Mixing It Up
The longer you keep chickens, the more addictive they become. You will start to notice little traits in certain breeds and prefer one sort of hen over another. As your love of chicken keeping grows, so will your knowledge and so will your desire to have more!
A common question people ask me at Warwickshire Chicken Coop, is can I mix new chickens into an existing flock? Essentially yes you can, but you have to do it gradually. Here are some steps on how to integrate hens together
1. Firstly, they need to all be at least 16 weeks old. Never mix chicks or growing pullets with fully grown hens, as they would get bullied and picked on.
2. In an ideal world, choose hens that are of similar temperament or size. For example, although Pekins and Orpingtons are like little and large, they are both docile, friendly birds who should get on well together.
3. Integrate in similar numbers. If you have an existing mini flock of six hens, add at least three more to the flock. Never add a single hen on her own
4. When you bring your new hens home, keep them separate for at least two weeks. Place them in a run next door to the existing flock, so they can see and get to know one another, but not so close that they can touch or fight.
5. If you let your hens have the run of the garden when you are at home, let them all out together after a couple of weeks and monitor how they get on with one another in a big open space
6. When the time has come to add new to old, do it at night. When your existing flock are settled and roosting, gently place the new hens into the coop with them.
Inevitably there will be some pecking and squabbling as the pecking order sorts itself out again, but by following the tips outlined above the experience will be less stressful for you and the birds.
Some breeds of hen seem to be more tolerant of newcomers, where as others take exception to new hens on their patch! Ex-battery hens can be especially nasty to newcomers, so if you have these hens and are looking for some more, be especially wary. On the subject of ex-batts, never mix a fresh ex-battery hen with your gorgeous fully feathered flock. The ex-batts can only be integrated once they are fully feathered, lice free and happy, healthy hens.