Introducing new chickens into an established flock should be easy, right? Well, when my friend offered me a young rooster, I found out there are some basics to keep in mind.
Figuring that a Barred Rock rooster (read a breed profile HERE) would be ok with three Golden Buff hens, I simply added him to their pen. Things went downhill from there (more on that later). Turns out, I should have had a plan.
8 Steps to Success When Introducing New Chickens
- Verify that the new birds are in good health, and have been properly vaccinated.
- Make sure they’re old enough – at least 14 weeks, or as large as the birds they’ll join.
- Keep them separate from your flock for from 2-4 weeks to ensure they don’t introduce any diseases to your flock (see Infectious Bronchitis In Chickens).
- Consider clipping their flight feathers before putting them in the new quarters.
- Make friends with the birds – hold them, talk to them softly and encouragingly, feed them grapes, etc. They’re uptight about new surroundings, so try to establish that you’re ok. Take some time before introducing them to the rest of the flock.
- Decide whether they’re girls or boys, and even if you’re pretty sure, have a backup plan.
- Place the new birds in a pen within the existing flock’s pen, and then let the birds get used to each other for awhile. How long depends on who you’re mixing together (see below for suggestions).
- Remove the separating pen and let all the birds mingle, but make sure you monitor the flock. Step-in should any serious fighting or pecking occur. It’s also a good idea to provide roosts or areas where lower pecking order birds can “hide-out” for short periods of time.
Use Chicken Psychology 101 When Introducing New Chickens
Your flock knows the pen is “their” territory and will not welcome new chickens. They also have a pre-established “pecking order, and will immediately peck at new birds to put them in their place. This can become vicious and new birds may be injured if they can’t escape.
Because of this, many guides on chickens suggest putting all the birds in a new pen (at night) thereby mixing up the order and giving everyone a fresh start. I’m sure this is good advice; however, I don’t have the room.
So, regardless of whether I’m introducing hens or roosters, I construct a separate pen within the existing pen. Then let the two groups familiarize themselves through the wire.
How Long To Wait Before Mixing in New Chickens
If you’re introducing a rooster to a flock of hens, then you can let the two mingle after a day or two. Both should be happy to meet and there’s no pecking order to establish. If you’re introducing a rooster and hens, then a couple of weeks should be adequate. As soon as you put the two groups together, the rooster will want to meet the new hens and the hens will be pecking to establish order. But everyone should work things out within a few days.
You can try to introduce a mature rooster to a flock with a rooster, but they may never tolerate each other. The original rooster considers the girls to be “his” and will fight to prevent any stealing of his property. Depending on the situation, say if there were too many hens for one rooster (more than ten), the roosters might work out an “agreement”.
However, this would be a situation to watch closely when they’re mingled. You may be forced to remove one of the roosters or separate the birds into two distinct flocks. It’s generally easier to sneak an immature rooster in with a couple of hens, then let the two roosters work things out as the youngster matures.
When introducing hens into a flock, it’s best to keep them separate for a couple of weeks. During this time, I give everyone treats, encourage them, and hold them. They’ll still peck at each other when they’re mingled, but I want them to know who the head chicken really is. It cuts down on the pecking a bit and they’re easier to handle later on.
The Rest of The Story On Introducing New Chickens
Flashback to my Barred Rock rooster introduction………now in the pen with the hens, he just sat there. And then, head-hen Gold Dust pecked him. Naturally, he flew out of the pen (should have done #4 – clip flight feathers), and since I had no idea how to do #4, I had to hastily construct #7 (pen-within-pen).
Next, I spent an hour catching him (should have done #5 – make friends with bird) because he thought I was as nasty as head-hen Gold Dust. Having finally caught him, I realized he was a she (here’s where #6 comes in). I put her in the pen-within-pen, congratulated myself, and called it a night.
That was too easy. Next morning, all the Golden Buffs had somehow corralled themselves in the pen-within-pen (I’d still like to know how they managed this), and Barred Rock was gone. So, I had to beef-up pen-within-pen, re-catch Barred Rock, put her back in, and still make work on time. Ok, it’s funny now.
Wanda Coveney says
Hello Lesa, This is our first year of having chickens. We bought 13 chicks, not thinking that we might end up with a rooster. Well, we did! So, when the hens started laying eggs, we separated the rooster from the hens. He is around them through the day, with a fence of chicken wire between them. At night he is in the run in a kennel. With winter coming we are wondering if we can put him back with the hens, while they are not laying eggs. Thank you, Wanda
Hi Wanda, Congratulations on getting 12 hens and only one rooster! Usaullly the ratio is about 50/50. Anyway, I’m curious as to why you separated out the rooster? He should be fine with the hens and will likely try to protect them. Since he has been separate, the hens will likely peck at him a bit a first, but once they get used to each other, they should be fine together. There’s no reason he needs to be by himself.
I had 2 hens and one passed away this weekend. I now have three roosters and one hen. I hate to get rid of my roosters but by reading comments above sounds like she will get hurt. Any other suggestions?
Punky Gibson says
I have 3 hens that are 17 weeks old, that I am trying to introduce to 8 other hens that are 12 weeks old and I have the chance to get a 1 year old rooster. So my question is do I get the rooster and get him use to the 17 week old hens then wait a couple of weeks then introduce the 8 new hens or should I wait on the rooster until all of the hens are together and a pecking order is established?
Also, the 3 hens that are 17 weeks old don’t sleep in the hen house, should there be a door I close to make sure they do sleep in the hen house? And will they figure out the roosting on their own?
