Adding New Chickens to my Flock

Adding New Chickens to My Flock  

by Christine - Surburban Chooks

I already have some chickens and I want to add some more to my flock. Is it OK to mix breeds?

A lot of chicken keepers keep flocks of mixed breeds and this is perfectly fine.  Half the joy of having chickens is having different shapes and colours and the easiest way to achieve that is by having different breeds.

The only issues that there are is that you need to introduce at least two new girls (so they can ‘share’ the bullying) and that they should be relatively close to the others in terms of age and size so that the food required is the same. If there is too much of a size difference this can make the newcomers especially vulnerable to pecking order bullying.

I already have some ISA Browns and I want to have another breed. Is there anything I need to know?

Unfortunately ISA Browns have a reputation for being ‘over enthusiastic’ in their bullying of new chicken breeds so Suburban Chooks advises using caution and doing more research about your breed preferences and what you feel comfortable introducing.

Large/standard breeds can be introduced if the numbers are similar. For example, introducing two new (adult sized or almost adult-sized) Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, Australorps or Light Sussex should be okay when you have two existing Isa Brown chickens. Introducing bantam breeds or smaller chickens can be successful, although you should expect the integration to be more difficult. This is especially true when adding Silkies or other breeds that are especially docile by nature as the new girls may get badly bullied.  You need to weigh up each case and observe carefully for any signs that things are going wrong.

How do I introduce new chickens into my flock at home?

There are a variety of methods from which to choose and what you prefer to do is entirely up to you. There is no ‘one right’ way.

Some chicken keepers introduce the new girls to the coop (on the perch) during the night, so their introduction is (theoretically) less noticeable. Some introduce them in an open area and monitor the “introductions”. Some introduce them by separation through a fence (chicken mesh for example). Some just add them to the new flock, stand back and let them sort it out and nature do ‘its thing’.

There are a miriad of stories about the ways people have successfully introduced new chickens.  A lot of it depends on your own personality and how well you cope when the chickens inevitably have their squabbles to determine the new pecking order. There should always be enough room for the newcomers to run away safely and you should ensure that there is more than one area for water and food access so the newcomers can eat and drink.  You don't want the ‘top chook’ to stop them from doing so. As a general rule, as long as there isn’t a concerning amount of damage done, it should all settle down within two or three days at the most. Suburban Chooks recommends that you quarantine new birds for at least a two week period before introducing them into your flock.

Why should I quarantine new chickens?

It is always a good idea to quarantine new chickens before adding them to your existing flock for a few different reasons.

Firstly, this gives you a chance to worm and treat/prevent mites and lice if you don’t know or suspect it wasn’t done recently.

Secondly, a new chicken can get stressed with the change of location and travel and as a result this can bring out a dormant disease in a chicken that looked healthy when you first bought it. This is similar to how we may be fine and healthy, but stress from moving house can bring out a cold (or a cold sore, for those of us who are familiar with cold sores). Quarantining new chooks allows for them to recover or receive treatment in a less stressful environment and minimises the risk of your old established flock getting sick from a strain of disease that they don’t have any immunity to. 

Should you choose not to quarantine your new chickens, because you don’t have the room/facilities in your backyard or some other reason, you need to be aware that you are putting your new girls and your existing girls at risk of getting sick. Therefore you should be more vigilant for signs of disease/illness and be ready to treat them if necessary.


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