Getting baby chicks can be such an exciting time! You want to believe your older girls will accept the babies and be good “mother hens”, but this is not the case. Your older flock is likely to not share your excitement about these new little pests eating their food and stealing their treats. You need to ease the flock into accepting the chicks by giving them plenty of time to get used to the idea. It’s important to keep the chicks safe because an adult chicken can easily kill a baby.
You should NOT try to introduce a single chick to your flock of older chickens. You need to at least provide the new chick with one friendly face to run to. If you only have one chick, she will become a target for bullies and the more she is bullied, the more others are likely to join in. If you have just a single chick, I would recommend you wait to start to introduce her until she is nearly full grown (around 14-15 weeks). You can read more about introducing a single adult hen here
Wait until chicks are at a minimum 4 weeks old to begin introductions, but 6 weeks would be better. The younger the chicks, the longer you are going to want to draw out the introduction period. Ideally, by the time you mix the flocks permanently, the chicks will be bigger and fully feathered out (around 10-12 weeks).
Introductions Step 1
The chicks will need an outdoor space next to the older flock, but separated by wire. The idea is to let everyone see & smell each other, but they can not touch each other. You can do this by dividing off part of your chicken area with wire. If you set up the chick space in your run, remember they will need a secure place to sleep. Click here to see how I built a spare coop for $2 that we could easily bring into the run when needed.
Instead of a second temporary coop, you can also section off part of your main coop for the babies. Now that we have a very large chicken barn, we just set up a wire rabbit exercise run inside of the chicken barn. The wire run is 87 inches by 41 inches. It has plenty of space for growing chickens and has a wire roof to prevent the older girls from jumping in. The grow out chicks can live here until they are ready to join the flock. Don’t forget the food & water for the babies, they will still need chick starter food until they are about 16 weeks old.
Let them live side by side but separated like this for at least two weeks, or until the younger chicks are at least 10 weeks old. If you moved the chicks to the transition space at 4 weeks, they will have to live there for 6 weeks.
Introductions Step 2
When the chicks are 10 weeks old, it’s time to join the main flock! Start by letting everyone out to free range together. Free ranging gives the little ones room to run away from a bully and it is also more neutral ground so the older chickens might not feel so defensive about sharing it.
Introductions Step 3
If free ranging goes alright for a couple days, take down the partition during the day. Continue to keep the chicks separated at night. At this point, you are going to need to switch the entire flock over to the chick’s grower feed. See the bag for manufacturer’s age instructions, but generally a young chicken needs to be on starter/grower feed until about 16 weeks in age (when they get ready to lay their first egg). Feeding chicks layer feed is not good because their kidneys can’t process all the calcium. So until the chicks are at laying age, everyone needs to be eating chick feed. It won’t hurt your big girls to be on chick feed, but they will need extra calcium for egg production. Providing a bowl of crushed oyster shells near the feed dish is a great supplement.
Introductions Step 4
After a week or so of daytime interacting it is time to fully mix the flocks! Remove the chick’s coop or take down the coop partition and keep your fingers crossed. You will need to be on hand the first couple nights to make sure all the chicks find their way into the main coop & roosts at night, but hopefully they will just follow the older chickens in.
Keep an eye on things for the next week and try to let them out as early as possible in the morning. If any of the chickens are injured or bleeding remove them immediately. Keep the injured bird in isolation until she is healed.
I have one adult hen and 7 two-week-old chicks. The hen is brooding and could be hatching a couple more chicks within the next week. When is the best time to introduce my chicks to her? I see the article is about multiple hens but I only have the one hen (a neighbor’s rooster is responsible for “impregnating” my hen).
If the adult hen is brooding, she isn’t going to get off her nest for about 3 weeks and then will be busy tending to new babies for awhile after so she might just leave the little ones alone. On the other hand if the chicks are pestering her all the time, she could go into protection mode and seriously injure one of the chicks. I would still wait until the chicks are at least a month old to start introducing them, and then keep an eye on momma hen to make sure she isn’t being overly protective
Do you think if chicks are under 4 weeks then introduce new chicks this seperation still applies?
It really depends on the chicks. I would try it out, I think they will likely be fine with it. Just be ready to separate them for a week or two if the bigger ones are picking on the little ones
I have two 12 week old chicks and three 6 week old chicks . As well as a 6 hens and 1 rooster (all a little over a year old) all are currently separated based on age. Can we go ahead and put the 6 & 12 week olds together? And then slowly mix those 5 with the other 7?
