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.

158 Comments

  1. Hello.

    My partner bought 4 hens. We got another 2 the other day. One of the 4 we got previously is cauing issues with 1 of the new ones.
    It will not come out of the coop as the other one won’t allow her.

    Any advice would be appriciated as we are new owners and dont know what to do.

    Thanks,

    • Hi Kirsty,

      The best thing to do would be to separate them but to have them next to one another with a fence separating them. This will allow them to get used to one another for a while before you introduce them.

      Maybe you could divide your run so they could do this?

  2. Hello, hoping you could help with how I can introduce hens to a rooster!
    I recently rescued a rooster who was going to be killed by his owner.
    I was told he is approx. 19 weeks old and may well be hermaphrodite.
    Initially I just didn’t want him to be killed, so took him in and have been keeping him in a run for the past few weeks. He has plenty of food and water and is kept locked inside overnight, and free ranges during the day.
    I know it’s cruel to leave him to live out his days alone, and so need advice re introducing hens.
    I have never kept chickens, and nor do I want many!
    Could I get 2 or 3 hens and have them live together in a very large run?
    Do the hens need a separate coop to the rooster?
    I’m a little concerned I may end up with fertile eggs!
    They can all free range during the day (30 acres so plenty of space) but no other facilities to house them at night time.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I just don’t like to think I’m being cruel leaving him on his own all the time.
    Thank you

    • You are right to give him some company of his own species. Chickens are flock animals and will live together happily in the same run and house, however there is a pecking order.
      A cock is normally at the top of this and can often prevent a certain amount of bullying in a flock of hens but occassionally younger males can get bullied by older hens.
      Most of the time, they will settle quite quickly.
      Your eggs may well be fertilised, however you can’t really tell. It’s when they are kept warm for longer than 24 hours the embryo starts to develop.
      2-3 hens should be fine but if he’s constantly ‘active’ treading the hens, they can lose a lot of feathers on their backs. It really depends on the breed and the particular cock.
      The solution is to get some more hens or to fit ‘poultry saddles’ which can protect them during the spring / summer breeding season.
      Good luck!

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