Introducing a New Chicken
Introducing a New Chicken

Introducing a New Chicken

Chicken math. Am I right?! My poor husband. Chicken math means that when you start down the path of chicken tending it is very likely going to lead you from 5 chickens to 30. It means that if one chicken dies or leaves your flock for any reason you need to replace it with at least 3 more. It means if there’s a poor homeless chicken you simply must give it a home. It means you need to learn how to use an incubator to hatch, so that you can have ALL THE CHICKENS.

Most of us start out on the chicken math road thinking it would be fun to add fresh eggs to our fridge. We then enjoy our girls so much that we do more research about the endless variety of breeds and egg colors. When we learn about the wide variety of chickens we discover that we MUST HAVE all the cool varieties we’ve read about! I choose my chickens for plumage color and type, personality, egg production, and egg color. I want all the fun, cute, beautiful, and colorful chickens and eggs! That’s why Buckaboo Farm specializes in unique and fluffy silkies, as well as chickens that lay rainbow eggs!

So how do you safely introduce new chickens to your flock? There are two considerations you need to take into account. First, when moving a chicken from one yard to another it’s important to make sure you are not also sharing unwanted germs or pests, like mites. Second, you need to make sure the chicken strangers don’t attack and hurt each other.

In order to keep your flock safe from any pests or diseases coming from the new chicken(s), and vice versa, it is important to keep the chickens separate for at least 2 weeks. Please do not minimize the importance of this step! I’ve heard horror stories about a new group of chickens bringing disease that wipes out their entire new flock! No matter how clean the breeder you bought your chickens from is, there are simply some things that they can’t control. Wild birds can transfer disease to backyard chickens. I use copious amounts of lime, and I clean my yard and coops frequently, but I still can’t control what wild birds bring into my chickens’ space. Give the new chicken(s) separate food and water, separate free ranging space, and a separate place to sleep. Basically do not give them access to each others’ bodily functions, and keep them far enough apart to prohibit transfer of mites and other pests. I also sprinkle my newcomers and their crate with miticide from our local farm store. If you prefer to use more natural pest control you can also sprinkle your bird(s) with lime or diatomaceous earth. I’ve found that the natural method doesn’t work for a bad infestation of mites or lice! My new chicken(s) sleep in a dog crate in a yard that is separate from the other birds. During the day I let them wander in their own area.

These funny girls are curious about the new dude across the fence!

The next step is to gently introduce your birds to each other. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to keep them in yards that are next to each other, but separated by some fencing. As you can see in these pictures, the chickens are very curious about the newcomer. This gives them a chance to get to know each other, without fighting. It’s actually pretty funny to watch them face off through the fencing!

Once the chickens have been able to see each other through the fence for a few days it’s time to put them in the same coop and run! I’ve found that if the chickens have enough space the fighting isn’t a problem. Every once in a while I’ve had to separate a couple, but usually problems resolve themselves eventually. Try not to step in if chickens are fighting, unless they’re actually hurting each other and drawing blood. Have you heard the term “pecking order?” They need to establish rankings of dominance amongst themselves. If they’re being too aggressive try keeping them in separate, but connected yards again for a while. Some roosters may not ever be able to live in the same pen with each other.

Joey will be living in this dog crate until it is safe for him to integrate with the flock!