You might want to give them a day or two living separate by next to each other, but yes I would start by introducing the two younger flocks to each other. Then once they are getting along well you can introduce all the littles to the adults
I have put the baby chicks in with the big girls after free ranging during the da y for a week. How ever in the run they all get along. But I can’t get the chicks to go in a night with the big girls. they stay on the perches in the run. We’ve went out and put them in the coop and they stay .But I’m not going to go out when there 4 feet of snow and do that. Any suggestions?
They will catch on long before the snow comes! Keep going out there at night and locking them in the coop – after a couple weeks they will figure it out!
We have one rooster with our flock. Does that change the timing of when or how we should integrate the chicks? Our chicks are now six weeks old and have lived across a gate from the rest of the flock for a couple of weeks now. The rooster will watch them through the gate and seems quite interested in them. The hens seem less so.
It really depends on your rooster. Some roosters are chill with having chicks around, some will literally kill them on sight. Just to be safe, with a rooster in the mix I would wait a few more weeks to integrate them so the chicks can get a little bigger. And then keep a close eye on the rooster for the first few days when you mix them together
I was gifted a mama hen and her 8 chicks. I fell in love with another chick at the feed store and brought her home. Should I try to slip her under mama or introduce her slowly to the flock? Would introductions be different since Mama hen is the only adult bird I have? The chicks are all about the same age (3ish weeks).
You can try to slip the new one in and see what happens. I have given broody hens chicks that they didn’t hatch lots of times and have not had one reject a chick yet, but where this hen already has had her chicks for 3 weeks she could get defensive. Keep an eye on it and be prepared to have to keep the chick in a brooder if she rejects it, but if I had to guess I’d say the hen will probably accept the new chick just fine.
I have a broody hybrid hen, and have purchased some fertilised eggs to let her sit on (not yet received though). However, today, she has decided not to sit on her golf ball egg replacement. Now I’m worried that I need to get an incubator and brooder in case she abandons the fertilised eggs. I was trying to avoid this route. If I incubate the eggs, is it possible to put the chicks in with her at night? Although she probably won’t be in the nest box? Should I wait a while to try get her to adopt the chicks? Any suggestions? Thank you!
Broody hens can be a mystery sometimes! They seem so devoted then right when you get them eggs they change their mind lol. You should probably have an incubator on hand. Definitely try to encourage her- keep the golf balls eggs and maybe even give her a smaller pen around the nest box if possible to encourage her to stay put. Make the box as enticing as possible with lots of straw or shavings, maybe even add some curtains so it’s more private. I have taken day old chicks several times and given them to broody hens and they all took them no problem. But they have to be broody and the chicks need to be just a day or two old or its unlikely they will just adopt them. Fingers crossed your eggs get here soon and she stays broody!
I have a broody hen separated with two chicks. It’s been about two weeks since they hatched. I have them separated inside the coop without access to the enclosure area. It’s been fine, but now mama hen wants out. I’m worried the chicks are too young. I have two other hens and one has shown aggression when they were fist born but nothing since. Should I just let them out and see what happens? If so, is there a better time of day to do this? Such as after they eat or later in the day? Or, should I just let mama henout and get a warmer for the chicks?
I have always let the moms out with the flock with the babies. For the most part the others just ignored the babies and if any looked at them funny or took a swipe at a chick the mom would step in. I would say let them all out and see how it goes. At 2 weeks they will be fine if someone takes a peck at them as long as it’s not a prolonged series of pecks or aggressive chasing. After you let the other girls out in the morning and they have eaten and got that initial “I’m free!” energy out I would release the new family and be nearby for at least an hour in case you have to step in. Good luck!
I also have a broody hen separated in an elevated nesting box sitting on three eggs. It hasn’t been a week yet but I’m trying to get organized. We have 11 hens and a rooster. At 2 weeks should I also let the mom out with her chicks and just move them to a nest (or make one) on the floor of the coop? I was going to put chicken wire on the box at 19 days to ensure they are fully enclosed. The above scenario didn’t mention a rooster in the mix so wanted your thoughts. They’re literally in the coop and hens will nest on both sides of her after the chicks are born so they’ll know they are there. Also after they are born do I provide that grower feed in the enclosed box for those first two weeks? Thanks!
Hi Christine! I think you would find my article on hatching eggs with a broody hen interesting: https://www.thecapecoop.com/hatching-eggs-with-a-broody-hen/ With the rooster present, keep a close eye on him. He could be super nice and protective of them, but once in a while, they get really aggressive towards them. Most often when you have a hen hatching and raising chicken in with the rest of the flock, the rest of the flock (including roosters) are fine and just leave the new family alone. You will need to provide grower feed for the chicks, and as soon as they start mixing in with the rest of the flock, you will need to switch everyone over to grower
Thank you so much! I really appreciate this. Going to the article now! I have until August 19ish so may have more questions 🙂 I really appreciate it. I have oyster shell out and I’m feeding layer feed. Will the grower feed impact the layers? (Also -would it make more sense after they’re born to just stick the hen and babies in a rabbit hutch that is put inside the coop?). Thanks!
