A few months ago, one of our Marans hens, Mollie, suffered an impacted crop. We performed an at-home surgery for her, which went incredibly well. After a few weeks of rest and recuperation in our house, Mollie started laying eggs again--a clear sign that she'd made a full recovery!
While we would miss her company, we knew it was time to move Mollie back outside. Since we don't breed birds that experience any kind of illness, this meant integrating Mollie into our laying flock, a new group for her.
Integrating or re-integrating a chicken into a flock should be done with care and planning, in order to reduce stress on all birds involved. Below are our best practices for introducing or returning a chicken to a larger group.
First, if the chicken in question is new to your farm or homestead, consider a thirty day quarantine. Some folks practice a 30/30 quarantine: give the new chicken 30 days alone, and then 30 days with a bird you’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good. If neither gets sick, you’re ready to integrate.
2. Form an Alliance
Whenever possible, we integrate more than one bird at a time. If you integrate two or three birds at once, they will have an alliance within the larger flock, which will make the transition less stressful. We knew that we had two other birds destined for the laying flock, so we adjusted the timing of their move to align with Mollie’s. We gave all three birds a few days to bond before integrating them with the larger group.
3. Have a Staring Contest
For at least a day, let the new birds and the flock be able to see each other but not interact. This way they can start to know each other without the possibility of drama. We created a partition in the run for this purpose.
4. We Woke Up Like This
Integrate the chickens at night. Just place the new birds on the roost with everyone else once their long day of staring at each other is done. Sleeping and waking up together is a smoother transition than meeting at daytime--it creates instant chicken camaraderie.
5. Keep an Eye Out
If possible, I like to be home the morning after the new birds are placed on the roost, just in case anything wild happens. So far, we’ve done a fair bit of flock juggling and things have always gone smoothly.
How do you introduce new birds to your flock?
Share your strategies with us!