Adding A New Chicken To An Established Flock

My neighbor rang my doorbell yesterday. She was holding this chicken.

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She had just come from her kids’ school, where the chicken had been wandering the busy parking lot, causing all kinds of havoc by darting under and around the station wagons and mini vans.

My neighbor’s eleven year old daughter is a natural Animal Whisperer and she managed to get close enough to the chicken to pull her out from under a car. Once she was in friendly arms, the chicken (named Goldie by Animal Whisperer Girl) was totally calm and, unbeknownst to me, on her way to my coop.

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When my neighbor showed up, the rest of my hens were out, ranging around the yard, scratching and eating bugs. After a quick physical inspection (Goldie looked to be in perfect health) I let the new chicken join the other girls.

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Goldie, probably because she is big – larger than any of my other hens – had very few problems walking into the established flock. There was a quick chest-bump, wing-flap thing with one of the Austrawhites, and a few desultory comb peck attempts, but for the most part the integration was very calm. This is the best advice* I can give when it comes to chicken integration – size matters.

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She is truly a lovely hen. I thought perhaps she was a Red Sex Link, but a few people in the Facebook community say Golden Comet is most likely. If you know chickens, I’d love your opinion on Goldie’s breed. So far, she’s been quiet and is very calm and docile, allowing the kids to hold her.

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She seems to naturally understand the whole “flocking” thing and generally stays with the other hens.

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I’ve even noticed that the other hens tend to follow Goldie when she decides to check out a new patch of garden. It’s pretty funny. Maybe she’s a natural leader.

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After a calm outdoor integration, my one concern was how she would do in the coop where space is more constrained. To my great delight, and without any prompting or shooing, Goldie naturally joined her new flockmates in the coop when the sun got low in the sky. She found a spot on one of the outdoor perches to roost and settled right in to her new home.

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There wasn’t any squawking from the coop, so I’d say Goldie has been accepted.

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As of now I am technically “fostering” Goldie. If a bunch of flyers show up at the school parking lot asking about a missing chicken my neighbor will let me know. But I’d just assume keep her. We have room in the coop and we are coming into the time of year when feed costs go down because of extra ranging. I’m also going to try this Grow Your Own Fodder technique to further minimize my feed cost.

We have to assess her laying and make sure she’s not past Henopause, of course. But her vent looks really good – my guess is that she’s 2 years old and has at least another year or two of solid lay in her. And because I am getting tons of eggs right now, I don’t feel a lot of pressure to optimize my flock’s productivity.

And honestly, I’m just quite fond of her. She’s got a lovely calm personality that is a very welcome addition to the flock.

Welcome, Goldie! I hope you can stay!

*Note: I did almost everything wrong with this flock integration, but it still turned out ok because Goldie is big. Check out this article for good tips on how to add new hens to a flock the right way, and please share your best tips and experiences adding new chickens to an established flock in the comments.

 

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Comments

  1. Yeah, I took in a rescue chicken (owners couldn’t keep her anymore), a beautiful 3 year old Black Australorp. I also did almost everything wrong (although I did isolate her one night to check for disease), but it has worked out so far. She’s been with us over a month and follows my other two ladies around pretty well, although she hangs off a bit. I have a feeling that’s just her personality though.

  2. So I’ve actually never integrated adult hens into the flock but I’ve done hundreds of chicks and pullets. Wait, I did integrate Fluffy Britches when she was full grown. Anyways, we quarantined her for a couple of weeks first to make sure she was healthy before letting her hang out with the rest. This is usually just a simple covered wire pen that is in the coop so that everyone can see each other and get used to each other. I think the biggest key when letting them out though is the amount of space they have. The more the better so that the newbie can easily run away if need be. We raise chicks in a wire crate in the coop as well and this helps immensely with integration.

  3. Matt Jarvis says:

    I love that chickens are once again becoming somewhat common place… prolly wasn’t that long ago a chicken wandering around would have been a 911 call to animal control or something… nowadays, it’s “Cool! I’ll take that chicken with me thank-you-very-much”…. ;)

    One time after wrapping up some yard work the wife and I wanted to make a mad dash to the hardware store before they closed… I thought she closed the gate, she thought I closed the gate…. when we get back from the store and driving down the street, we see our 6 girls in the driveway of a neighbor about 5 houses down the block from us… he had no idea we had chickens and had this total “WTF?????” expression on his face…

    I trained my chickens to come on command, so it was cool to just park the car in our driveway, step out onto the sidewalk and call the girls… the expression on that guys face as they all came sprinting towards me was PRICELESS!!

    Matt Jarvis
    Eugene, Oregon

    • I do the “Herrrre, chook chook chook” call and the hens come running. I did that this AM and the new one came too, which I thought was interesting. The one thing is, when 7 or 8 chickens are running full tilt at you, you see that dinosaur heritage breeding in ‘em, and it can be a teeny bit terrifying. :)

      • Chook chook chook here too. And yes, they most certainly are like miniature dinosaurs aren’t they?

