Combining two flocks of chickens is not as easy as it sounds. You cannot just throw them all together and expect them to be one big, happy family. Chickens have what is called a “pecking order” and adding new chickens is going to throw it all off. But there are things you can do to make this a safe and less stressful transition.
What is a Pecking Order?
“All groups of chickens will create a social order within the flock. Chickens bully, peck and “stand off” with each other to work their way to the top. It is usually the stronger, larger, more aggressive chicken that will become the alpha chicken. If you have a rooster, he will be the alpha chicken.“Why are My Chickens Pecking Each Other? 7 Important Reasons
All flocks will figure out a “pecking order.” If you have roosters, there will be 3 different pecking orders within the flock. The first is between a rooster and his hens. The second is between the hens and the third is between the roosters.
Adding or removing chickens from the flock will cause the flock to bully and peck each other to reestablish their pecking order.
This can happen when you:
- combine two flocks
- sell some of your flock
- a chicken becomes ill
- one happens to pass away
How to Combine Two Flocks of Chickens-7 Simple Tips
1. Quarantine First
When you first get your new chickens it can be easy to want to just add them quickly to your existing flock and see how they do.
It is important to quarantine your new chickens a minimum of 30 days before combining them with your existing flock. This will ensure that if the new chickens have any diseases or parasites you will not pass them to your existing flock.
Many chicken diseases can be transmitted through the air, so it is important to house the quarantined chickens in a separate enclosure.
|AIRBORNE CHICKEN ILLNESSES|
PASSED FROM INHALING
CHICKEN MANURE PARTICLES
| AVIAN INFLUENZA|
| EXOTIC NEWCASTLE|
Tips for Getting Chickens from an Unknown Source
- If you are purchasing online from someone (eBay, NextDoor), check for reviews.
- If you are buying in person, ask seller if you can see the rest of the flock. This way, you can see if they are healthy.
- Inspect the chickens you will be getting for mites and other parasites. Pay close attention to the vent area and around the neck. This is where parasites like to hide.
- Eyes and nose should be clear and not have any discharge.
- Back end and vent area should be clean and without feces stuck to it.
- Keep your new chickens quarantined for at least 30 days totally away from the other chickens. Placing them in a separate shed or coop is ideal.
- Observe for any health issues.
- If all looks good after a 30 day quarantine, then you can combine the two flocks by separating them with chicken wire. This way they can see each other, smell each other, but not be able to get after each other.
2. Separate Two Flocks With Chicken Wire
After the new chickens are quarantined for 30 days and they don’t show any signs of disease, it is safe to begin the process of combining the two flocks.
Letting the Two Flocks Get Used to Each Others Presence
For this step, you want the two flocks to get used to each others presence. Bring the two flocks together where they can see each other, but are separated by chicken wire.
By doing this, they can get used to each others scent. They can see each other dust bathing, pecking and scratching the ground and even preen beside each other. But they will not be able to get after each other to establish dominance.
Feeding Two Flocks Together
These activities can help make the transition less stressful and go a lot smoother.
- Hang fruits and vegetables in the chicken wire that separates the two flocks so they can get used to eating together.
- Throw some chicken scratch close to the chicken wire that separates them.
- Place both flocks waterers near the fence so they can drink close to each other.
3. Waiting Until Both Flocks are Equal in Size
Depending upon the size of your new chickens will determine how long your will need to separate them. It is always best to combine the two flocks when they are the same size.
Wait until the chicks are 16 weeks or the same size as your other flock before combining them.
If the two flocks are not the same size, the larger chickens are likely to bully the smaller one’s and there is likely to be more bloodshed.
4. Combining Two Flocks at Night
Placing the New Chickens Into Coop at Night
Many have used this method with success. After the older flock has gone to roost for the night, bring the new one’s into the coop. Place them on the lower roosting bars or on the floor of the coop.
In the morning, let all of the chickens out and observe their behavior. There still will be some bullying and pecking while they work out the new pecking order. This is expected, but should not cause any bloodshed.
Combining the Two Flocks Just Before Roosting
Try integrating the two flocks just before your old chickens are ready to go roost for the night. Throw them a little scratch to fill their bellies and distract each other.
The old flock will be less worried about the newcomers and more interested in filling their bellies and going to roost for the night.
If your new chickens do not go into the chicken coop to roost at night, place them in the coop after the old one’s are settled down for the night.
5. Introducing While Free Ranging
Combining your flocks is stressful not only for you, but for all of the chickens as well. So stressful that it isn’t uncommon for your hens to stop laying for a period of time. Doing what you can to make it less stressful for them will make it a lot smoother of a process.
