Introducing New Hens into the Flock


I’ve now owned hens for about 15 years now and over the years, I have tried different ways and methods of introducing new hens. I do not believe that any method enables you to magically introduce the new kids on the block to an established flock and not expect there to be some teething problems. I have found that as long as the original flock is happy and well-balanced then new hens can be introduced without any problems but invariably it takes time.

I have installed two security cameras in the chicken coop, one on either side. The original idea was to detect mice so that I could block up any holes where they were coming in but I’ve found them invaluable for keeping an eye on the hens to check that all is OK and they have everything they need regarding food and water. It also means I can keep a closer check on what is happening when I get new hens.

The pecking order exists for a reason and it is important for every bird in the flock to know their place and to respect the older hens. It is not something that can be achieved overnight and it can take at least several weeks before they are fully accepted.

I’ve found that 3 is the ideal number when buying new hens. This way, they have their own little gang who they feel comfortable with so that they are not so isolated.

I thought it would be interesting to keep a track of how long it took for them to become part of the flock and accepted. 

The cage is something I bought way back when I first had hens and I now use it for new hens or if a hen needs to be separated from the rest if they are sick, etc.

I bought the 3 newbies in the morning of Friday 19th May. For the first three days, I kept them in the cage with food and water. I installed a new wire mesh with finer squares on the floor so it was nicer for them to stand on as I didn’t like the way that the chickens’ claws went through the gaps in the original floor. I simply cut a new piece of mesh and attached it to the base with pieces of wire.

I let the older hens out of the hen coop and let them wander outside before closing the coop door. I then opened the two doors of the cage and encouraged the new hens to step outside. Eventually they did. I left the new hens inside to explore the coop and have a drink and some food.

I also installed a second ladder so that they easily get up onto the manger to sleep.

Their “safe” space was the area under the egg-laying boxes. I allowed them access to this space for the first three days but then gradually reduced the amount of space by blocking it with crates. They then began to spend most of the day on the manger, flying down every so often for food and water.

I would go in every night to help them up onto the manger which is where they sleep.

The breakthrough day was DAY TWENTY-FOUR, Sunday 12th May 2024.

Over the past few days, the newbies had been gaining in confidence. There had been no excessive bullying form the other hens, apart from the occasional peck to show who the bosses were.

That night, the new hens got themselves up onto the manger to sleep, with a small space separating them from the other hens.

The hens slept the entire night in the same positions.

This was the first day when the new hens were fully integrated in the flock, moving with the older hens as one flock.

That night, the new hens had gone up onto the manger early at about 18:00 but had then got off. Meanwhile, the older hens had gone up onto the manger to sleep and were huddled around at the top of the longer ladder, which is were they normally slept. This meant that the younger hens couldn’t access the manger. 

This was the first time that the new hens had tried to get up onto the manger using the longer ladder. Eventually, they sorted themselves out and they all went to sleep on the manger. Here is the picture:

Today one of the new hens laid her first egg and amazingly she laid it in the egg box. Here is a photo.

Featherless Hens

Featherless Hens: Supplementing their diet with egg yolks and eggshells




PROBLEM: a featherless hen

I have decided to see whether it is possible to supplement a hen’s diet with egg yolks and eggshells in order to improve the amount of calcium she consumes so that her feathers can grow back.

Although this hen does not have many feathers, she is a good layer and generally lays an egg a day. I thought her feathers would grow back when two of the other hens who had been picking on her and pecking her died but I’m still waiting. Although some feathers did grow back, she is still a long way from full feather form.

I have in the past given her crushed up calcium tablets but that hasn’t seemed to work. So I decided to try an experiment. My theory is that she is using all her calcium resources on egg production and so I would try to replenish them by feeding her egg yolk and eggshell.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: supplement her diet with egg yolks and eggshells

The experiment started today (29th May 2019). I ground up some eggshells in a spice blender. I then mixed an egg yolk and a teaspoon of eggshell in a jam jar lid and fed it to her. 

A hen is at the peak of her laying life when she is 35 weeks old. She will normally consume 4g of calcium a day. She consumes most calcium in the early hours of the day but also a small amount throughout the day.

0.5g of her daily calcium intake is indigestible and is lost through faeces, 0.4g is lost through urine and 0.1g is used for bone regeneration. The remaining 3g is used in the egg process: 2g for the eggshell and 1g for the yolk and albumen.

The photo at the top of the page shows her today. The photo below shows her and some of the other hens finishing up the leftovers.


The Eggstractor Homemade Autonomous Egg Collector

One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday.  Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.

Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem. 

Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches. 


Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs


Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.


For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.


Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.


I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.


Chicken Run 2

2016-07-12 20.14.25

This year I have put three of the hens in a pen in the bottom field. The idea was that this would be their final resting area but I’ve since changed my mind. Two of the hens are from the eggs that I incubated by crossing our hens with the neighbour’s rooster and I’ve become attached to them so they’ve been granted a wildcard to old age.

The white posts mark the borders of the pen and you can see two of the black hens together. The lines of vegetables to the right of the tractor are potatoes.

In their summer residence, they are protected by an electric fence surrounding a walnut tree and have free range of the first hen house that John built for them. Although they were reluctant to venture in at first, they are now happy to lay their eggs in one of the partitions. They tend to sleep, however, on some of the branches of the tree above it. This is good news and makes me happy. The other day on our morning walk to Marchalejo, we saw a pack of three foxes and then a single fox so it is good that we have the three types of fox-protection: electrocution, canine and flight.