The layers will be fine on the grower feed as long as they have that extra calcium source (oyster shells are perfect!). I have had several broodies raise babies within the flock and I have always just let them stay with everyone else. The mom takes them out to free range in the yard and they get to do all the things chickens love doing like scratch and hunt for bugs right from the start. Plus then there is no reintroduction period where you have to keep them separate. You just have to keep an eye out and make sure the other flock members are being good and the mom is defending them like she is suppose to.
Our chicks are now 8 weeks old… we’ve had them in a completely separated place (garage) from our other two adult hens… do you think we can just integrate them in the coop/free range run now? Or should we go through the steps that you suggested above?
You should still integrate them slowly so that the two full grown hens don’t attack the little ones. They need to have the time to see them and smell them and get used to their presence
I have 3 7 month old chickens and adding 3 more 2 months old to the coop. and now I have 2 15 day old chicken. Am I doing the right thing . by getting the other 3 .
Well the 7 month old chickens are basically full grown adults, so I would keep the 2 month chickens and 15 day old chickens either together or separate all three age groups. The 7 month old chickens could hurt the younger ones, so you will want to keep them separate until the little ones are bigger. As long as the 2 month olds don’t bother the littlest ones, I would keep them together so that you only have to do one introduction to the adult girls. Welcome to chicken math – it’s hard to stop adding them once you have them!
Hi – I have one chicken who is clearly quite lonely now that she lost her mate. I am planning on getting a few chicks to keep her company. Is there any variation to the process above if it’s just one chicken or should I still follow the steps above? Thanks!
You should still follow the above steps, but she will probably be eager to be part of a flock again so it might not take as long as normal 🙂
Your were very informative. Thank you!
Tammy for French Lick, Indiana.
I have 4 hens and a rooster that have been together over a year. In May I got 16 babies as a gift. I have been putting the babies in their own run and let the adaults in the adjoining run with choice of free roam. The adaults don’t stay in their run long before free roaming. They have been like this for a week and a half. When is a good time to let them join together? How should I join them together
I would let them keep living side by side but separated until the babies are 8 weeks. Let them out together supervised. Continue supervising the free time together for a few day until you see the adults are behaving themselves and not hurting the babies
We have 4 8 week old chickens and two adult chickens. We have had the 8 week old chickens in the big coop for 1 1/2 weeks. They are in their own box that is covered in chicken wire so they can see the big girls yet be safe from aggressive behavior. We just cut out a door for the little ones to go out and explore but the hole is not big enough for the big girls to get in. We left for a little while, came back, and one of the 8 week old chickens was dead. Should we close back up the hole for a little while longer so they have more time to get use to each other or set up a different kind of structure?
aww that is so sad! Is there anyway you can divide the chicken run (chicken wire can be a good way to temporarily block some off). That way the big girls can see the little ones acting normally, scratching and running about and not just confined to a box. In either event, it definitely sounds like your big girls need some more time to adjust to the idea of the babies. I would give them another week or two of side by side living before letting them loose again
Thanks for the advice, Liz! We will definitely try blocking off part of the run for the little ones and have them in that space for about two weeks before letting them loose again. And, thank you for your blog post about death too. It was a very helpful read after we had our first loss.
I had 2 hens that are a little over 2 years old. One of our hens died last week. I was wondering how difficult would it be to add a chick to the coop since I only have 1 hen now? Thanks!
It really depends on the temperament of your surviving hen. She might be lonely enough that she would welcome any and all company, but it’s equally likely she will still try to defend her territory. I would suggest getting two chicks, put them with the adult and see how it goes. Be prepared with a brooder in case she is grouchy about them. You will have to bring them inside and keep them there until they are bigger (5-7 weeks), then slowly introduce them. Getting two chicks will at least make it so they aren’t lonely in the brooder and have a friend in case the older hen is mean to them.
I’m considering adopting three 7 month old orpingtons. They will be with my chicks in a few weeks when they are ready for their transfer. Would it be safe to put everyone together since it would be a new home for everyone?
