be a problem when you introduce new birds into an established flock,
if there's a substantial age difference. There's no perfect way to
new birds without some amount of fighting, especially when you combine
their present housing to be THEIR home. They will fight to maintain
over the "intruders". Existing flocks have an agreed "pecking
The chicken "society" has been established and each bird "knows" where
they fit in this pecking order. The dominant hen gets the first
the best grass, the best spot on the roost, her favorite nest box,
The lowest hen on the pecking order usually gets picked on by all the
This sound mean, but it's the way chicken society functions.
consider the hens in the flock to be "his" and will protect them from
Here are a
you can do to make the operation less difficult:
in a new enclosure
If possible, put
flock and the birds to be introduced in a NEW enclosure that neither
claim to be theirs at the start. In our new barn, we have sixteen 10ft
x 10ft pens. We always keep ONE pen empty just for this purpose. We
flocks in that pen, then use one of the pen(s) they came from as the
"empty" pen. We recently placed 15 excess bantam cockerels of various
in one pen (new to all of them) to free up needed cage space. The fact
that the pen wasn't anyone's home turf limited fighting to about 24
after which they all get along pretty well.
If you don't have
pen to combine the birds, divide the existing pen and place the older
in one side and the new birds on the other side. Use wire for the
so the two groups can see each other and interact. Make sure that
each partition has their own food and water available. Leave them
like this for at least a week, or until the birds quit trying to fight
with each other through the wire, then remove the partition. Watch the
birds to identify the "fighters". If they haven't stopped fighting
two weeks, they never will and it would be best to cull the aggressive
birds before combining the flocks.
3. Use a
cage within the main enclosure
you only have one or two birds to introduce to an established flock,
them in a cage large enough for them to be comfortable with food and
We have several 2ft x 3ft wire "rabbit cages" we use for this purpose.
Place the cage in the pen or other enclosure so that the existing flock
can see them and interact with them but not hurt them until they get
to the newcomers.
physical size as close as possible
If the new birds to
introduced are younger than the existing flock (the usual situation)
there is really no rush, wait to introduce them until the younger birds
are close to maturity and about the same physical size as older birds.
Any time you introduce young immature birds to a mature adult flock
will be fighting. Generally, the closer they are to the same age/size,
the less fighting there will be.
If possible, don't
roosters. Hens will fight to reestablish the pecking order, but
fight for dominance and may kill each other and forget about servicing
the hens. If either flock has enough roosters to service the number of
hens in the combined flock, remove the roosters (cull, giveaway, sell,
whatever) from one flock before combining them. We've found that one
does a good job with about 10 hens. They only need to copulate once
per week to maintain constant fertility. This is true for most
ONE rooster is NEVER enough though, always consider at least TWO, one
as a spare. If you are adding new roosters to your flock,
all of them at one. For instance, if you have 2 roosters and
you really need 5, consider removing your existing roosters (cull, give
away, stew pot, etc.) and add 5 new ones all at the same time.
or distract them
introducing new birds (or the morning after), feed the entire flock
such as fruit, fresh greens, hen scratch, or the like to keep them busy
and take their mind off the new additions.
it in the Dark
Whatever method you
to combine the flocks, DO IT IN THE DARK. Get the enclosure as dark as
possible before introducing the new birds. The best way we've
of doing this is waiting until they all go to roost for the
We close the coop, shut off the light and use a flashlight to place the
new birds amongst the existing birds on the roosts. If they all
up together in the morning, it's much less obvious that their numbers
increased and they have new company.
If anyone has a
works for them that's not listed here, please send us a description and
we'll include it on this page.