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.

142 Responses to Introducing a New Chicken

  1. Stephanie says:


    My partner and I got 3 chickens about 2 weeks ago. 1 of them has been laying the whole 2 weeks I’ve had her and the other 2 should be due to lay this week.
    We went to purchase more feed for our 3 chooks yesterday and made a spur of the moment decision to purchase another chicken. She’s half the size of the others and is due to lay in about 5 weeks.
    We didn’t know when we got her that they would fight, but now after reading over a few things, we’ve set our new chook up with a separate area in the coop and a separate area in the yard as well. I have put our new little one in with the others a couple of times today and monitored their interactions closely. Now I know that they have to establish a pecking order and them fighting a bit is normal, but I’m just concerned that our 3 older chooks might not let our new chook hang around them. Will they all socialise with each other after the pecking order is established? or will the little one keep being chased away to the other side of the yard and forced to be alone? If so, should we go get another chicken today so that at least she has a friend? or should I just leave it?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      The size difference is the biggest problem, once this chickens is fully grown, if she’s the same size as your other chickens, then they should integrate. If you can manage to get another the same, that might be a safe bet though… but keep in mind they might have integration issues themselves although being younger and very similar in size, this is less likely.

  2. Michaella Allan-Shaffer says:

    Hi, my mom and I have 7 chickens, 5 rosters and 2 hens. We have just bought 2 silkies, one male and one female. We have tried to introduce them but the others keep jumping on them and pulling out there festhers. I have seperated them and stopped them when they start to fight bc the silkies are only still babies and the other chickens are bigger than average and I’m scared to have them killed. I want to have them together, but they dont stop fighting. Can you suggest anything?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Unfortunately they will do this, it’s the pecking order.

      You shouldn’t introduce the Silkies until they are fully grown and able to stand up for themselves, then they can be introduced gradually.

  3. Laura Thomas says:

    We had two chickens and we lost one. We went back to the farmer who we bought them from and got another similar but, since getting her home, she bullies the existing one. She is younger (By about 2 years) but bigger. They sleep together and are fine in the garden as they have space to keep out of one anothers way, but in the coop at feeding time the new one wont let the other one feed. We end up letting them out and then feeding them individually. Should we take her back and swap her for a smaller hen?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Unfortunately this is often the case with different age or size hens but even in a flock that have grown up together, bullying can occur – it’s all part of the pecking order.

      1. Feed ad-lib so there is no ‘feeding time’ to cause problems.
      2. Feed in two places (two feeders) and you should be fine.

      After a while she will probably settle a little.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Hi I’m looking to introduce two new chickens ideally larger than the silky Bantam that we have, what breed would you recommend? Our silky is currently on her own.

        • Keeping Chickens says:

          I would choose the same breed again or one that isn’t any bigger (another bantam). Differences in size will usually cause bullying problems even after they have settled in.

  4. Kate says:

    Hi-I had to separate 3 hens from my flock to try to isolate a feather eating problem. I didn’t solve the problem, but believe I should re-introduce the girls. They have been apart 3 weeks. Last week I moved them into a crate within the coop. I tried to let them out today and one girl seems to have lost her position and doesn’t care. One girl however, was not. As far as pecking order, I have seen the stare, seen the sharp peck, and seen one retreat. But this gal’s behavior was more aggressive. She jumped on the other one and repeatedly pecked at her head. I intervened but now don’t know if that is also pecking order, or if she is a meanie. Any thoughts? They were all raised together and are the same size but 2 breeds(bk sex-links and barred rocks)

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      I think you’ll need to leave them to get on with it unless blood is drawn – you can put them together with wire between them which can help to ease them back together but ultimately they need to sort the pecking order out and this often takes some squabbles and a few ruffled feathers.

  5. Maria Culmer says:

    Hi and thank you for this site!!

    I have been keeping ex battery chickens now for about 4 years and no real problems. I started with 4 but 3 weeks ago I was down to 1 called Iris. She seemed so lonely on her own I went and got her 4 playmates – but .. they are all bigger than she is (light sussex, speckledy, black rock, and bluebell). The 4 of them all get on fine as they were all barn raised together (they were sold as POL but 1 of them has still to lay an egg!)! but the light sussex (called snowdrop) is vicious with Iris. I have separated them as Iris took herself off into a corner, head down and making an awful rasping sound. Took me a week before she would start eating properly and is only now starting to regain some of her feathers. I have Iris running around the garden (which she obviously enjoys) and sleeping in a pet carrier at night (which is fine at the moment but the nights are getting colder and I don’t think this will be warm enough for her during the winter), and with the 4 hens in the run and coop. Iris constantly takes herself up to the run during the day and watches the other chickens through the wire. Have tried letting them all out in the garden but snowdrop just flew for Iris.

    Question – would Iris be happier with another hen or happier on her own? I would go out and get another hen just to keep Iris company (would make sure it was a small hen) and buy them a small coop . What do you think?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Chickens are flock animals so 2-3 is usually the minimum number to keep together, however they can be really hard to integrate, especially when their size and age is different.

      You normally have to ‘let them get on with it’ unless blood is drawn and it can take a week or two before they establish their pecking order.

      I would remove the bully and try to integrate Iris in the garden with the others, putting her into the house at night on the same perch. If you can get this working over a week or two, you should them be able to try introducing the bully to the (now established) flock of hens. Start by having her in a run close to the flock and eventually put her into the coop in the dark. Be there in the morning to make sure you can let them all out into the garden when it gets light.

  6. Eliza black says:

    Please can you advise me my bantam Pekin died two weeks ago leaving her daughter (large buff Orpington hen) on her own who is now 18 months old. Her aviary run, chicken run and house is next door to my three giant rabbits. Can she live on her own and if not should I get her a Pekin / Silkie bantam or a light Sussex / Marans to go with her and if so what age. I look forward to your advice

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Chickens are happiest in flocks but introductions can be painful to watch. I would try to get a hen that’s a similar size to her.

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