Regardless if you are starting with a group of new chickens or planning to add a few new hens to your existing flock, it is essential to have proper planning, care and management in order to have a successful transition in introducing new chickens to your flock.
Here are some guidelines to help with the transition:
Manage the new birds separately
As soon as the new birds arrive, separate them from the rest of the flock. This will enable you to monitor the birds closely and prevent any possible illness from spreading to the existing flock.
New birds may have travelled for a distance or have been near to other birds. It is encouraged to keep the new birds in a separate room or coop for 30 days in order to monitor them and make sure that they are free from disease and to acclimate them in your backyard. During this period, when working with existing flock, make sure that you wash your hands between groups in order to avoid any potential cross contamination.
A quarantine plan is also recommended for new chicks as older hens may transmit disease to chicks. For chicks, recommended separation time should be 18 weeks as this allow the birds to reach maturity and transition into layer feed before meeting other members of the flock.
When managing new chicks, first ensure that they are away from the flock and start them in a brooder. This will enable you to provide the chicks supplemental heat as well as teach them to eat high-energy complete feed. Once they are ready to enter a coop, continue to raise them until they mature. This is to minimise potential physical injuries when introducing two groups of birds.
Introduce birds in groups
After the quarantine period is over, gradually introduce the new birds into your existing flock. First, start off with groups of birds that are similar in size and traits into a familiar setting in order to provide smooth transition. It is also encouraged to have ample of space to prevent overcrowding.
One tip to help both groups of birds acclimate to each other is to place them in side-by-side runs. Placing two groups near one another for one week can help the two groups bond. It will also help to alert you if there is any potential personality clashes that may cause problems. Another way is to let the new group of birds free-range first. Next, introduce the existing flock to place the focus on new surroundings rather than new flock members.
In both cases, it is important to have additional feeders and fresh water available to prevent the new birds from being deterred from eating and drinking. Another important thing to note is that during introduction period, new pecking order will start to established. In most cases, one bird will be dominant in the group. The remaining birds will usually fall into an accepted order below the dominant bird. Sometimes, two dominant birds may fight in attempt to be the dominating bird in the flock. When such situation occurs, the flock owner should find a new home for one of the dominating birds in order to maintain peace.
Pecking order is usually very stable in a group unless a new bird is added or removed. In such cases, the order will be re-established. In order to ease the transition, add new birds in a group with similar size and trait and ensure that there are plenty of feed and water available for the flock.
Monitor transition phase
It is important to take note when new birds are added. Birds that are happy and healthy will continue their routine without much variation. However, if there are any inconsistency, it is important to take note and rectify the problem. Consistency is key during transitions, hence, ensure that high quality feed and fresh water is available at all times.