      • I love watching that. I’ve read that chickens lay better under the care of women and children — which I tend to believe. I absolutely love watching my Venezuelan wife out in the yard shouting, “Muchachas!!” and they all come hauling ass from 100 yards away. Of course, she insists on practically hand-feeding these spoiled girls berries, flaxseeds, and melon.

        Raising chickens is one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family. They have a real calming effect especially when you’re working outside and they just want to hang out. One of the best things about it is coming home in the summer and just watching them with a beer in hand. Good stuff.

      • I use “Hey Girls” or “Hey Motha Cluckers” or if I just stepped in a pile “Little Shitters” and they run like the wind from the furthest parts of the yard…. Great stories! My neighbors think I am crazy, then when I take them back to visit the cluckers they fall in love with them.

        Dennis
        Florence Oregon

    • Tom Innes says:

      Great story.

  4. Oh, she is a beautiful girl. I’m glad it went so well, and not-so-secretly hope she’s going to remain with you—though of course if her owners turn up, missing her, that’s good too. But she looks quite happy as the new boss. ;)

  5. When my “chicken guy” swapped out the rooster for a hen, he just put the new hen (just under egg laying age) into the coop with the others and said to make sure there was extra food and water in separate corners so the each had some. They squabbled a bit but that new hen is now the leader of the other two. They all came from his flock so I didn’t think to worry about quarantining her. Glad she settled in well for you!

  6. She looks like a buff orpington, and they are nice calm birds, only her comb is too small for an orpington. She could be a mixed breed too, which would account for the comb.

    • I agree that she looks like a Buff Orpington. I have several buffs that look JUST like her, and they range in size from large to HUGE.

  7. I have both Gold Comets and Red Sex-links, she’s much lighter colored than either. Size does matter. Unfortunately, when most of us are trying to do an integration it involves new younger (smaller) chickens….

  8. Looks just like one of our buffs. Some of our golden girls are bigger than others. Some have larger or smaller combs. That lady looks like she’d disappear into our crowd of buffs. Pretty girl!

  9. Wow – She is really beautiful! What a nice surprise to get a sweet mannered, beautiful new chicken on your door step!

  10. dixiebelles says:

    When we integrated our three new chooks with our original three, the one that got picked on the most was the biggest!

    I think you maybe just got lucky!! I am glad you did, and hope it stays that way too. She is rather cute!

  11. Homebrew Husband says:

    These photos may show her a little light – if you check out the 6th one down, the “flock” shot, you can see her in front of our Buff Orpington. Comparitivelely, she’s quite a bit darker and quite a bit more golden in color.

    • Matt Jarvis says:

      We had 2 Golden Sex Links and the shoulder area was a lot more dramatic in the difference between the tan and white feathers – almost stripe-like in appearance rather than a blend like seen here. I’d wager it’s not a Golden Sex Link or a Buff.

  12. Hi — we have a buff orpington and it looks just the dark orange-ish gold color of your new bird. To me the size and personality is as telling as anything else. Our buff is the only chicken that will let my (5 year old) son pick her up and she sits happily on his lap eating spinach, and they are big. Maybe a mix. Good luck!

  13. Jennifer says:

    Goldie is GORGEOUS!! I hope you get to keep her, too.

  14. Now that we’re down to just four girls, we’re thinking of adding a couple more… I was thinking bigger as well and your post has sort of made that a bit more definite but I will head off and read the other post you linked to as well, thanks.

  15. Goldie looks like a cross between Buff Orpington and Easter Egger. What’s interesting is the bright neck and head. Hmmm… still, great addition.

    Sadly, SIXbirds is now technically FIVEbirds. :( We’ve had problems with a red-tailed hawk in our neck of the woods… I saw the hawk come within inches of taking one of our hens, but ended up with a pile of feathers instead.

    But, when our lead hen came up missing, I went searching for and found evidence of her demise. Ugh. That’s one problem with free ranging over a wide space (3 acres), and I’m looking at building a tunnel system now in our garden because I think we’re going to continue to have problems.

    What’s interesting is after the death of our hen (named “Abuelo” by our 4-year old daughter), the flock has a completely different laying pattern. I have no idea why.

    Anyway, glad you were able to bring Goldie into your flock… she’s awesome. Enjoy.

    pat

  16. Seeing the picture and reading your commentary gave me such nice memories. We had hens when my children were small. My daughter had a favorite that she named Goldie and that hen would sit in my daughter’s arms while swinging gently on the swing set. It is one of those nice memories that I enjoy as I watch my grown daughter now.

  17. I learned this trick from an old man on a mountain when I was about 12, and it has worked every time. This has even worked when a friend came to me distressed because her new additions were getting picked on after initial introductions – and harassments -were made.

    When you’re adding a new HEN to a flock, toss her in and then chase the whole flock and scare the crap out of them. Flock birds, not entirely unlike people, create tighter relationships if they go through a frightening situation and come out together – unharmed and alive. A fun job to give the junior flock-herder in the family! Just be mindful if you have a good roo, as he will defend his ladies and spurs hurt!

