (She’s hatched 2 more babies since by the way)
Now, these 3 chicks are 7 weeks old and fully feathered out – they still make ”peep” type sounds but are just a little smaller than my full-grown chickens. To introduce them into the flock, about 3 weeks ago when they were about a month old, I put them in one of the large metal cage-like dog kennels and then put that into the chicken coop. At first, the older chickens still tried to pick on the new babies but they couldn’t get to them because of the dog kennel. After a couple of days, the ”new-ness” wore off and the older chickens could care less that the babies are in their coop. But, I think it’s about time that I introduced them INTO the flock. I’m hoping that by spending those 3 weeks in the large dog kennel inside the coop that maybe they’ve all learned who each other is and have gotten used to each other.
Someone suggested going into the coop at night – placing the new babies on the roost and letting them all wake up together the next morning. Do you think this is a good idea? I’ve never introduced new chickens into my flock before and I don’t want to see these get pecked on. I know that it will create a new ”pecking order”, but how do you introduce younger chickens into your flock without them being harassed by the older chickens? The older chickens wouldn’t kill the almost 2 month old babies, would they?

You seem to have done all your research already as you are doing pretty much what I would suggest to do! Chickens don’t like changes to their flock dynamics. Whether it’s fear of losing their position in the all-important pecking order, or just plan ol’ crankiness, they don’t accept flock-mates so readily.

When it came time for us to add some new hens to the flock, our resident matriarch of the coop, Clementine, wanted nothing to do with the new upstarts. She fussed, harassed and berated the young ones. As you did, we penned off a section of the coop for the newly feathered youngsters and let them see one another while protecting them from being hurt. As the days passed, Clementine tolerated their existence and we were able to let the young ones run with her in the coop for short periods and under supervision. It seemed as if it all worked. Although Clementine continued to demand respect from the younger hens, as long as they kept out of her way, she was happy.

But all was not well in chicken-land.

Because we were working on a new chicken house at the time, every evening we had to gather up everyone and send them to their sleeping quarters — the young ones in an old rabbit hutch and Clementine in a box in the house. We were letting Clementine out in the coop and then bringing the young ones in later. This was causing all sorts of issues. It was like re-introduction each time. And yes, unfortunately, there was blood.

Dora, our little golden cochin bantam (we call her our “california blond bimbo” — because, well… she’s missing a few things in the chicken brain. Do blonde jokes apply here?),  got injured in the comb and wattles after getting in Clementine’s way. It caused Clementine to continuously pick on her as well. I smeared pine tar and blue-kote all over Dora’s head and she rocked a trendy blue mohawk for awhile. But things were just too unsettled in the coop and there was a lot of tension between the flock.

The hen house couldn’t be finished soon enough. But I still fretted over whether the old wives’ tale would work — i.e., if a chicken wakes up to something new, it accepts it as being there all along. Soon, the day came when the house was ready. We let Clementine get her bearings as she learned where her new roost would be. Several nights later, we popped the younger chickens on the roost with her and then made it a point to clear the next morning’s schedule so one of us could be free to monitor things in the coop.

The transformation was amazing. As Clementine and the youngsters woke and made their way into the chicken yard, there was no squabbling, no pecking, no shrieks and, most importantly, no blood! Everyone was eating, preening and getting along like they had been pals for a long time. It was really amazing the difference in dynamics from the day before. Clementine and her new flockmates were getting along great. This also worked flawlessly when it came time to adding in new ducks or other animals into the goat yard.

So , yes, I would suggest that you let them sleep together but make sure that you are available that morning to monitor things. That is most important. I always advise people to do the mixing of flocks on a day when you can hear trouble and be there to step in, just-in-case.

Does anyone have any flock integration suggestions? Leave them in the comments box!

Have questions? Send them to me

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Hmmm. I wonder what other (non-fowl) situations this could apply to? “If a chicken wakes up to something new, it accepts it as being there all along.”

    Your chicken (and other critter) stories are very fun to read!

  2. We keep a clean pair of large toenail clippers handy for trimming off just the least sharp, pointy tips of queen beaks. The girls sit semi-patiently in our laps for the trim. They still peck at each other and pull rump feathers the way sisters would pull hair, but the worst blood-letting is only an occasional drop on a tough backside feather follicle, which doesn’t seem to interfere with the hen’s busy activities or continued socialization with the rest of the flock.

    This beak-trimming procedure should not be used on the lower lip though – only the hard upper beak tip. Also only the tiniest amount should be taken, so as not to cause a split in the beak.

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