Chickens

Integrating A Single Chicken to Your Flock

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As your flock grows and changes, there will be times when you want to integrate a new chicken into your existing flock.  You might find a gorgeous hen at the feed store or an ad online for the rare breed you have been looking for.  This can be a stressful time for both you and your chickens.  It can be hard to watch your old, friendly flock turn vicious while picking on a newcomer, and it’s hard to watch your new chicken friend get bullied.

There are a few things you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible, but there WILL be fighting as a new pecking order is established.  Sometimes fighting can even break out among the old flock mates as some take advantage of the commotion to move up the pecking order ladder.  If possible, try to avoid adding just one new chicken.  It lets the new chickens have at least one friendly face in the flock and helps to spread out the bullying behavior so it’s not the entire flock picking on one new chicken.  It is possible though, with patience and care to add a single new chicken.  I would strongly recommend against introducing a single chick to an adult flock.  The adults could easily kill the younger bird.  Click here for tips on introducing chicks to your older flock.

First, you should always quarantine any new chickens for about a month before you begin the integration process.  Failure to quarantine new chickens can result in illness or parasites being introduced into your healthy flock – you don’t want to risk the health or life of your existing flock.  Quarantined birds should be kept at least 30-40 feet away from your old flock, and you should be careful not to carry pathogens yourself by sharing equipment between the flocks.  During the quarantine period carefully monitor the new chickens for signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, discharge from eyes or nostrils, lameness, discolored wattles or combs, unusual droppings or lack of appetite.

Adding a single new chicken to your flock

When you are ready to begin the integration process, you don’t want to just throw the new chicken in the run and let them sort it out.  Use a wire dog crate to  allow the chickens to get used to each other without the risk of injury.   If you don’t have a large enough crate, try separating off a section of your run.  Click here to see how I built a mini coop for $2!  The first day, I like to have the dog crate just outside the run.  The old flock can see the new chicken, smell the new chicken, but she isn’t in their space yet so it’s not too big a deal.

 IMPORTANT – Don’t forget the food & water and don’t leave the new chicken(s) outside at night in the dog crate.  It doesn’t provide adequate predator protection, and the chicken will be very stressed out left in the open after dark.  At night, either move the new chicken back to the secured quarantine area, or section off part of the coop where they can sleep (and don’t forget to provide food & water!).  We like to block off a nest box with wire for the new chicken to sleep in.

Adding a single new chicken to your flock

On the second day, move the crate into the run.  Give everyone lots of treats!  Have some of your flock’s favorites on hand and pass out the treats often, helping them interact and get used to each other.

Adding a single new chicken to your flock

For the next few days, continue keeping the new chicken in the crate in the run during the day, and secured at night.  After a few days, try letting the flock all out together to free range.  Free ranging in the yard gives the newbies space to run away if needed and is a more neutral ground than the coop & run.

After 7-10 days it’s time to mix your new chicken in with the flock!  The best way to do this is to wait until dark when everyone is roosting, quiet and calm.  Take the new chicken and put her on the roosts with the old chickens.  Set your alarm for sunrise the next morning – you don’t want to sleep in and leave the new chicken with no where to escape locked in the coop!  Let the chickens out in the run together as early as possible that day.  Check on them several times per day for the next week or so.  Make sure everyone finds their way into the coop at night, some chickens may need you to pick them up and put them to “bed” for a few days while they get the hang of flock life.

Some bullying is to be expected but keep on eye out for injuries.  A quick peck or swipe is normal, as is chasing the new bird away.  If any of the chickens are injured or bleeding, remove them from the flock right away until they are healthy again.  If there is one chicken in particular (usually the top hen) who is relentlessly picking on others, take that chicken and put HER in the wire crate in the run.  Sometimes a “time out” is needed until she can be nice to her friends!  Make sure the new chicken is getting adequate water & food, and that the older flock members aren’t keeping them away from it.

