Introducing New Hens into the Flock

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.

DAY ONE
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.

DAY FOUR
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.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR
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.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE
The hens slept the entire night in the same positions.

DAY TWENTY-SIX
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:

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT (16th May 2024) – HEN UPDATE
Today one of the new hens laid her first egg and amazingly she laid it in the egg box. Here is a photo.

Increasing the flock

The chickens seem happy to be back at the cortijo after their winter break and are still laying 2 or 3 eggs a day. I’ve decided to try and get some more chickens to increase my flock . Rather than buying them, I thought it would be better to try and rear them myself so have borrowed one of the neighbour’s roosters. In theory, it seems easy but only time will tell and I’m sure it’s going to be a bit more difficult than I thought at first.

Here is the picture of the rooster:

2013-04-07 09.09.28This is the first day so I collected the three eggs that the hens had laid.

The rooster showed absolutely no interest in any of the chickens. The only action was when the red-breasted, feisty chicken went for him and he reared himself as if to fight but then just ran away.