How to Add to Your Flock at Home
Many of you have backyard chickens or are thinking about acquiring your own flock in the future. You may have noticed that we announced on Instagram earlier this week that we are adding 400 laying hens this month to our already existing flock. So we thought we would share some tips on how you can expand your flock at home.
Chickens naturally develop an animal hierarchy, hence the term 'pecking order.' Every hen finds her place within the hierarchy, so when new chickens are introduced, hostility is likely to occur until the new chicken finds her place in the pecking order. This is not to say it can't be done, but you have to be strategic.
Adding new chickens in pairs (or more) to your group is a good start. This is not to say that the newcomers won't be bullied, but it does mean that the bullying likely won't fall solely on one bird. It does help if the new chickens are well acquainted before entering your existing flock. Another good tip would be to try not to get chickens that are smaller than your current flock. There is an exception to this. Suppose you are adding a large number of younger chickens to an already smaller and older flock. In that case, this could be a moment where the younger, more sporty chickens could come in and rank higher in the pecking order. Now, suppose you're adding smaller and younger chickens(chicks) to your flock. In that case, you will want to keep them separated until they have gotten larger and can take being introduced to the original flock.
Overall, a slow and separate introduction is just a good rule to follow no matter the size or number of new gals you are introducing. Keeping them separated but close allows them to get familiar with one another slowly. Once you have established the slow introduction and are ready to take the relationship to the next level, it's best to do it at night. Letting your already existing flock settle and start roosting is the best time to bring the new gals in. This will allow them a little more time to understand the lay of the land before daytime aggression takes place.
Another way to limit conflict is by creating distractions, and keeping your gals occupied is a good strategic move. Hanging heads of lettuce or giving them a pile of leaves or straw to play in is a great start. Lastly, if you have the means and space, a new hen house is a new home for all and will help level the playing field creating curiosity for your current and new layers all at once.
Whenever introducing new chickens to your existing flock, a new pecking order will have to be established. It's just nature's way. However, if you follow these tips and keep an eye on your new gals, things should start to level out in a week's time.