pecking orderWhen it comes to raising chickens, you’ll probably get comfortable raising a hardy flock, start to understand how they work, and just keep on going for as long as you can. But eventually there comes a time when it’s right to add a new chicken to the group, either in an effort to expand the farm or just as a replacement of a lost hen. Problem is, one does not just add a chicken to a coop and expect things to go smoothly. There may be trouble, and you need to be ready for it. Here’s what to consider when adding a new chicken to your flock.

The big thing to understand is the pecking order. It’s not just some term people toss around for no good reason. Pecking orders with chickens really do exist, and the supposedly natural hierarchy you see before you during feeding time didn’t just happen by accident. Certain hens pushed their way to the top, roosters proved they were the cock of the walk, and adding someone new at this point is very much seen as an invasion.

No one wants to see a new chicken (or an established chicken for that matter) get beaten and bloodied when the introduction happens, so there are a handful of things you can do to avoid tragedy and seamlessly blend the new gals to farm life. One of the simplest tricks is to add more than one new bird at a time, specifically hens that are related to one another and grew up together. A single new hen will likely be picked on and beaten up, but multiple new hens creates a network of support, so roughhousing is both dispersed among more than one, allowing it to be lessened for each individual, or the new group will prove to be able to hold their own and show they’re worthy of being added.

Some breeds take to new additions better, but just about every breed does best with a little handful of confusion mixed in. Finding times when your flock would least suspect an addition, such as in the middle of the night or during a moment when every hen is getting a treat, will go a long way to making it simpler to see the integration. Chickens are…well they’re just not brilliant, so sometimes it doesn’t take much to ease things along.

Another good tactic is to introduce the new hens in a protective environment, such as in a fenced in area where the old flock can get a good look and become comfortable with the idea of these new birds showing up. If that doesn’t work, disrupting the pecking order by removing the strongest and replacing them with the new chickens can help. This may still result in a power struggle, but most time no matter what there will be fighting until everything is sorted out. Fighting is not bad, but do step in if it’s going too far.

Despite how hard you may try, if you want to continue raising chickens, you’re going to encounter a time when you’ll have to add a new hen or rooster to the flock. Just be smart about how you do it though as you wouldn’t want your new chicken to meet an untimely end at the beaks of the pecking order.

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