Hi Punky, Yes, it would be good to get the rooster and put him with the older hens and then introduce the younger hens when they are a little older and closer to the size of everyone else. Remember that you should quarantine the new rooster from your hens to make sure he’s not sick and yes you should have a door on the hen house. You’ll want your chickens sleeping in a nice sedure (predator proof) coop every evening with the door closed. They’ll figure out roosting.
I have a 2 yr old hen that has been with my flock for a year now. She started setting so we separated the flock from her. The cages a next to each other. Now that her chicks are almost 2 months we took her out and put her back in with the flock. They have hanged up on her multiple times now. She will not come down from the perch. If another chicken goes up she will go to the nesting box. My rooster has changed and not for the better. Once we put them back together me and my son were in there gathering eggs and feeding her since she’s not coming down and my rooster (cuckoo maran) attacked my 5 yr old son. What should I do remove her and do the pen in a pen for now. She has been with them since they were born she is one of my oldest hens. The rest of my flock it a yr old. I have 1 rooster and 5 hens. My pen is very large and she can get away but I’m worried they will gang up on her and hurt if not kill her. Should I remove her for now back with her chicks or will she hurt them since she has been separated for almost 2 days.
Hi Staci, It seems that anytime you put a hen back in with other hens, they have to re-establish the pecking order. You can remove her and do the pen within a pen and hopefully it will be better when you combine them again. Or, you can put her back with the chicks, she shouldn’t hurt them since she’s only been gone two days. I think I’d keep her where she is and see if they don’t work things out.
Hi there! I have 6 pullets and 1 rooster. I have another 15 female chicks on order as started birds. My plan is to incubate eggs next year but I’m thinking 21 hens may be too many for one rooster. Should I get another “started” rooster or wait until they are ready to lay and get a full size rooster or forget getting another rooster at all?
Hi Shelly, Congratulations on getting chickens! You’re correct that 21 hens are a few too many for one rooster. It’s usually considered ideal to have one rooster for every ten hens. I would get another “started” rooster and introduce him with the rest of the 15 female chicks. Good Luck!
Thank you so much for your prompt reply Lesa!
Kimberly Coon says
We lost one of our roosters to a stroke and we bought another. However we had a rooster and now he will not except the other rooster (they are the same age). We don’t have new hens but again they are all the same age. I have put new rooster in an a frame in our barn but want to put some of the hens with him-they seemed to want to be with him but rooster 1 won’t let them. Is that ok or do they need to be new hens all together too?
Yes, that should be ok. Rooster 1 won’t want to lose part of his harem but once they’re gone and with Rooster 2 they should be fine.
Rachel Soule says
We just got a new hen introduced her that day to the flock,we introduced them the same day to the other, one of our milder chickens full-blown attacked her and now they’re acting really strange.. We have a small coop with only 4 chickens, now 5. And they have enough room to run around.. the rooster took to her instantly mounting her and all that good stuff.. The other hens won’t let the new one on the perch we have for them even though it’d big enough for all of them.. We didn’t give our new one a chance to get used to her new surroundings first.. Nor did we give them any sort of separation period so that all chickens could adjust.. My bf has been raising birds and has helped to raise chickens all his life and he didn’t even think to do this.. Just goes to show that even “experts” don’t know everything. Thank you for this it was really helpful and I really loved the story..
This is great information! In early July we had a bear attack and lost all but two of our chickens and one rooster. After repairing the coop we bought 5 Americana’s. I put them in with the older hen and she mothered them. Three weeks later we bought 10 Buff Orphingtons. So now I’m waiting for them to get big enough to put them all together. Our Rooster is pretty frisky, so I don’t want to put him in with the hens just yet. It was great to learn that they should be 14 weeks. I have another month and a half to go before I can combine the flock. I’ve heard from a couple of sources that I should introduce them at night. I’m anxious to have them all free Ranging again. Thanks for all of the great information.
A bear attack – oh my! Sounds like the flock is well on the way to recovery though. Has something been done with the bear?
I thought this was very insightful, Im getting ready to add a young rooster to my what will be 2 month old flock of hens. I was un sure of what to do since i had never had chickens till this year and I amd pouring over almost every web site I can find hoping to find help. I know that I will keep coming back to your site I bookmarked it while I laughed at your story..Thanks
Don’t quite have the hang of this commenting thing… I want to comment in the basics: asking a question about raising Buckeyes.
I have a tiny mixed flock of 5 day old chicks: Buckeyes, Plymouth Rocks and Wyandottes. I read somewhere on this forum that Buckeyes benefit from a higher protein feed like turkey or game starter.
Does anyone have experience with this? My Buckeyes are actually the largest chicks in the bunch. Shall I feed them all turkey starter? Or separate the Bucks? Or???
(If this should be reposted somewhere else let me know. I couldn’t figure out how to do that)
rcj – There’s a Buckeye thread on the Backyard Chickens forum that might be a good place to search for the answer on this or post a question. There are many more there that have experience with Buckeyes and maybe what to do with a mixed flock. The link to the BYC Buckeye thread is here: http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=271644&p=330
I should have read this 5 days ago! I have had some trouble introducing some young’ns. Thanks for the information!
Very helpful info here. Thanks all. I’ll be picking up a dozen more chicks this weekend to add to my flock.
Good advice! I’m getting a dozen more layers this spring….should be interesting…eeek! 🙂
Teresa Loop says
Great story, I had a visual in my head as I read it. I agree, although probably not funny at the time, it is funny now!