It is possible to introduce new hens as I have done it successfully many times. There are a few important considerations, the main one being space. If you are short on space, or your girls are confined to a small run, don’t do it! I firmly believe that most problems can be avoided if they have a large enough area.
Firstly, if you are not sure about the new girls’ background, it would be advisable to quarantine them for at least a couple of weeks to ensure they are not bringing any illness, mites or lice to your established flock. This will also give you a chance to worm them. When the time comes there are lots of different ways you could introduce them, but this is what works for us….,
In the first few days there will be bickering as they try to sort out the pecking order. It is important for all the hens to have enough space so they can get away from each other – so the less dominant can move away from the more dominant and therefore avoid being bullied. It is important to consider that your new hens may never have met each other either, especially if they are rescue hens. Expect some bickering amoung the new girls as well as with your older ones.
It is important to provide plenty of food stations. Depending on how they are reacting to each other, you might need more food bowls than you have chickens to allow them all to move around. Having 6 bowls for 5 chickens means there will always be a bowl free for the less dominant girls to choose. Spread the bowls out around the run so they all get their chance to eat without being pushed off. After a few days you can start to reduce the number of food stations as they gain confidence to share. You may need more than one water bowl too.
You may want to have a separate area at first to allow the groups to meet safely wither side of a fence on day one. This could be a sectioned off area in your run. I always wait until my original girls have gone to roost before popping the new girls in the coop with them. They are less likely to start fighting if they are already settled for the night and hopefully by the morning they will have started to get used to each other. You will need an early start the following day though! Make sure you are up with the light to let them out into their run and keep checking on them throughout the day. Expect them to be pretty noisy too!
I would recommend keeping your new girls in a run for a few days so they learn where home is. This can be tricky though if your original girls are used to coming in to lay. The first few days will be pretty labour intensive while you juggle keeping the old girls and the new ones happy so make sure you have plenty of time to spend with them.
- Have plenty of space
- Never add a single chicken to a flock
- Try to keep the numbers fairly even. If you have 10 chickens already, adding 4 – 6 new ones will probably be more successful than adding just 2.
- Choose similar sized chickens.
- Have lots of food stations and tasty treats to keep them occupied
- Have an antiseptic spray to hand to treat any injuries.
- Make sure you are home for a few days so you can keep checking them
- Expect it to take a few nights for the new girls to learn where they go to bed.
- It might take a couple of weeks or more for them to settle