For those of us who already have an existing flock of chickens, planning to order more chicks can be a stressful thought, mainly because integrating new chicks into a flock can be a challenge if you don’t know what to do.
Here are some tips to make the integration process as smooth as possible:
- Make sure that the coop is clean. It is never a good idea to add younger chicks to an older pen. If you must mix ages always add the older chicks to the younger chicks’ pen. This unfamiliar pen for the older chicks will cause the least amount of fighting and harming.
- It is highly important to quarantine new chicks for approximately four weeks before integrating them with an existing flock. This time period allows you to find out if there are any illnesses or diseases in your new chicks.
- For the first week of integration, keep the new chicks in a protective closure near the existing flock. This way, the chickens will have time to get used to one another with the safety of a barrier. If this setup is at all possible, it is highly recommended.
- The entire process can take up to two weeks. Bear this in mind, and don’t get discouraged if your new chicks aren’t immediately accepted into the flock. Keep a close eye on them, and give it time.
- During the two week process, you will begin to notice that the pecking order starts to shift and transition to accommodate the new members of the flock. There will be hens who struggle to retain their status, while others fight to move up higher on the ladder. Some experts have found that adding a rooster to the flock can ease the challenge of the transition for all the others because roosters act as natural peacekeepers. This can work well if the hens are full grown, however a rooster might kill younger chicks.
- It is best to introduce a group of new chicks to the older chickens instead of just one. When one new chick is placed into an existing flock, there is a greater possibility that the young chick could be singled out and bullied. If the new chicks enter as a group, they have the support of one another while going through the transition.
- If you can, introduce new chicks into the flock at night on some clean dry shavings. The introduction will be less obvious if done while it’s dark. Wake up early the next morning to see how the introduction by moonlight went. Others feel it is best to do it in the morning when they can watch them all day to see how it works out.
Don’t forget to double up on water and feeders and place the new water and feeders on the opposite side of the coop for the newbies. Put a bale of straw out for them to peck at and anything new you can put in the pen to keep them occupied. Provide opportunities for play and distraction and schedule more time to be out with your chickens as they go through this challenging process.