Before you know it, the flock will be one and everyone will be happily scratching about the run again!


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41 Comments

  1. I soon will be introducing three new baby chicks to my girls and I’ve been contemplating on how to go about it. I really like the idea of putting chicken wire in front of one of the nest boxes for night time because I really didn’t want to move my dog crate in and out of the house every night! Great post on integrating a new member into the flock!

  2. Teri Danstrom says:

    This was very helpful! I am thinking on getting a new chicken for my old flock of two large hens. I really want to get a bantam sized chicken to save space and money, but will the bigger hens bully the bantam because it is so small? A reply would be fantastic and very helpful to me!! Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Teri! They are likely to bully any bird that you get, standard or bantam. You can definitely add a bantam to your flock, you might just need to stretch out the introduction period and keep a closer eye on them at first than you would with a full size bird that can hold her own with the bigger ladies 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    Hi! My flock of four bantam hens has slowly dwindled and the third old gal is nearing the end of her days. Do you have a suggestion about how to get the sole survivor some company? Can I introduce a juvenile, or should I get get a mature bird? Any tips?

    1. You could go either way. She will likely accept either young or old birds, she will just be happy for the company. Definitely get at least 2 new birds though so once the older girls passes the new ones will still have each other. I think I would lean towards getting young birds, an older bird would be more likely to pick on the old lady during the transition phase, but younger girls are likely to let her just be top hen

  4. Hi. I know this is an old thread. I have one chicken left now (I had 3). I have a chance next week to get rescue hens. Would you advise getting just one to make a pair or 2 rescue hens which could help my present hen from dominating just one or might they then dominate her? Thanks for any advice

    1. I would get two – it’s a good amount for snuggling together at night and leaves you with still having a pair when one passes on. Still keep them separate for a few weeks so they can slowly get used to each other, but I bet your girl will be so happy to have a couple friends it won’t be too bad

  5. abbe says:

    Hi we have just acquired a hen back to our original flock as a friend of mine who once had her cant anymore so am wanting to introduce her again to the old flock.
    What should we do as she will be about the same age and is of same breed. Will we need to do anything different to your advice?
    I have her in a dog crate tonight in laundry. How long do you think it will take to reintroduce her?
    Thanks

    1. It is unlikely they will remember her if she has been apart from the flock for some time. I would still take the introduction slowly

  6. Rhonda Phipps says:

    We have 2 established hens & are trying to introduce 1 new nearly 4 month old. They have been free- ranging together for a couple weeks & I wonder if I should just stick her up on the roost next to the ladies & start that process but I’m concerned because she’s the only one left of 4. Any advice?

    1. It’s a good sign that they are free ranging together, so the next step would be to be together at night too. You can either sneak her on the roost after dark or just let them go in together on their own at dusk. I usually let them go in on their own. I worry about putting them in there at dark, when they don’t see well in the dark, and I am not there to see how it goes. So I usually stand by and watch as they settle in. There is likely to be a bit of fighting, it really just depends on your hen’s personalities. But at some point you will have to let them work it out.

  7. I added 3 new chickens to 2 mature chickens. One of the young ones was killed and so that left two mature and 2 young. It all went pretty well but now, Thelma, the eldest and only surviving chicken from the original 4 we inherited when we moved into this house, has stopped going into the coop at night. She goes into the covered chicken yard, but will not go in the coop. When i stick her in there, she just comes right back out. I don’t know why. The second elders, Princess – mostly keeps to herself. Thelma was the highest in the pecking order. But then I put in a few new roosting branches – becuase there were only two – and the two youngens were fighting with Thelma. But then the two young ones fly to the top and don’t want Thelma up there with them. She ended up sitting on the bar just under them, but then eventually she just left the coop. I don’t know if they bullied her out or not. Occasionally Thelma would just be on the floor. But now, even with some really cold weather for a few nights – she wanted to sleep outside. I forced her inside and blocked the door so she couldn’t get out. So, not sure what’s caused this or how to fix it. I live in Colorado and cold weather will be back before you know it. She has to be inside. What to do?

