Introducing New Hens
I am often asked how to mix new hens in with an existing flock, here are a few tips which I hope will help.
Try to add more than one, a lone incomer will be picked on, two or more helps deflect unwelcome attention.
Ideally all new birds should be quarantined from old birds for at least a week to make sure that they are not carrying infection.
Treat new birds for lice, they may not have them, but better safe than sorry, also if the new stock have any sign of scaly leg then treat as well.
After quarantine, the best way to introduce the new birds is to place them in a run next to the old birds, so they can see each other but not peck each other. However, few of us have the luxury of spare housing, so try to introduce the girls into the main house at night, so they wake up together. Let the hens out of the house at first light, so the new hens are not picked on in a confined space.
Try to be around when mixing up the birds, so you can step in if needed. Ensure that the new girls are getting access to food and water, extra drinkers and feeders may need to be used for a few days.
If you have a cockerel he should keep his girls in order and prevent bullying, but some are reluctant to get involved!
If a particular hen is persistently bullying and causing distress to other birds, then remove the bully not the bullied. Removing the bully for a couple of days lets the new birds settle and the pecking order will restablish when the hen is replaced. A bullying hen can be made less dominant by pressing down firmly on her back, making her assume the mating position.
Giving the hens treats will divert attention from the new hens, feed little and often to occupy them, hang up greens, CDS, and scatter corn and sunflower seeds around, hens love pecking at shiney objects and CDS are ideal.
Spraying hens with a solution of vinegar and water may help conceal new birds smell.
If a hen is injured remove it immediately, as hens quickly will peck at blood and can seriously injure or even kill each other. treat the wound with a coloured antiseptic spray to hide any red, as red attracts attention.
Introducing new birds is usually fairly easy, sometimes no blows are exchanged at all, at other times you really wonder why you did it, it looks and sounds so awful. It often looks and sounds much worse than it is, and the hens quickly establish 'the pecking order'. On other occaisions bullying may still occur even two weeks after, all hens are individuals and if one is obviously very unhappy and getting injured, you may have to consider splitting them up or even rehoming.