Friday, January 11, 2019

Chickens - How To Integrate New Hens Into Your Flock

It's that time of year when folks are thinking about spring and adding some new chickens to their existing flock.  Maybe you have an old flock of girls and they're getting to the age where they just do not produce as many eggs or maybe your just dreaming of adding some new egg color to your basket.  Well, integrating young pullets into a flock of older hens can be tricky, but not totally impossible.

The most important thing to think about when you've decided you're adding newbies to the flock is, where are you going to keep them until they're ready to be integrated.  You will need a small coop, or partition off an area in your existing coop for the newbies to live until they meet the criteria of the paragraphs below.  It's best to grow them up in close proximity to the old existing flock so that they can see each other and visit through the wire.

When adding new pullets into your flock you need to take into consideration the age, size and number of pullets you are going to ingrate.  Let's begin with the number of pullets.  It's never a good idea to introduce one pullet to your flock. I fill lots of orders every year where people order one lonely pullet to integrate into the flock. Usually within about a months time (or sooner) they're calling me back asking for a bird of that same age to be shipped out ASAP.  The best number when integrating is four, the more the better, one is never a good idea.  Now let's talk about the age. If you're ordering pullets from our farm that will be shipped to you in the spring, they're usually around seven weeks of age when we ship them out.  A pullet of this age should never be added to a flock of older hens.  You will need to let the new little girls mature to around four or five months of age, preferably five months, before you begin the integration process.  This is where size comes into factor, you want the new girls to be comparable in size to the old girls.

So your finally to the point you think the newbies are old enough and large enough to begin the integration process.  Only begin this process over a course of several days where you will be home to watch.  Over the years I've gotten several phone calls from distraught customers saying, I put my new little hens in with my old hens today to integrate them and when I got home from work three had bloody tails and one is dead.  So please make sure you will be home to watch the process, it can turn ugly in a hurry.
Begin the process slowly, if your outside cleaning the coop, gathering eggs or just visiting with the girls, that is a great time to let everyone mingle together while your there to watch.  You can also get them use to free range time in the evenings. One hour before dark let them all out while you watch. That gives them a short time to forge right before they roost.  Short spans of visiting time helps them to get acquainted.
If you have successfully integrated them, but you see one old gal that is just a real bully, and let me tell you there is always one.  You can take her and one of her close friends out of the flock for about a week and then bring them back in. Sometimes that helps the pecking order to shift.

Now that you have them all living as one happy flock don't allow boredom to creep in. Keep them busy.  Give them a flake of straw every so often to scatter around. They absolutely love this!  Each day scatter scratch grains, cracked corn or meal worms in the straw for them to scratch around and find.
If you have some good advise on integrating newbies into the flock leave a comment below. It might be just what someone needs to know.
Head on over to the website and let us help you fulfill your pullet wish list.  Plan early so you're fully equipped and ready when your pullets arrive.
Have a Great Day!

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