Adding New Chicks to An Existing Flock Requires A Plan
The health and well-being of new chicks introduced to an established flock takes a thoughtful plan that protects and nurtures all birds.
Adapted from Purina Mills content, Backyard Poultry
Introducing chicks into your flock is a big deal to both sides of the introduction. The chicks you have raised over the past weeks are emerging as adults, and they continue to confront the daily challenge of adapting to a big world. On the other hand, the older birds have established a familiar routine and pecking order. Should these worlds collide too quickly, problems can arise. The birds need to quarantine separately to prevent the spread of disease and, for the chicks, to avoid injury from larger birds.
Murdoch’s recommends these essential steps to ensure an easy and healthy transition from two clutches of birds to a flock:
- Prepare for the arrival of new chicks. The chicks will need to be placed apart from the adult birds in a separate room or brooder, which can be a pen, plastic tub, stock tank or kiddie pool equipped with food, water, and bedding. A high-sided brooder or one equipped with a well-ventilated cover will help prevent chicks from escaping. Chicks, escaping? When the chicks grow large enough to test their wings, they could end up outside the pen. How to Care for Baby Chicks the First Two Weeks
- Togetherness begins with separation. Keep the chicks separated from the hens for up to 30 days. It is an important precaution to prevent any illness or parasite from crossing from one group to the other. Use the quarantine to monitor the birds, ensuring they are disease-free. The chicks were hatched in an environment far removed from your flock and have shared pens with other birds. The move to your home is a momentous change for the chicks, one that requires time to acclimatize to the unfamiliar environment and build immunity to the germs of their new surroundings. Your goal is happy, healthy birds.
- Wash your hands. After tending to one flock be sure to wash your hands before tending to the other. Diligence with washing hands will help avoid transferring parasites or disease.
- Get ready to introduce the chicks to the flock. At around three weeks the chicks have grown to pullets, nearing or reaching full size. To minimize physical injury during the upcoming introduction, the young birds should be the same size of the existing flock. They should also be transitioned onto a layer feed.
- Time to get acquainted. Start the introduction slowly by putting the birds together but separate. How? Divide the coop so the birds are in close contact and visible to each other but without the ability to get physical. If dividing the coop is problematic, you can place a large pen within the chicken run. In either situation ensure the birds have shelter, plenty of food, and fresh water. When placed near to one another for a period of a week, the birds will investigate one another, form bonds and reveal the potential for conflicts. If you free-range your birds, another introduction strategy is to let out the young birds to free-range. When the youngsters have settled into exploring the new surroundings, let out the existing flock to join them. This provides both groups the opportunity and comfort to focus on more than each other. Bugs!
- Success! When both groups are committed to one flock, monitor the flock closely. Are the birds content, pecking and scratching happily together? Good job! Is there a bully that appears to be unhappy with the change in routine? There is always one, often the dominant bird. And sometimes more, commonly the same birds in a fight for dominance. Over time, the pecking order will stabilize, and peace will ensue. If not, then you may need to restructure the flock by removing a bird.