Introducing new members to an existing flock.
So I had to de-construct that and come up with another plan. That plan was to section off a portion of the existing run and add tiers to segregate the girls with chicken wire for about a week so they could see each other and get acclimated without too much aggression. I also had to do some studying on introducing them. There are some very helpful blogs, books, articles and YouTube videos on the subject.
The delay worked out well, as the girls were almost 5 months old and had reached a good size, which is helping them with the new housing arrangements and from being picked on too much. Of course, as with any major stressor placed on them, egg production really drops.
I started to build the 2 tiers the length of the run and have it half way completed (that project along with a watering and misting system will be the subject of a future post) when I moved the new flock in, complete with hiding places made by taking a dog crate apart and using both halves and ramps to get up and down.
After about 10 days of being neighbors, I removed the chicken wire doorway to allow interaction between the two groups. Each night, I remove another of the 3 sections of chicken wire attached to each of the tiers. Saturday night the last of the chicken wire came down and the fun began.
During the day they groups would intermingle, fortunately, no bloodshed or severe bullying took place as lots of distractions were added- a cabbage pinata, buckets of fruits and vegetables, 2 new chicken swings, etc. Each night though the two groups would separate and the older girls would return to the coop but the younger girls would go back to the area they were kept.
I had planned on ushering the new girls into the coop when the older ones went in for the night when the first of the chicken wire sections on the tiers was removed, but working nights all last week prevented that. With the last of the chicken wire barrier down, it was time to introduce the new girls to the coop. So Saturday night I waited until after sunset and the older girls had gone to roost, as my readings had suggested.
I'm just glad no one had a video camera while I was trying to corral the younger girls and move them into the coop. I definitely recommend having a helper for this task to work the door. I'd pick up two, open the door to add them and one of the previously placed girls would run out between my legs. It probably took an hour to move the 24 new girls to the coop. I also added more food inside the coop to keep everyone distracted and from trying to escape.
Sunday night, things went a bit smoother as I was able to be home before sunset and the older girls going to bed. I lured all them all into the coop using their dinner as bait.
Things I learned from all of this:
Next time I want to expand, I need to negotiate early with the landlady. Though this second coop was going to be more of a run addition than a coop once the flocks were introduced and it was not a permanent structure as was required by my lease.
I would have acclimated the girls to the weather in a temporary holding pen rather than to split the run so that the night time routine of getting all the girls into the coop would go smoother.
Usher any new flock members into the coop when your existing flock goes in.
Enlist the assistance of a helper or two when moving your animals.
Use lots of distractions like cabbage pinatas, fresh fruit, new things to climb on and hiding spots for any hens getting picked on to escape too.
The more chickens you can integrate at once the better it is for the newest members of the flock as they aren't singled out as intruders.
Most of all, read all you can about ways to integrate new birds into an existing flock and what to be mindful of.
Thanks for dropping by and sharing my adventures!!