New arrivals need to be managed carefully and with some thought. The best time to introduce new birds to an existing flock is bedtime, when it’s dark preferably. When all the birds in the coop wake up in the morning, the new arrivals will be seen by the older birds but they will still be a little sleepy and hungry to go on the attack. That’s the idea and it does seem to work.
Introducing new birds to an existing flock is always stressful, both for you and the birds. Each one of the older hens before the introduction knew their place in the pecking order, but with the arrival of newcomers, that’s all been broken. Each bird will now have to find their place afresh. It’s not as bad as it sounds, if you usually let the flock free range, the older birds will be far too interested in foraging to have a go at the newcomers.
The new birds will want to stay in the coop at first, so it’s a good idea to place a feeder in the coop for them together with some water. I don’t like putting a water container inside the coop, it invariable gets knocked over, but in this situation you’ve no option. The container itself is best placed in a corner, less chance of it getting knocked over.
On the second or third day, curiosity will get the better of the new birds and some will wander outside into the run. That’s when the trouble usually starts, but if your older birds are busy beyond the run, it will be less traumatic for the youngsters, as only the odd older bird will be around to peck and chase them. For those birds that remain inside the hen house, they will meet the older birds when they come to lay in the coop, so they don’t get off the hook!
Screeching from the coop at this time is to be expected, so no need to be too concerned, check up on them during the day just to make sure no one is getting hurt. In a week or so the worst of the bullying will be over. Be sure to keep an eye on the new birds when dusk approaches. They should have been in the coop for at least a couple of days to know where home is, but they will still be reluctant to go inside the coop at first with all the older birds. Sometimes an older bird will wait just inside the coop by the pophole to peck the new birds as they try to roost, put a stop to this and pick the culprit up and place then on the roosting bars out of the way.
By the end of the first week things will be improving, the newcomers will still be pecked and chased, but their place within the flock is now slowly being accepted. Into the second week, all the new birds should be outside in the run each day, if they all seem to be eating and drinking outside, remove the water container from the coop. When outside in the run the new birds usually keep together in a tight group for protection. One or two will go beyond the run (if you allow your birds to roam), just make sure you’ve got them all by dusk by doing a headcount. You don’t want a runaway on your hands. Best keep a torch with you just in case you have to go searching!