    1. Poor girl, sounds like they are all still working on pecking order issues and she has been booted from the lead hen spot. She might just not be sure what to do with herself now. Keep putting her back inside at night and eventually she will find a place to settle down. If you can do it around dusk and before it gets really dark that would be best. They can’t see well at night and it could be harder for her to find a roosting spot

  8. Mr Gavin Park Weir says:

    Very useful article thank you, we’ve followed the advice.

    We’ve introduced a new, young hen to our flock of 3. I built a large run inside the free ranging area for the new girl with her own coop, food and water.

    The runs were side by side for 2 weeks and they are all now ranging in the same area for 2 weeks. I am putting the new hen into the coop with the others each night. The coop Opens on a light sensitive switch at dawn. The 3 older girls are still chasing the new girl.

    How long do you think it will be until the new girl is accepted by the 3 original hens and they are one flock.

    Thanks

    Gavin

    1. Sounds like you guys have done all you can so now it’s up to your hens to do the rest. It’s hard to say how long it will be, it depends on the personalities of your chickens. Most times when I’ve introduced them fully it’s usually under a week, but I have definitely had a couple introductions that took over a month. It will help with the colder weather coming as they will naturally want to huddle together. I hope it happens soon for you guys!

  9. We had to remove a hen from our flock a few months ago due to her being overly pecked. We wanted to give her space to heal away from the others. We think they were stressed at the time and caused the pecking. It has come time to reintroduce her back in with her original 5 hens. They are a mix of Buffs and Barred Rocks. I’ve had a couple different flocks over the years but rarely had to separate. What do you recommend?

    1. Even though they used to live together, this girl is clearly on the bottom of the pecking order so I would recommend you start out like she is a new chicken and keep her separated but where they can see her for at least a week

  10. Marci Babineau says:

    Hi Liz, This is a great thread! Just what I need, with the exception that I have a rooster in the mix. I have a rooster and 2 hens (Brahmas) and have one of their chicks that I have hatched (others didn’t hatch). Lilbit is 2 months old. I have been keeping her separate and putting her into the fenced run in the day while the big chickens are out. Then taking her out at dusk when the rooster and 2 hens come in. Now I have introduced the dog kennel at night (one of those plastic ones with a wire front) and will continue this for 7-10 days as suggested. I have not let Lilbit free range with the others because we are in the mountains and she is still small enough to be a snack. I may try this this weekend because the weather will be great and I can watch. Finally — the question– what about the rooster? Should I extract him when I try to integrate Lilbit? The hens might freak out because he is part of their hierarchy and the instability might make them worse behaved? ANy experience with this situation?

    1. That totally depends on your rooster. My rooster usually just ignores the littles when I add them, it’s usually the hens that peck at them. BUT some roosters are not happy with newcomers and could chase her off or even try to attack her. Stay close by that first day they are allowed to free range together. Hopefully all will go well and he will behave himself 🙂 Good luck!

  11. Billy says:

    Hey, thanks for the great info.
    I recently adopted a new chicken that I’m introducing to my flock of three hens. The chicken I adopted is the only surviving member of a flock that was attacked by a fox. She’s pretty beat up with some open wounds. Any suggestions on introducing her? Should I let her completely heal? It’s also starting to get cold here and I worry about here as she has some small bald spots.

    1. I would definitely wait until her wounds heal. Chickens will often peck at wounds on other birds, and I would worry that that would be doubly so on a new chicken. Hopefully she will heal up before the weather gets too cold so she can make friends and be able to snuggle up to them at night. I don’t normally advise things like chicken sweaters, but once her wounds are healed, if her feathers don’t grow back and she hasn’t made friends yet, you might want to consider getting her one. If you see pin feathers growing in don’t put a sweater on her though, they are very sensitive and rubbing against them with a sweater would be painful for her

  12. So I had two chickens–one recently passed so I only have 1 chicken left. In about a month I was going to introduce a young chicken (she isn’t laying yet but not a chick yet either). Since I don’t really have a “flock” just my one girl…thoughts on introducing the young chicken? Should I introduce 2 young chickens (they will have been living together already so they will know each other) to my older chicken? I’m guessing there will be less bullying since there is just one chicken? Thanks for the advice!!

