Having to merge chicken flocks can be stressful for you, your existing flock and the new hens you’ve just brought home. But there are ways to make the process as stress-free for your girls as possible.
Before getting new hens we’d always recommend thinking about your set up, as it’s far easier to merge flocks when you are able to keep them separate from one another for a week or so. If you need advice on this please call our friendly Rehoming Team who will be happy to assist.
We have more information about what to do when merging your flock on our Merging your flocks page, so we’d recommend having a read.
Merge chicken flocks successfully
Here are just a few tips on how to make merging your hens more successful:
1. Move your coop
Firstly, if possible, before merging begins, move the coop and run to a different part of the land or your garden. That way both the existing flock and the new hens will be starting off in a new area, making it a little more equal for both parties.
2. Visual before physical
The best way to merge chicken flocks successfully is to give them a visual introduction before a physical one. This way your existing flock will have a chance to see the new hens before being able to interact with them. By doing this you lengthen the introduction and allow your existing flock to meet the new hens at their own pace, therefore lessening the likelihood of fighting when they move in together. No need to rush! However, remember never to introduce just one hen to your existing flock, otherwise bullying will be focused on the new hen.
We would recommend giving strength in numbers to your new hens, so if you already have four, getting another six will give the newbies the upper hand.
3. Distraction tactics
Through a little trial and error, we’ve found that simple distraction tactics work the best should fighting occur. These include things like providing a straw bale for your girls, mixed in with some corn or wheat in the coop. Your hens will be so busy rooting about in it that they won’t pay much attention to the new hens!
Always be careful about what straw you put in for your hens, as using things like hay can actually cause issues like impacted crop. This occurs when your hens will eat the hay and get crop bound. If you have any queries about crop issues, check out our page on health problems.
4. Use water
Another way of distracting your hens is to take up a position close to the coop and have a squeezy water bottle or child’s water pistol to hand.
Then, if the hens start to square up to each other, squirt the ground close to the hens, and again the water will act as a distraction. Of course, never aim the water directly at your hens – this isn’t intended to scare them, only to distract.
It’s worth mentioning here that fighting can occur because merging old hens with new hens is very likely to disrupt the existing pecking order. If you find one hen in particular is becoming a bit of a ‘bully’, there are steps you can take to regain the status quo in your flock. Take a look at our dedicated Pecking Order page which lays out a step-by-step guide to managing the ‘bully’ hen.
5. Take it slow
When you start to merge chicken flocks fully, begin by letting the birds share the same space for small periods of time over a number of days. The ideal time to allow them to merge is an hour before dusk. At that time of day, they will be more focussed on getting to bed than arguing with their new flock mates. You can then gradually increase the time they spend together as they get more confident with each other.
Good luck and remember, for more advice, feel free to call our Hen Helpline.