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. Hi there,
    I took in a chicken who has been living alone at a friends mums house for around a year, and after about a month decided to get a friend for her as she must be pretty bored/lonely. We got an ex battery hen who is half feathered (regrowing) and quite timid and the original chicken is being very brutal and attacking the other to no end. I’ve seperated them (adjoining shed with wire between) and the original chicken has been forcing herself through the wire to bully the new chicken and constantly pecking her. She even ate the first egg the battery chicken laid! What can I do? Will they get along in time or will I have to forfeit the new chicken? Any advice you can give is very much appreciated!

    • That’s not the best combination. The ex-batt needs to recover fully and regrow her feathers first before any introductions are attempted. I would keep them next to one another though to start the introduction process so it won’t be time wasted.

  2. Hi, I have moved 6 large breed chickens of 48 weeks into a new large house, my problem is they will not go onto the perch, just sit on the floor or nest boxes. Every night I have to put them on the perch. Would appreciate any advice. Many thanks, Mick.

    • Some large breeds such as Orpingtons won’t and chickens that aren’t used to perching won’t either. They will normally be happy to perch on a low (4 to 6 inch) height perch though. For heavy breeds, they can damage their legs when coming down from high perches.

      It is better to remove high perches if they won’t use them, or you may get some on the perch and some off, then you’ll end up with messy chickens under the perches!

  3. Hi There,
    I am new to chicken keeping I have 4 chickens and I love them to bits . My husband is going to convert a shed he built years ago into a coop that is bigger than the one I have now . He is going to attach it to my 8′ by 12′ greenhouse and have that as a run I am keeping the roof and two sides in and I have shaded them . I have 4 automatic roof openers and a side manual opener . I will keep a thermometer in there just to make sure that it doesn’t get to hot in there in the summer . I would like to get 4 more chickens when it is all done what I would like to know is it best to put my now chickens in the new coop and and the other in with them or put the new ones in it and add the older ones .

    • Firstly, do make sure your chickens can get out of the heat if necessary – they can’t stand hot temperatures as much as cold.

      It would be better to put them both in together – then they have new surroundings to keep them entertained together with new hens to meet, rather than trying to establish themselves as ‘senior’ in their own ‘territory’ if you see what I mean ?

      • Thank you for your reply I will certainly keep a very close eye on the temp as I cetainly would not like to stress my lovely chickens .So you think I should leave my chickens in there old coop and when I buy four more put them all in the new coop together

          • Ok chicken coop finished about a month agoand looks fantastic . Went and bought four more chickens from same place as I got others and they said just the same as you to put them together straight away so this was done . I never thought that it would be so stressful . I could never tell with the older ones which was boss as they all got on so well but now I know it’s Nigella she is a bitch (I love her to bits ) . Anyway all has calmed down and they love there new home are in and out all day ( they are let out for most of the day) . Thank you for your help and I will keep a very watchful eye on the temp in the run .
            Sue

  4. I have just introduced 2 POL chickens to my existing 5 birds. They will not go into the coop at night. I chase them around and put them in, will they go in on their own in time?

    • Yes, they will need training and will need to get used to your coop.

      It will take a little longer because of the older birds as well who may be threatening bullying behaviour.

  5. Hi, I had 2 beautiful buff orpingtons that had just reached POL but sadly one of them was attacked by a dog and had to be put to sleep. I now need to get another chicken or preferably 2 to keep her company. They will be free range in the garden with a coup to go in to at night. I have read lots about getting chickens that are similar ages and colours to help prevent bullying. Am I best getting one new chicken at a time and introducing straight with my current one or could I get 2 (I’m thinking 2 different breeds) and introduce them over a week or so? Any advice would be gratefully received. Thank you.

    • Best to do the introductions once so that they can sort out the pecking order and carry on I would say.

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