Meeting someone for the first time can be awkward. If a new introduction makes you nervous, how bad could it be for your chickens?
Adding chickens to your existing flock can be troublesome because there is a real chance your current chickens will not accept the new addition.
The tolerance of your chickens to accept a new addition is hard to predict, it varies from breed to breed and from situation to situation. Adding new chickens is usually considered when you have older birds that have stopped laying and you would like to add younger laying birds…however this is the situation most likely to cause problems.
There is plenty of advice on the internet about the best way to introduce new chickens. These range from introducing the new chickens at night, to adding a favourite treat at the same time a new chicken is introduced. However in my experience these tactics only delay the inevitable. A pecking order needs to be established and the chooks are going to establish the pecking order no matter what diversionary tactics you use.
If you are introducing several chickens at the same time you might think that there are safety in numbers, however what you might find is that all of the attention of the is focused on one poor bird who is the centre of unwanted attention.
A few ideas that will help the situation
1) When you are considering adding a new chicken, introduce chickens of the same breed as your existing flock. They have similar temperaments, and a temperament that you are familiar with.
2) Very young chicks should not be introduced to older established chickens. At laying age, most breeds aren’t too much smaller than older birds so only introduce birds at laying age.
3) Make the decision to add chickens early. For example, if you have just setup a chicken coop with 2 chickens and would like more eggs, more times then not you will be able to add another chicken or two within the first few months without any problems. The longer it is between getting your chikens and then introducing new chickens, the harder it is to add new ones.
The number 1 golden rule
You absolutely need to go into the introduction of new chickens with a plan B.
A plan B might be:
1) Being able to return the new chickens if it doesn’t work out.
2) Being able to separate the new chickens for an indefinite period. This might mean that you are running two separate chickens coops!
How will I know if it isn’t working out
Oh you will know! New introductions aren’t always easy to watch, in some circumstances your established chickens can be very brutal and can kill the new chicken.
My advice is to make sure you are home and have a full day to monitor the situation. If the bullying doesn’t subside within a couple of hours, or the submissive chicken is clearly struggling, then you are ready to act. Also make sure the kids aren’t exposed to any fighting as it can be upsetting.
If you are considering adding new chickens I hope this article helps. I have seen plenty of new introductions go badly but just as many go well.
I would love to hear other peoples experiences in the comments below!