Having to merge new hens to existing hens can be stressful for both you, your 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. When you first bring your new hens home, always place them somewhere where the existing flock can see them, but not necessarily interact with them. We have more information about what to do when merging your flock on our Merging Your Flock Page.
Here are just a few tips on how to make merging your hens more successful:
5 tips on how to merge your hens successfully
Through a little trial and error, we’ve found that simple distraction tactics work the best. Things like providing a straw bale for your girls, mixed in with some corn or wheat in the coop and your hens will be so busy rooting about in it they won’t notice the new hens! Always be careful with what straw you put in her your hens as using things like hay can actually cause problems later on. Your hens will eat the hay and get crop bound. If you have any queries about crop bound, check out our page on health problems.
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, of course, don’t aim directly at the hens, and again the water will act as a distraction.
Merging old hens with new hens is very likely to disrupt the existing pecking order. If you find one hen, in particular, that 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.
When you start to merge the new hens fully, begin by letting the birds share the same space for small periods of time over a number of days. The idea 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 members. You can then gradually make the time they spend together longer as they get more confident with each other.
Another way to merge your hens successfully is to give them a visual introduction before a physical introduction. This way your existing flock with have a chance to see the new hens before being able to interact with them. This method lengthens the introduction and breaks down how quickly our flock meet the new hens. 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.
Lastly, 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.
As of 14th December 2020, DEFRA has ordered a housing order on all poultry, including domestic birds. This is due to Avian Influenza and will mean that merging flocks must be done carefully in a limited space. Please take a look at our Avian Flu page to find out more information on how to keep your hens safe during this time.