Introducing a New Chicken

We have all heard of the phrase “the pecking order”. Chickens establish a hierarchial order in their flock. This is thought to have evolved over many thousands of years in the jungle fowl of South East Asia. The pecking order allowed the flock to eat in turn and peacefully when food was available. If they were fighting at these times, they would be wasting their opportunity to eat and attracting attention to themselves from predators.


The pecking order is still well and truly with the hens of today and hens can be incredibly cruel to newcomers. If you are mixing hens that aren’t used to one another, you should make sure you are around to keep an eye open for trouble. The following points may help:

  • Place newcomers behind a fence or in a small run for a week so that they can get used to their new surroundings and get used to one another.
  • Introduce a new hen at night to the coop when it is dark. Place her amongst the other hens. They will not fight in the dark and it will give the others a chance to get used to the new smell.
  • If pecking takes place, leave them to get on with it as much as you can. They have to establish the new pecking order but…
  • If blood is drawn at any point, remove the hen and try again when the injury has healed. Chickens are attracted to red and will peck blood very quickly.
  • You may want to try removing the hen that is fighting with the newcomer to the flock for a little while until the new hen has settled into the flock, then put the trouble maker back in.

If you are still having difficulty with the hens getting along, you can try an Anti-peck spray and if you have real problems, ‘bumpa bits‘ can be fitted to the beak for a while. These stop the end of the beak closing completely so prevent her from causing damage to other hens but she is still able to eat and drink normally.

126 Responses to Introducing a New Chicken

  1. lisha jenkins says:

    I have trained my girls to return to their coop immediately by ringing a bell and it only took 3 days for them to learn!
    When they come out for their daily meander, I take a jug of mealworms previously soaked in boiled water and my bell with me, when I want them in I ring the bell and they literally run into the flight to await their reward.
    Last summer; while I was out with the girls at 1pm a fox came through my hedge! Luckily I saw it early enough to ring the bell and the girls went safely in while I chased the fox away.
    Teaching them this trick probably saved a few lives and certainly saves me having to chase them around to get them in. Bulk amounts of mealworms can be purchased from online auction sites and last for ages!

  2. Nickie says:

    I have a Warren and a White Star, both a year old. Yesterday bought a Specklady and a Sussex Star. I left the newbies in the run and let the oldies run in the garden. Only have the one house though and they were still making a racket at 1030pm, as we have several neighbours I removed the newbies and put them in cat box overnight in kitchen. I think the Warren is the main culprit, so I think I will remove her tonight if she plays up? I can’t really let them sort it out at night due to neighbours, I was prepared for coping with bullying, but not the noise of established chickens! Very vociferous!

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      I hope they settle in and all settle down!

      • Nickie says:

        Eventually resorted to newbies in cat box overnight for a good week, and ninja depositing them in coop after dark after about a week. Divided the run in half for about two weeks, so had to nip out at 6 am to put newbies in other half of run. After two weeks just left them to it! There has been some squabbling, but now after six weeks they are a happy flock, and all laying!

        After reading loads of stuff on this, I realise the two week introduction \ getting to know each other really is true, and unfortunately can’t be rushed!

        Advice to others, be patient, and when upset, chickens can be extremely noisy, if you have neighbours, have a strategy in place to keep them quiet!!!!

  3. Tim Mahoney says:

    Our neighbours had 3 hens but 2 of them picked on the 3rd until she had lost her feathers by her tail. They got rid of the dominant hens leaving Edna on her own for about 2 years. She was kept in a coop all day and let out on to a paved patio for about 20 minutes a day.
    On March 23rd of this year they gave Edna to us along with coop, bedding, food, etc. We bought her a metre square run to which we stapled wire on the bottom to protect her from predators. The coop stands on paving slabs making it impregnable. All day,every day, she has access to our fairly large garden and she was so happy with the set up she gave us our first egg on March 25th and has continued to do so 4 or 5 times a week.
    Edna has made friends with our 2 cats, one of which spends most of the day sitting with her. As soon as she sees us she comes running to us and we think she loves company.
    We would like to know whether we could introduce another hen, We think she is about 4 years old but as she has lived on her own for so long we are worried in case she is either picked on or attacks the new comer. We have a bird feeder in the same garden that she is in and she enjoys the seeds the birds drop. If any birds try taking ‘her seeds’ she chases them off – their place is on the feeder supplying her with extra food!
    She has become a firm favourite with us and the 2 young children next door and makes everybody laugh with her antics. Her former ‘family’ have all commented on how much happier she is in her new environment.
    Wish we’d got chickens earlier.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hello Tim,

      Chickens are flock animals and it’s not natural for her to be on her own. She’s getting on (to put it bluntly) so introducing a new hen could cause her some stress and considering what a lovely life you have given her, I’m tempted to say leave things alone, however if you do decide to get her a companion, I can offer this advice… If you try to find her an older hen (2 yr or older would be best). When introducing hens, they will often squabble and it can be horrible as one will pick on the other although older hens tend to squabble less. You should try to leave them together unless blood is drawn and after a week or two they will settle down. It helps if you can put hens in runs next to one another so they can get used to one another first. Introducing hens at night into the coop when it’s dark is a good idea and then being there as it gets light is essential. Letting them out into a large area is good because bullied hens can escape.

