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Adding A New Chicken To Your Flock

Introducing New Hens to a Flock

Although they are flock birds, hens will give newcomers a hard time. This is because they have established a ‘pecking order’, and any newcomer throws their ruthlessly hierarchical system into disarray. It usually takes a week for things to settle down again.

It’s best to keep newcomers fenced off from the established birds for the first week, behind chicken wire where everyone can see and get used to each other. This also acts as a quarantine, in case any of the new bird are harbouring illness. Young birds not yet laying will be nervous in their new surroundings, and the added stress of fighting their way into the pecking order may affect their health. You shouldn’t leave any bird younger than six weeks to fend for itself in a flock.

Helen Goodson's hens being introduced to their new Orpington hen friends
The existing flock checks out the new hens on the block - safely out of pecking range in their Eglu Go Chicken Coop run

Living side by side, but separated by chicken wire, the birds will work out the pecking order by means that are not always obvious to a human observer. Things like the size and colour of the comb – the larger and darker, the more dominant – play a part in this social balancing act.

The best time to mix the birds together after this initial separation is at night, when they will all roost happily together without fuss. Hens are visual birds, and are very docile at night, when they can see little or nothing. In the morning it will, if all goes well, look as though the chickens have lived together all their lives.

If one individual is bullied after all these precautions, keep an eye on her. In 99.9% of cases she will weather the storm, keep her head down, and the pecking order will settle down after another day or two. Any bird who is being pecked and kept away from food, however, will need isolating for a little longer.

In these situations you can distract the bullies by hanging some tempting food a little out of reach, in a tree or on the wire/fence. The hens will jump to peck at the food. Another good distraction is an ants’ nest, or piles of leaves or finely cut grass. The hens will be so intent on scratching and pecking these food sources that they will forget their bullying. Most of the time!

It’s also a fact that the bigger your chicken run, the less chance there is of conflict. Fights tend to break out in more confined spaces, whereas free-range hens will simply spread out and avoid conflict.

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Ti!, 16 September 2023

I have a chicken that needed to be rehomed as my other hens after three years decided to kick her out. They pecked her Head and was bleeding a lot but was very very active. My friend decided to take her but she has a chicken that is a tiny bit bigger but the one that we gave her has a bigger crown then my friend's chicken so we needed to find a way how to introduce them without our chicken killed. This was very great advice 10/10 very helpful

Tia, 18 June 2022

We started 2 years ago with a flock of 4, we recently lost the second of our flock. Can we add 2 newbies together in the same run as we don't have the ability to keep them separated

Graham, 10 July 2021

We have two chickens and will be introducing six new chickens to our flock. We have large run plus good sized hen house. My question is how do we introduce six new chickens to a flock of two easily. Is it better to take the six in stages say two very three days and keep them in separate run .

Susan, 23 May 2021

We lost our little Molly 2 weeks ago we brought molly and dolly together at the moment dolly seem ok getting plenty attention from us but fear that she might get lonely later I have one of your igloo coops and a walk in run no other coop to put another new chicken in, but how do we introduce another chicken to our dolly without any fighting. Dolly is not a year old yet Thank you susan

Allison, 1 May 2017

I have recently introduced two new chickens to my coop, one copper Morans and one bluebell Morans. I already have two hybrids which initially were quite vicious towards the blue. She is a very timid bird and seems to keep herself to herself a lot of the time. Sometimes she can look quite depressed I think, she will lie in the borders on her own but will happily join in when I go in with treats, or she enjoys following me around when I am doing my daily maintainance. She isn't laying yet. My question is would it be a good idea to get another blue to keep her company?