Introducing New Flock Members

This year we got ourselves, 15 new little babies, to add to our flock, 13 chicks, and 2 ducklings. They are now out of the brooder and mixed in with our already established flock.  It has been a few years since I have hand raised babies and introduced them to our flock. I usually have a broody hen hatch eggs and let her take care of everything. The introduction is easier this way since she is already a member of the flock. Introducing her babies is easy.

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But raising the babies yourself, then introducing them to your flock takes more time and patience. But it can be a smooth transition if done slowly over a couple of weeks. I will explain how I have always done this and what has worked for me and suggest what not to do.

When I first bring home my baby chicks, I already have a brooder set up somewhere in the house. This year it was in my bathtub. 🙂 In the past, it has either been in a box under a table or off the kitchen. But we have a dog who would love to snack on some little ones if he could. So I set it up in the bathroom off my bedroom where I could keep the door closed.

Since chicks grow pretty fast, and ducklings even faster. 15 babies outgrew their bathtub brooder in about 3 week’s lol. I then set up an area in our shop. This gave them more room and they could hear the older chickens and the older ones could hear them. The older ones were curious as to what was going on in the shop. They could hear the little ones in there and would sometimes stand at the shop door trying to figure out where the peeping was coming from lol.

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At about 4 weeks is when I started the introduction. I did this slowly over the next few weeks. First, I put together a small pen outside for the little ones to be in while outside. Weather permitting, they could be in this pen and eat grass and bugs, but they couldn’t wander and get lost or eaten. The older ones could come and check them out, without haveing direct contact with them. This is all supervised of course.

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At 5 weeks the little ones were getting cramped in their quarters in the shop. But, we had a lot of rain this spring and it is a lot of work to cart 15 babies outside to their pen just to have to turn around and cart them back inside because it’s raining. So I moved the outdoor pen closer to the coop to a covered area. This way, we could cart the little ones outside where they could spend the day but not get rained on. At night, they were moved back inside the shop. Doing it this way made it so the older ones and the little ones could spend a little bit more time getting to know each other before the little ones moved into the coop permanently.

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At 6 weeks, it was time to move the little ones in with the older ones. As I have said before, our run gets damaged every year after the winter. This winter was a really bad one. A lot of snow means piles that fall off the roof into the run. So there was more fence damage than normal this year. But, we got the run patched up again and workable until we get the new coop and run done.

We moved the little ones into the coop first. I put them in a large dog crate to sleep in at night. In the morning, I would let the older ones out first, then get the little ones out of the crate and into their pen for the day. This was before we got the run patched up.

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The day the little ones were permanently moved to the fixed run, was a nice and sunny day. I opened up one side of their pen and opened the gate to the run, and let them go. At first, none of them moved lol. Then a couple of brave ones moved closer to the opening but still wouldn’t walk through it. So they had to be encouraged to move lol. But once they got in the run and realized how much room they had, it was a free for all. They jumped, and hopped and ran everywhere chirping and quacking. I didn’t know a duck could run that fast lol.

Over the next week, they all were watched closely. There were some moments where the older ones would get a little mean, letting the little ones know their place in the pecking order. But it was a relatively smooth transition. For the first week and a half or so, the little ones were locked up in the dog crate inside the coop. This way, they were safe from mean older chickens during the night. Out in the run, they had more space and places to hide from mean chickens.

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I kept them all penned up for the first few days so they could establish the order of things And had to help the little ones get into the coop at night as they didn’t know where to go.  After a few days, I started to let them all free range in the evenings. At first, the little ones did not venture far from the run, but once they discovered all the bugs they could eat and the grass they could scratch at, they got a little braver.

Last week I took the door off of the dog crate so the little ones didn’t have to be cramped up at night. They still sleep in it, but there is no door on it. It will probably be a little while before they try out the perches, but so far everything has gone well. They are all now one flock with an established pecking order. It is interesting to watch how some of the braver little ones peck their way up the order.  I have some older chickens that are submissive to the ducks and some of the little ones who are only two and half months old. I’m sure as they get older things will change a bit in the order, but for now, things are running smoothly.

It is said that you can introduce new chicks to your flock by putting them in the coop at night, and your older ones will be OK with it in the morning because they will “think” they have always been there. This is false! Some people may have had success with this, but I think it is few and far between. Chickens are smarter than we give them credit for. Unless you are right there in the morning when they get up to let them out, you are more than likely to open the coop door to a blood bath. That is why it is so important to do this slowly and over a period of a few weeks. When the final introduction is made, it should be supervised so that you can step in if fights break out.

There will be skirmishes, there is just no way around that. Those you should just let happen, it’s part of the process. You should only step in when it gets really bad. Remove the offending chicken, for a while to cool off. After a couple of hours, you can put them back in. But if they continue to be mean just to be mean, separate that chicken again for about 24 hours. This usually works.

When introducing new ones, you should always provide places for the little ones to hide. Small enough that they can get behind it or in it but not big enough that the older chicken can get in or behind. This gives the little ones a way of escape from mean chickens without you having to step in. As you know, you can’t stand guard all the time, and you have to let them establish their pecking order. Introducing new ones to your flock disrupts this order, and chickens do not really like disruptions to their order.

Do you have little ones to introduce to your flock? I hope telling you the way I do this and have always done this, will help you in your introduction. 🙂

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