Introducing Chicks to the Flock

Introducing New Chicks to the Existing Flock

Not everyone has the options available to them to introduce new chicks to their existing urban flock in a way that will minimize bullying and henpecking by the older hens.  Fortunately, the method I used couldn’t have been more successful.  After what I had heard and read about, I expected the worst, and because of that I kept putting off the introduction.  Finally, when my two new chicks were about eleven weeks old I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer.   Before I put them into the back area with the older hens, however, I let them roam around my backyard freely. They would always head back to the rabbit hutch (now re- christened as the transitional chick hutch),  where they would snuggle up together for the night.  For several weeks they wandered around, and the older hens could see them through the wire fence.  They were a little curious and a bit vexed at seeing that the other chickens got to be outside in the yard while they were still cooped up.  I suspect that this slow introduction helped the older hens accept the existence of the new chickens, so when I finally put them into the back area with the older hens they practically ignored them.  After a couple days of allowing them in there to explore the new area during the day, I was then ready to make them stay in the hen house for the night.

I was still nervous about what would happen in the evening when it was time to roost.  I didn’t know what to expect.  To my amazement, it went without a hitch.  The older hens did their usual slow ascent up the ladder into the nesting boxes.  Then I took the younger hens and placed them inside the hen house and barred the entrance so they couldn’t come out.  It was dusk at this point in time, but since a lot of light was still filtering in from the skyline and my neighbor’s lights, I decided to try to darken it in the hen house to sooth the chickens, so I covered the window.   I left the rest up to nature and hoped for the best.

My hens usually descend the ladder at daybreak, so I got up early the next morning to open up the entrance.  The older hens descended and the two new chicks waited until the others were out of the coop before they too descended.  It’s interesting to see how the smaller chicks just naturally respect the dominant positions of the older hens.  They know instinctively that they had better keep their distance. Throughout the rest of the day, they were basically ignored for the most part, and only occasionally did the other hens bother to assert their dominance and protect their territory a few times when they felt it was necessary.  That happened, and still happens, mainly when they want to eat some grain and the new hens are in their way, or if they wander too close.  The new hens quickly learned to just simply stay out of their way.  It was that simple.

From that first night onward, the younger hens head up the ladder first and perch themselves on the roosting pole before the older hens start their ascent. Somehow they had established this contract from the beginning as one of the rules of hierarchy to be respected. The new hens seem very content to roost on the pole together while the older hens continue to lie in the boxes as they’ve always done.  Never once has there been an issue that I’m aware of.  Of course I’m not in there at night, so I don’t know for sure what’s going on, but since it’s so silent in there, they must all be pretty comfortable with each other.  Now, four weeks later, even though they’re not completely bonded with the older hens, they coexist just fine.   I won’t be cutting their wings for now since they don’t do that much damage to my beds.  I’m also wondering what will happen in the hen house if I clip their wings when they’re bigger.  Will they still have the agility to jump up on the pole to roost?  Currently, they are still easily flying up over the fence every day to cruise the outer yard and then flying back and forth over the fence throughout the day whenever they feel like it.

I couldn’t be more proud of my little diverse family of chickens for getting along so well.  If the world could live together that peacefully then what a wonderful world it would be!

 

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