New Chicks in the Flock
By Hen Up Organics
We’ve all been there: Moving into a new neighborhood or starting at a new school. Everything’s weird and different, you don’t know anybody and you’re just hoping you can fit in and make friends. That’s what new chicks or hens go through when you introduce them to your flock. Here’s how you can make it a little easier on them and make sure everybody gets along.
Start with a plan
We don’t have to tell you that raising and keeping hens is a commitment. If you’ve got a backyard flock, it’s because you’re in it for the long haul. You want to keep all your birds healthy and give new arrivals the best chance to become happy and productive members of the family. When it comes to growing your flock, the best thing you can have is a long-term plan — starting with where you’re going to keep them.
Gotta keep ‘em separated
While you might want to get your new birds together with the rest of the flock right away, patience is key. For both new chicks and younger hens, you’ll need separate accommodations where they can begin to get used to their new surroundings and you can keep an eye on them to make sure that they’re healthy.
En route to you, your new additions have probably racked up some frequent-flier miles, and they’ve been socializing with lots of other chickens. The things that they have been exposed to along the way may be different from your backyard ladies. For younger bids with immature immune systems, you don’t want them being exposed to any more germs than they already have. And you don’t want them passing along anything to your current flock. either. For those reasons alone it’s best to keep any new birds in a separate spot until they’re the same size as the rest of your birds in case feathers get ruffled when they join the flock.
Here are some extra precautions to take when you’re working with multiple sets of birds to prevent spreading disease:
- Have separate pairs of shoes or boots that you only wear while tending to each group of birds. Put them on for each group just before you enter their area and remove them just before you leave that area.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water between each group.
- As much as possible, don’t share equipment between groups either. If you need to, wash whatever it is with soap and water or a quick spray of a 10:1 bleach solution (10-parts water. 1-part bleach) as a disinfectant.
Brand new chicks will need the same kind of quarantine plan to protect them from disease, but you should plan to keep them separate for a longer period. During the first 6 weeks keep the chicks in a brooder area where you can keep them warm. You’ll watch the birds learn to drink and you should feed them a high-energy feed with balanced nutrition (like Hen Up™ Starter/Grower Crumbles). After 6 weeks — or when the weather is above 70° F all day and night — you can remove the heat source. Plan to keep these younger birds separated from the older hens until they are at least 16 weeks old.
OK, the wait is over and your new birds are ready to meet the rest of the hens. You can ease into things by putting both groups of hens next to each other but separated by fencing or even a dog crate. This allows them to develop a bond gradually and lets you spot potential conflicts. Another option is to let the new hens free-range, then introduce the rest of your flock so that everybody’s in new surroundings. Either way, have additional food and water available to make sure all of the birds get their share, and provide enough space and shelter for the larger flock.
As soon as you introduce the new birds to the old, the jostling begins as a new pecking order takes shape. Every flock has one hen that runs the show and everyone else falls in line behind her. For the most part, the birds will settle into their order without too much aggression. But conflicts can arise when another bird tries to take on the queen, and you may need to step in and split up separate the combatants until they agree on who’s in charge. After a few days ruffled feathers and adjustment to a new routine, most tension should resolve itself and every hen can go about her business in peace.
Back to the routine
Chickens are creatures of habit, and they like routines. Now that they’ve gotten through that awkward getting-to-know-me phase, your feathered friends will play nicely together and they’ll quickly settle into a routine of being healthy, happy and productive. The older hens will be helpful in showing the newbies the ropes in their new home, but just make sure your new birds can always find the food and water. Make sure that your flock has plenty of shelter, plenty of water and all of the balanced nutrition they can eat — like Hen Up™ Layer Mash or Layer Pellets.
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