Adding New Birds to Existing Flock
Whether you are adding new adult birds or baby chicks to your flock, integrate them gradually to keep both sets of birds healthy.
Manage new birds separately. Keep new birds separate from the rest of the flock. New birds have often traveled a fair amount and been near other birds - and your existing flock may have built immunity to germs in your area.
Keep new birds in a separate room or coop for 30 days and monitor them to make sure they are free of disease and to acclimate them to your backyard. Work with the existing flock first and wash your hands between groups to prevent any cross-contamination.
For chicks, though, we recommend waiting until they are 18 weeks old before introducing them to an existing flock so birds reach mature size and transition onto a layer feed.
Start new chicks in a brooder away from the flock. This allows you to provide supplemental heat and feed a starter-grower feed. Once they are ready to enter a coop, raise them separately until they reach the same size as the mature birds.
Introduce birds in groups. After the quarantine period, gradually familiarize new birds to the existing flock. Introduce groups similar in size. Provide plenty of space to prevent overcrowding.
One way to acclimate groups is to place the groups in side-by-side runs, next to one another for one week so birds form bonds. It can also alert you to potential personality clashes.
Another strategy is to let the new group free-range first and then introduce the existing flock. This strategy places focus on new surroundings rather than new flock members.
In either case, add additional feeders and waterers to the run to prevent new birds from being deterred from eating and drinking.
During the introduction period, the new pecking order will be established. In most flocks, one bird is dominant and the remaining birds will fall into an order below her. Occasionally two strong-willed birds may consistently fight to gain the lead position. In this case, you may need to find a new home for one of them to maintain peace in the flock. The pecking order is a very stable structure in the group until a bird is removed or new birds are added.
Monitor for success. Watch for fallouts or mistreated birds. Content birds will continue routines without changes in personality or feed consumption.