  4. Tim Mahoney says:

    Thanks for the information. I spoke to Edna’s previous owner yesterday and told her what I had asked you. She said they tried to introduce another hen but Edna went for her big time! She’s seems happy having the cats and us as company so I think we’ll leave on her own. Besides, she hasn’t got any competition for the strawberries!

  5. sarah says:

    I had one chicken, she is about 8 weeks old now, the other day I went and bought a new one (22 weeks). I introduced them at night as advised, but the younger one is terrified of the elder, and now the elder keeps pecking at her. (although she has not drawn blood at all). I have tried letting them out together, as well as separately, and the younger one just wont let the other one anywhere near her. Will things settle?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      8 weeks is too young – she needs to be around 20+ weeks Point of Lay to be the same size and able to stick up for herself. From a disease point of view, mixing young age hens with older hens isn’t advisable either because they take time to build up immunity to diseases which some older birds can carry without clinical symptoms.

      With introductions, they usually settle eventually – It takes a couple of weeks at times – but she isn’t on the same playing field at the moment being only 8 weeks old.

  6. Alex says:

    Hello – we haven’t introduced a new hen but we got two chickens about two weeks ago. They were from the same supplier and had been in a pen with 2 other birds all of the same age, about 18 weeks before coming to us. initially the slightly larger hen gave the other a quick pen now and again but this has escalated to quite vicious attacks resulting in the loss of all the bum feathers and some bleeding in the space of the last day or two. Is this jealousy because the smaller of the two is laying? Because of the blood we have enclosed the smaller one in the house today and the other is in the run. What can we do? Many thanks, alex

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      I would remove the bully for a while, let the other hen recover from her wounds and then re-introduce in a large area, placing them in the coop together at night. Give them more than one place to feed and lots of ‘other things’ to do from hanging greens to treats / corn scattered over a large area and so on, then see how it goes. After a couple of weeks, there should be normality although occasionally I’ve heard of a hen that just will not give up bullying. In this case, I would resort to anti-peck sprays and also ‘bumper bits’ (available from Omlet) as a short term measure which fit to the beak and stop the pecking.

  7. Kerry says:

    I need some help please. I had 3 hens of various hybrid breeds. One died last week. Tried to introduce 2 new hens and the noise that one of the old ones made was dreadful. Squawking very loudly. Managed a couple of hrs in the coop at bed time making no noise but suddenly started at 1 am!! With neighbours close by I had to remove the new ones overnight. Segregated part of the main run the following day but both old hens then started the very loud squawking. How long can this go on for? Can I do anything to stop the older ones making such a racket? Any tips would be appreciated. At the moment the new ones have gone to a friends home/ garden while I re think the introduction process.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      She’s very stressed. I would try keeping them at a distance first and then gradually bring them together. Introductions can take a couple of weeks.

      • Kerry says:

        Thank you. I think I’ve learnt a very valuable lesson. Do your homework first! We will try again in a few days but very differently.

  8. huptona says:

    Thank you for your advice. We tried separating our two for three days and then reintroduced the bully with some additional food toys but the bully started again. So we separated again. This time I will try for a week but the bullied bird has now stopped eating at all and seems to pine for the other always going to the end of the run where she is closest to the coop/run of the other. We have bought some anti-peck – I’ve heard of varying degrees of success and will certainly get hold of some of the bumper bits. I was concerned that the anti-peck spray might sting spraying it on to bare skin but it sounds like the feathers will take a very long time to come back.

  9. shell says:

    Hi i had 2 chickens until a couple of days ago where my poorly one died, my other chuck is happy at the moment but I don’t have lots of time to spend with her atm and was wanting to get 3 more to go with her for company however she is a very bossy girl ( she thinks she’s a cock), I’m worried that she might hurt them but also that they may harm her she’s around 5 now and part of the family but I can’t bear her being on her own all the time as she loves attention and company (very protective when her friend was poorly chasing of pigeons and sitting next to her.) Is there any tips other than introducing them at night. I can put them in separate runs but wouldn’t b able to with sleeping. Would i be able to add a different breed or would same breed be best also would they be best being similar colours?? Thank you in advanced. Btw fantastic site you should be proud!

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      It’s hard to tell – some hens that you think are going to be the boss turn out to be low in the pecking order, you never know for sure until you do the introduction.

      During the day, you could divide the run in two with a bit of spare wire and feed them next to one another. A cat carrier or cardboard box could be used for egg laying. At night, you can put them together. When it’s dark, there will be no bullying and they will be getting used to the smell of the other hens near.

      You can add different breeds – just keep them the same size. Young POL hens can sometimes be a little smaller so the introduction period in runs next to one another gives the newbies a chance to settle and grow a little more for a week or two. The same colour birds can help – but depends on her experiences. Birds brought up in a mixed flock are more tolerant.

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