Use a Large Area to Combine Flocks
The larger of an area they have, the less aggressiveness you are likely to experience. Hens that are getting picked on will have a lot easier of a time scooting away if any bullying goes on.
Let the New Flock Members Out First
When introducing your two flocks without a barrier, let the new chickens out to free range first. Even better, introduce them on “neutral ground,” an area that is new to both flocks. Doing this, will help decrease the amount of aggressiveness.
Use Treats as a Distraction
One of a chickens favorite things on earth is getting treats! Throw some mealworms, black oiled sunflower seeds or scratch as a distraction when you are combining the two flocks. Spread out where you throw the treats. There will be less bullying and pecking at each other if you do this.
Have Multiple Food and Watering Stations
When you combine your flocks have at least two feeding and watering stations. This way you are less likely to have bullying from dominant chickens by the feeders.
When you first combine your flocks, make sure all of your chickens are able to get to the food and water. If you need to add more food and water stations.
It isn’t uncommon for more dominant chickens not to allow newcomers at the food or water. So, keep a watchful eye!
6. Monitoring the Two Flocks
Don’t combine your flocks and walk away. Expect to spend some time monitoring while they try to establish their new pecking order.
It is normal for some bullying and pecking to go on while they are figuring out dominance within the flock.
Expect for there to be some squawking, pecking and chasing going on while they work out their hierarchy within the new group. Only intervene if there is blood shed.
They need to establish which hen and rooster is at the top of the pecking order all they way down to which hen is at the bottom of the pecking order.
The hen or rooster at the top of the pecking order is the first to eat and drink and will roost on the highest roost. Chickens on the lowest roost are at the bottom of the pecking order.
For the next week or two, continue to keep a close eye on them. The larger of an area they have, the less aggressiveness that is usually seen.
7. When to Intervene-Isolating Bully Chickens
Sometimes when integrating two flocks, you may encounter a bully chicken that will pick on a particular hen or two until blood is shed.
Have your chicken first aid kit ready in case you need to doctor some wounds. For information on chicken injuries and a full list of items that are recommended to keep in your chicken first aid kit, read my articles What Do I Need in My Chicken First Aid Kit? and How to Fix a Broken Chicken Leg With 4 Dollar Store Items.
Have an isolation cage or “chicken jail” ready so you can isolate the bully chicken. Do not isolate the bullied chickens for protection.
What is “Chicken Jail?”
Chicken jail is area that you isolate a bully chicken. A large dog cage works great. By isolating the bully out of a group of chickens, it will knock them down a few notches in the pecking order, hopefully decreasing the aggressiveness of that chicken.
- Have an isolation cage or “chicken jail” ready just in case you need it for an aggressive chicken.
- Place the aggressive chicken inside the isolation cage or “chicken jail.”
- Provide food, water, laying box and a roosting bar for the bully chicken. Don’t be surprised if a laying hen stops laying while being isolated. It is stressful for them being taken away from the rest of the flock. This is what will hopefully break them from being so aggressive.
- After 24 hours, let the bully out of isolation and observe its behavior. If it is still aggressive, it needs a little more time in isolation. Put it back inside the cage for an additional 24 hours.
- Keep doing this until you notice a decrease in aggressiveness and the flock can coexist without blood shed.
- If the chicken continues to be overly aggressive, you may need to rehome it. Or if you are a household that eats your chickens, it may need to become chicken dinner.
Conclusion: How to Safely Combine Two Flocks of Chickens-7 Simple Tips
Safely combining two flocks can be stressful to both you and the chickens trying to establish a new pecking order. There are several different tips that can make integrating your two flocks go smoothly:
- Quarantine your new chickens for a minimum of 30 days to make sure they are healthy.
- Introduce your two flocks, separating them with chicken wire. This way they can get used to each other before they can touch each other.
- Wait until both flocks are the same size before fully integrating without barriers.
- Try combining the two flocks at night, either just before roosting or by placing the new chickens in the coop at night.
- Introduce while out free ranging, preferably on neutral ground. Remember, treats make good distractions!
- Integrate your two flocks when you are able to spend the time monitoring them for over aggressiveness.
- Be prepared to isolate any bully chickens by sending them to “chicken jail,” until they can establish their pecking order without any bloodshed.
Expect there to be some pecking, squawking and chasing going on as your two flocks try to figure out where everyone stands within the flock. With patience and a watchful eye, you can safely combine two flocks of chickens with little to no bloodshed.