Your Questions: Answered

Can you introduce one chicken to a flock at a time?

It is not advisable to only introduce one bird at a time to your flock as this may encourage bullying behaviour from the existing flock.  Where possible introduce a number of new chickens.

How do I help my chickens establish a pecking order?

The “pecking order” is the natural hierarchy within your flock and new chickens might cause changes in this order.  The pecking order establishes who is the boss and this might sometimes be done by the “boss” pecking others exhibiting dominant behaviours.

Whilst a new order is being established monitor your flock to ensure no chickens are being bullied, as sometimes this behaviour can become quite vicious and hens can become injured.  Once free from parasites, introduce new chickens to the flock slowly, providing lots of food and water stations to avoid confrontation at this point and, be prepared to separate the chickens behaving badly and re-introduce again if needed.

How do I introduce new chickens to my flock?

Introducing new chickens to the flock has the potential to be a major cause of stress and upheaval, so it needs to be planned with consideration for the new s and the existing chicken’s welfare, and then undertaken slowly.  Ensure that you check any new chickens to ensure they are free from lice and mites – it is advised to treat new arrivals for parasites when they arrive. 

New chickens should be quarantined initially near to your original flock (to build up their homing instinct) and introduced gradually initially with the existing flock free ranging around them.  Monitor the flock when they are together and take action quickly to separate any chickens being bullied.  Use toys and environmental stimulation to keep chickens entertained and ensure you have lots of food and water stations. Put the new chickens into the coop after the existing ones have gone to sleep.

How many chickens should I introduce to my flock at one time?

You should always introduce more than one chicken at a time to an existing flock, to try and reduce the possibility of bullying.  Where possible your flock should consist of similar sized hens living together for the same reasons.

How often should I health check my chickens?

You should give your chickens a regular health check so you know what is normal for each one and you can spot any abnormalities quickly and easily.  It is recommended that you check each hen at least monthly, but preferably weekly.

What is a pecking order? Why is it important?

The pecking order is the hierarchy of the flock and determines the “boss”.  Issues occur when introducing new chickens or if you have two equally dominant birds that fight for the top spot.  If this is the case you must monitor them to ensure they don’t fight and hurt each other whilst determining the pecking order, and be prepared to separate them if needed. 

Ensure there is plenty of space, food and water and provide additional distractions in the run such as hanging CDs, pecking blocks and perches or swings during this time.

Where can I get chickens from?

There are a number of places where you can obtain your chickens. These include friends, breeders, retailers and rescues.  Charities such as the British Hen Welfare Trust find homes for thousands of ex-commercial hens each year.