  18. What a lovely bird…..I introduced a young roo (still smaller than the hens) to the coop….he spent a few days in a wire cage in the coop. This way he was visible, but separate. When he was released (at bedtime) there were a few pecks, but no blood. After a few weeks, he is still small and he still darts away from the bigger hens, but he is getting bolder. This visible segregation thing worked for us….glad you didn’t have to do it though.

    As for calling, I call out “Chick-a Doooodie Doooooo” and they all come running.

  19. My daughter started calling them with “Yum Yum Yummy!” and it stuck. Normally calling isn’t needed though because the second they hear the back door open they automatically assume there’s a treat involved and come running (picture a huge pen and all of the chickens jammed up against one side in a small space running over each other like a flash mob at a soccer game). Ours are composters so they get all of the kitchen scraps which they very much enjoy.

  20. I’ve always integrated adult birds by waiting until dark. Then stick the new one in the coop with the others while they’re roosting. In the morning they all wake up together, and they’re not bright enough to figure out there’s a new one amongst them. It’s worked for me every time.

    If I need to move a setting hen’s nest, or box up a few for sale, or whatever, I always do it right after dark – no drama.

    I had a stray show up once – I think a predator nabbed it from its coop and was taking it up our hill for dinner and it managed to escape. It was missing most of its feathers on its back half. I strongly advise quarantining for at least a week, worming with a dab of Ivermectin, and dusting for mites before introducing a stray to an established flock (this may have been included in your linked article – I didn’t read it…).

    She’s a pretty hen – and it’s not too often you get a PRODUCTIVE stray show up on the doorstep! The Buff Orpington’s that I’ve had were much “buffer” (tan) and not orange at all. My guess is that she may have Buff in there, but that she’s a mixture.

  21. I’ve had three Buff Orpingtons and they have quite a range of colors and comb sizes. Her mellow personality sounds like an Orpington too. But she could just be a mutt!

  22. Count me in with the buff crowd. Both looks and personality — they’re calm, useful birds. And what a nice integration story. You’re right — it’s rarely that easy, but you made it look like child’s play. Enjoy your new birdy.

  23. I can see why you want to keep her, she’s gorgeous! I’d have kept her too! :D Congrats on your new addition.

  24. What a lovely new girl! We did everything wrong over last summer when three of our four chickens succumbed to heat within 24 hours of us leaving on our first vacation since getting the chicks. It was devastating, but in our case, since there was only one original girl left, we had a little leeway since we were essentially creating a new flock. Of course, then one of the new girls turned out to be sick, so THAT was awful…

    ANYWAY! Best wishes for happy, disease-free girls to you!

  25. Congrats on the new chicken! I love your outdoor perches. Do you have any other pictures of them? They look like branches put to good use. Do the girls sleep on them at night? We live in west Texas and it is so hot in the summer. I wonder if the outdoor perches might be a nicer place to sleep on a hot summer night? Thanks : )

  26. Heather says:

    I would say she is definitely a Buff Orpington!!!!
    I have two that look just like her, and they are super sweet girls and very docile, despite being HUGE birds lol!

  27. Lady Banksia says:

    She’s just flat-out gorgeous! Sounds like a perfect fit!

  28. She looks like a buff orpington mix – she is beautiful!

  29. Goldie is gorgeous! I have a new addition to my flock too. She’s a gold laced wyandotte that turned up in my uncle’s backyard. He rescued her before his dog got at her, and brought her to my place for us to look after. If her owners turn up they’re welcome to take her back, but I love her!

    Goldie Hawn (my new chook) didn’t integrate into my flock as well as your Goldie though. She’s the smallest. I have a very dominant Isa Brown who leads the pack, plus three Sussex hens who are massive and very stupid, and are on a bit of a power trip. She sleeps on a separate perch to the other chooks in a whole separate section of the coop, and the others haven’t been letting her eat! It’s gotten so bad that I’ve pulled her out for a few days so I can give her some protein and vitamins and feed her up a bit. Poor bird.

    I just hope it gets better for her. We throw in heaps of extra seed daily for them to scratch through, as well as the feeder, but she’s just not getting any. I’ll buy a second feeder to put elsewhere in the run, and maybe that will help her. I just wish the others would leave her alone. Sadly they can’t free-range as we’ve had issues with our neighbor’s dog killing our birds so we have to keep them inside their run. :(

    I’ve never introduced solo birds before, always pairs or in threes. I wish it had gone as well as your introduction!

    Cherry

  30. Awesome submit. Thats helpfull.

  31. I’m having a strange problem I cannot make my reader pick up your feed, I’m using google reader by the way.

  32. Kathryn young says:

    I think she is a Buff Orpington

  33. I live in Asturias, Spain (not unlike the NW in climate) and an old timer tip was to sprinkle the new comers with cologne (colonia) before putting them in with the rest of the coop. I doused them well and the results were spectacular! The other chickens were so horrified by the smell they kept their distance even squeezing away from the new girls on the roost for the three days it took for the smell to wear off. By then the integration was over and couldn’t have gone smoother. So effective I still laugh about it.

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