    1. If you can get two young chickens, that is the way I would go. Keeping a group of three is nice in case one passes, you still have the pair to be friends. Introducing the new chicken(s) to your older lady is mostly going to depend on her personality. Chickens really don’t like to live alone, so when your older lady sees the newer girls she could just be so happy for the companionship she will accept them right away. But chickens are individuals and she might still decide she doesn’t want new friends. I would probably introduce them in a free range or run environment and watch to see how it goes. If she starts chasing and pecking them you’ll have to separate them with the wire and take it slower by letting them live side by side but where they can’t get to each other for a week or two. It shouldn’t take as long with a small flock as it does when adding a single chicken to a large flock

      1. Thank you!! I’ll give it a try and see how it goes 😁

  13. Crystal Curry says:

    Do you have to quarantine the new chicken if you know where it came from and the flock is healthy?

    1. It is still a good idea to quarantine a new chicken. A flock might seem perfectly healthy as they are managing a disease or parasite that they have grown used to, but as it would be new to your flock it could be an issue.

  14. shari short says:

    I have one younger chicken that I’m trying to acclimate into my flock of 10 older hens. She is terrified of them. We’ve had her separated, but visible, for 2 weeks and trying to gradually add her and have her spend time with them. How long do you think it will take before this one chicken will be accepted. They all will have a new larger coop finished in the next few days.

    1. Is the younger chicken full grown? Integrating a single bird is always stressful and how long it takes really just depends on your birds. Sometimes a week living side by side is enough, sometimes they need a month. There will be a little fighting when you combine them, even if they lived side by side for a long time, they need to work out a pecking order. But it shouldn’t be bad enough that the new chicken is kept from food/water and constantly chased

  15. Kristen says:

    A few days ago we got 7 eight month old hens. They got along well in their new home. We only had them for 2 days, when we went to the same farm we got them from and purchased one more chicken. Since the chicken came from the same farm and we only had them for two days, we quickly introduced the 8th chicken to the flock. We got her yesterday and they’re already pecking at her constantly and won’t let her eat. I just went out to find that one of them pecked her eye out. I felt so bad so we removed her. What do we do now? Thank you for any suggestions.

    1. oh no!! I would have also thought since they lived together before it would be alright to introduce her right away, but apparently the new flock already claimed ownership of your yard and they weren’t going to share. If you have a vet, I would definitely recommend you have her looked at to help her make a full recovery. She should be able to live a full life even with missing the eye. You will need to keep her separated until she is fully healed however. Chickens can be ruthless in picking at wounds and since they already don’t like this hen she will end up even more injured or killed. Once she is fully healed, you can begin to slowly introduce her using the instructions from this post.

    2. Shari L Short says:

      Not sure how old the younger chicken is but she’s molting. She is actually a stray chicken that was running around the neighborhood so I know she was stressed out pretty bad anyway. She came over to the outside of my chicken run every day for a few days and I fed and watered her. She jumped into our run so I quarteened her. After 2 weeks I put her into the bigger coop at night and that working out real well. She seems happy and is doing better but they still chase her. She has a safe place to run to and I’ve put out extra food and water for her and I’m watching. In the next few days the even bigger coop we built will be finished and they all will move into it. We’ll see how that goes.

