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sadieatthebridge

Getting two rescue hens - how to introduce?!

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Calling all chicken experts.... I'm just after some advice re. introducing new birds to an existing group.

We currently have 3 ladies, in pecking order: Hetty (Gingernut Ranger); Margot (Columbine) and Adelaide (Speckledy). Next week we are getting two rescue barn hens and I'm just wondering about how to go about the introductions. All of the official advice seems to call for weeks of quarantine, multiple runs and coops or fenced off areas, whereas the anecdotal advice seems to be 'chuck 'em together and keep an eye out' o.O

The girls currently have a coop in a large run. However, the run door is permanently open and they free-range in a large walled garden. I was thinking that I could confine the newbies to the run for a few days while the two groups get used to each other - but what happens at bedtime? Are they all calm enough to roost together on an evening? My existing chooks do occasionally spend the night in a tree (when we forget to check them), so could that be an option? The Big Three in the tree and the New Two in the coop? Obviously that isn't ideal due to predator risks.

Any ideas? How did you manage your introductions? TIA :)

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I wouldn’t leave your originals outside to sleep unless you’re certain predators can’t get in. It’s true that some people would just shove the new ones in at night and let them all get on with it. Sometimes that’s probably fine.

I would try to split the run and let the new girls have the portion of the run with the coop, and put a perch in the other section for the originals to sleep on. I’d give it a week or so like that so they get to know each other through the mesh, then let them all in together.

Good luck :-)

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I’ve only done it the ‘conventional’ way using a second coop and run and letting them see each other only.  Also, it’s a good idea to keep the two groups totally apart for at least two weeks in case the newbies have some nasty issues e.g. red mite.  I then try to introduce them by free ranging them together.  In one case it literally took months before I got them together, but in another it probably took about a month.   You have to remember they are dinosaurs at heart, and rescue hens have had to fight for every morsel of food.  

Could you borrow a coop and run for a few weeks?  

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Following quarantine to ensure they're all healthy I tend to free range them together an hour before bed time and let them get on with it.
A little bit of squabbling is to be expected while the establish the pecking order so just keep an eye on them and intervene if they draw blood - the dog crate would be a good idea if they need separating.

Always make sure there are extra feed and water stations so they can't be bullied away but of all the ex-commercial girls we used to rehome, the Barn ones seemed to have the most attitude. They're mature hens rather than nervous pullets and will be used to meeting new chickens on a constant basis.

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Thanks :)

So I can keep them separate during the day and I'm around to keep an eye on things but I still have the nighttime problem. Would the new hens be okay sleeping o/night in the dog cage? Obviously I'd try to fashion some kind of perch...

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They should just be asleep at night so won't even notice; once they've met I would keep them together rather than separating them each night.

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