Canberra Backyard Poultry

Introducing new chickens to your flock

Understanding chicken pecking order
Flocks of hens will have a “top” hen who gets to eat the best bits and will give everybody a peck to let them know that she is still “top” chicken.  There is an order down the ranks to bottom chicken, who gets to eat last and the others all seem to peck at.  Any new chicken will automatically assume the “bottom” chicken role, this can lead to being pecked, getting to eat last and the lowest roost at night.  This can lead to chickens feeling down and getting ill.  Chickens can also get pecked to death, so watch out for any fights as the new chicken will sooner or later try and climb the ranks within the pecking order.

Ideally, when introducing new chickens to an existing flock, you should try to introduce more than one, so the new ones have a “friend” to hang out with.

Quarantining new chickens in a separate area is vitally important when adding new chickens to an existing flock and should ideally be from 2 weeks to a month.  This is important for the new addition who may get stressed then sick, and to get used to any foreign diseases that may be present in your yard that your chickens have built up immunity to.  Quarantine is also important also to the existing flock who can catch anything the new member could be carrying.  Seemingly healthy chickens can fall ill as soon as they get stressed.

For the first few days after the quarantine period, introductions should be visual – through wire at first, and then physically late in the afternoon, around bedtime.  You can put the new chicken in a cage in the pen if necessary.  Place the new chicken/s on the roost in amongst the flock after the others have gone to bed.  Monitor interactions closely for a few days while they sort out the new pecking order, and watch for any injuries.  Chickens will peck at any visible blood and they can kill the new chicken if not treated.  Treat a bleeding injury with Vicks Vapour rub or a blue or purple wound spray; chickens don’t like the taste of Vicks, and the different colour of the wound spray will hide the blood, so they will stop pecking at the it.  It is also a good idea to have a number of sources of food and water available as chickens will often exclude new comers, which can weaken them further.



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