      1. I’m not surprised all the stress is causing her to molt! Hopefully it won’t be long until her new flocks accepts her.

  16. Marci Babineau says:

    Good grief! I think above all, you have to keep an eye on new chickens. They are a fearful bunch and will go into their worst behaviour when rehoming. You just never know. We tried several things with Little Bit. Putting her in a dog kennel into the coop, putting her with them outside during the day and protecting her at night, Putting her in the coop when the others were out so that she could familiarise herself with food and hiding places, experience cal i the coop for a bit. She was not accepted until she was around point of lay. Then we took the other hens out and left her with the rooster who had always been kind to her. A week later the least dominant hen, a week later the next least dominant hen and so on, until the were living together in the same coop. It shook u the pecking order and Bitsy slid into her place. She still stays away from the bossiest hens, but at least she has a place now. So perhaps something like that, divide and conquer. I am just hatching 16 eggs now so that should lead to all sorts of fun. 🙂

  17. Sita says:

    Hi! I found one of my hens laying practically dead in the coop a week ago, looked as if her eye was missing, she was in shock and it’s taken a week of quarantine in the house to get her back, she still seems to have vision perception issues, but is moving around like normal roosting etc. i was grateful to find your article, as yesterday we tried to put her back with the flock and they were awful. We quickly removed her and after reading many threads we resonated with your approach. We have created her own outdoor yard, divided by chicken wire next to the flocks run. Today went amazing.

    We have put her in a layer box for tonight. Like you pictured with the chicken wire. My question is about her being upset to be in there. Will she be okay, she seems to be very agitated. Maybe even scared. Did your chickens have this same reaction? Any thoughts, or feedback would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Aww poor girl! She might be a little nervous after being attacked the first day, but should settle down. If her eyesight is now compromised I could see it being scary. They already have terrible night vision so if she is also now fully or partially blind in one eye it will be even worse. Maybe try putting her in the nest box while it is still light out, or if you have electricity in the coop, maybe you could leave the lights on for her for a bit. Once she knows she is safe, she should settle down. Good luck!

  18. Julie Z says:

    We have eight hens and 3 roosters. They are all free range, and have the run of our yard and that of our neighbor (about 2 acres). The put themselves to bed in the coop at night. We woudl like to incorporate a few more (3 or 4), but are unsure how to do this, since they don’t have a defined run. Suggestions?

    1. You will still want to introduce them by separating them so they can see each other but not get to each other. I also no longer have a chicken run since we moved. I currently have some chicks from this spring (they are now about 9 weeks). The chicks are living in a large rabbit hutch inside our chicken barn. You could do something similar. If you don’t have room inside your coop for another structure, you could have it just outside the coop (just make sure it’s predator proof). Another option would be to section off part of your coop with chicken wire where the little ones can live for a bit.

  19. Sita says:

    My sweet Arjuna has integrated with the flock. Thank you for the recommendations and the support. She’s so happy to be back with her flock.

    1. That is so wonderful to hear!

  20. stella says:

    Hi! Thank you for this!!! So we have 3 chickens- one buff orpington, and easter egger and a cream legbar and we just introduced a 14/15 week small gamefowl bird. the easter egger who is at the current bottom of the pecking order, pinned her down and then the buff (who is the top of the pecking order) joined in. we don’t want any serious injuries so we broke it up and put the easter egger in a pin in the run. Now we have the gamefowl with the buff and the legbar hoping there can be some peace and then we will re introduce the easter egger. The gamefowl is just staying high up on perches, etc, to stay out of everyones way. When do I let the easter egger back out again and do you feel she’ll be just as aggressive when we do? She was pretty vicious. And if I spray the mean chickens with a squirt bottle when they are mean, does that mess up them working it out- like I’m intervening too much?

    1. I would let them live side by side by in the separate pen for at least a week, possibly two if you can. This will let her slowly adjust to the idea of a new friend. You can expect there to be a little fighting as they work things out and for the most part they will need to work it out on their own. If the new one is being kept from the food/water or if anyone is bleeding I would separate again, but hopefully it won’t be long until they are one happy flock!

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