When adopting adult hens, make sure you observe proper quarantine procedures. Keep them separated from your flock (not just side by side but separated by at least 30 ft) for at least a couple weeks. The older hens might seems totally fine when you pick them up, but you want to make sure they aren’t bringing any illnesses into your flock. As far as integration goes, you will have to see how the adult hens do with the chicks. Make sure the chicks are at least 7=8 weeks old before you begin introductions. Even though the space is new to everyone, there could still be fighting as they all try to establish the flock pecking order
I just came across your “Introducing Chicks to Your Flock”.
My existing flock is 3 6-month-olds. 1black copper Maran, 1blue cooper Maran, and 1 RIR.
I brought home 2 Lavender Pullets this last week. Did 1 week in isolation in my home.
The LOs are 11 weeks and 13 weeks.
I introduced the LOs to the existing flock yesterday while free ranging. There was some bullying, but nothing overly aggressive.
The LO’s spent the night in the coop with the existing flock. The LOs were scared, but all went well.
Today we got them out early, another successful day of free ranging. However, shortly after putting the LO’s and existing girls in the coop, I saw the LO’s cornered in the corner of the 4×8 run, laying down, and at least the RIR(maybe the other hens too) was sitting pecking away at the LO’s.
I intervened, got the LOs out. The LO’s nostrils had been pecked and were a bit bloody. A few feathers missing, but could not find any other wounds.
I moved the LOs back inside, cleaned their wounds, cuddled them, and now their in the brooder coop in my room(where they spent the first week.
What’s my next move?
The whole thing really upset me. The LOs are so very sweet. My existing flock I’ve had since 3 days old, and they are quite docile following us around the yard, and letting us hold them.
awww that is so sad! Orpingtons are generally really docile sweethearts which unfortunately can put them at the bottom of the pecking order sometimes (and RIR have a reputation for being bullies). The fact that they are smaller and younger is not helping. Is it possible for you to section off part of your run? If you let them live side by side for a couple weeks it will let the big girls get used to them, and give the babies a chance to heal and to get bigger. Good luck, it can be so hard when introductions don’t go well!
I have 5 Big Chickens we think that we have two roosters but we might only have one. We have nine younger chicks and they are about ten weeks old but not even close to the same size as the bigger chickens and they have not been introduced! I am too scared to mix them in fear that I might loose a chick!!! What should I do??
The longer you can let them live side by side but separated by wire the better the mixing is going to go. If you can give them at least a few weeks that is great. It also gives the little ones time to grow and catch up in size. Unfortunately there isn’t any way to ensure there won’t be fighting or bullying, there almost always is. If the babies are bigger though they can handle it. The most likely scenario is when you finally get them all together the big girls will chase the babies away when they try to come close and the babies will run away. With any luck the worst that will happen is the babies get a couple little pecks on the head. The fact that the little ones outnumber the big ones will certainly help. If the roosters are being jerky about letting the little ones in, I would separate the roosters and let the girls get to be friends first.
Hi. I had a broody hen that hatched 8 eggs. She took care of them and I had them in a brooder with a red heat lamp. The hen started showing signs of not wanting to be with them so I separated her and tried to put her with our other chickens and they are attacking her and I can’t separate the coop that the other chickens are in because it wouldn’t work. So I have a hen that has no where to sleep. So what do I do? Also the broody hen was on chick starter feed with her chicks and when I separated her I gave her layer pellets and now she has white/watery diarrhea. Is that normal? If it’s not what do I feed her then? And how am I supposed to introduce the chicks to the flock when they’re ready? They’re old enough to free range but I don’t want the older hens attacking them or even maybe killing them. I also have no where to isolate the bullies. Help! Thank you!
Hi Zaynie! You have a lot going on there! It is totally normal for the flock to be picking on the momma as she reenters flock life unfortunately. She needs to reestablish her place in the pecking order. Are they being ok to her while out free ranging, you are just worried about night time? Most of the time they are pretty docile at night because they can’t see in the dark very well. But if they are bothering her at night you could try putting her in a small dog crate or cat carrier in your garage or basement. Or you could put some chicken wire up over a nest box to keep her in. It will be tight for her, but it’s only for night while she is sleeping. Where ever you put her make sure she still has food & water. When the little ones are ready to start joining flock life, you can let them out to free range with the big girls but in their own area. To section off a little space for them you can make a little circle “playpen” out of chicken wire or cattle wire. Be sure they have somewhere to take shelter (a box or something) and food & water. They really need to be able to be seen by the big girls but at a safe distance for at least a week before you mix them in or you are going to end up with a lot of fighting. If you can keep them living separately but near by the flock for a few weeks that is ideal.
I have 3 adult hens. I also have 5 baby chicks that are 5 weeks old. Out of the 5 two are roosters. How will the young roosters adapt as they get older with the older hens? Is there anything that I need to do or be aware of having two roosters?