How to Safely Integrate New Chicks into an Existing Flock

Starting new baby chicks is a very exciting time! Fluffy chicken babies are so cute and cuddly, and everybody loves them. But integrating these same babies into an existing flock takes care and attention to keep everyone safe. 

How to Safely Integrate New Chicks into an Existing Flock

You probably know that chickens have a set hierarchy or pecking order, and adding new birds can throw that pecking order out of whack. Not only that, but chickens can be quite ruthless to smaller babies. I’ve had friends who have had entire batches of young chicks brutally murdered by their existing flocks. And nobody wants that to happen. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your baby chicks safe and help them integrate successfully into your existing flock. 

In an ideal world, baby chicks would not be integrated into an existing flock until they are the same size, around roughly six months of age. But we don’t live in an ideal world and I’ve never waited that long to integrate new chickens. Instead, here’s how I have integrated my chicks to a new flock, starting when the babies are roughly six to eight weeks of age.

Segregation in the beginning is key

My chickens live in an old two stall hog shed which makes an initial segregation pretty easy, but if you don't have this type of set-up, simply use fencing or crates to somehow keep the two groups of birds completely segregated. My coop allows the existing flock to roost on one side of the shed and then free-range all day. The second side of coop stays closed until I have baby chicks to add to it.

When I get new baby chickens, I put them in my basement for the first two weeks or so. It’s warmer in the house and it’s easier for me to watch them. After a couple weeks, I move them to a bigger brooder box in the second side of the hog shed, where they stay for another four to six weeks.  The exact amount of time depends on on the weather. 

This two stall coop set-up is pretty convenient because the big chickens start to hear the new chickens through the walls and know they’re there. The existing flock is very curious, but I don't let them in the other side because I am afraid they will peck the babies viciously.

Give them time to "sniff" but not touch

Once the new chicks are four to six weeks old and it’s warm enough for them to go outside without a light, I pull up fence panels and start letting the young chickens out in a make-shift chicken yard. Now the big chickens and the young chickens see each other and start "sniffing each other out," so to speak. I let them get used to each other through the fence for two to three weeks, and then I gradually give them access to each other. (By the way, this fence is also handy for letting other farm animals get used to the new chicks too.)

The first few times I let the littles out with the bigs, I make sure to stay close. Putting food and water around in multiple locations is important so they have lots of options and don't have to compete for resources. It's also helpful if there are hiding spots and places the little chickens can go to get away from the big chickens. If at any point it, the big chickens start to gang up on the little chickens too much, I close up the chicken yard and segregate them for a few more days. Then I start the introduction process over again.

At this point, the young chickens are still sleeping on their own side of the chicken coop, but after they've had access to each other for a week or two and seem to be getting along, I shut the doors to the second stall of the chicken coop and the chickens start to roost together on one side of the coop. My chickens also like to roost in the trees around the coop in the summer.

Successful integration of new chicks to an existing flock is not hard, just be sure to make it a slow and gradual process to keep everyone safe and happy.

About the Author:

Michelle is a busy work-at-home mom of four unruly farm kids. She lives on 5 acres in rural Eastern Iowa with her family and menagerie of animals: more chickens than she can count, 2 Great Pyrenees, cats, rabbits, and more. Michelle runs the lifestyle blog Simplify, Live, Love where she encourages people to embrace simple and green living and enjoy their kids. She shares farm-to-table recipes and gardening tips, but also loves traveling outside Iowa. You can find her on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and Instagram.
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  1. I'm in the middle of this process right now. The "teens" have been successfully integrated after daily being in the run for over a week. The little six-week-old pair still sleep in a dog pen inside the coop. I let them run the coop during the day while everyone else is in the run. I found out yesterday evening these little stinkers can fly to the rafters! Scared me to death when I couldn't find the little female - but her brother let me know where she was. :-)

  2. This was very helpful, thank you. Really makes me wish I would've gotten more chicks for my first try. I'm not sure how I would be able to separate my area in to two spaces. I came home with four, initially, but only two survived, they're 7 weeks old now and I am and have been in love right from the start.

  3. If your chicks are 7 weeks old now, I would go ahead and get more. You won't be able to integrate them yet but chicks that are only 7 weeks apart from each other will integrate better than if you are integrating with a flock that has been established for a full year.

  4. I raise 50 chickens, 7 older hens with 1 rooster, 2 rabbit nests in each of 8 small ones, still with moms and 2 young Indian racing ducks with their mom. My old duck is gone, now I've got a new one. Socialization is underway, the old duck does not accept the new because she is afraid for the young. I expect them to get used to coexistence. The young chickens are in a common yard with the old chickens but they sleep separately and I close them at night. The ducks are outside the chicken yard during the day, walking freely in the garden and orchard. They protect us very successfully from the invasion of snails. At night I also lock them in a special dwelling inside the chicken yard. I keep rabbits in cages. With the arrival of winter cold, I reduce the flocks to a minimum, and in the early spring I increase the flocks again with new chicken offspring from the incubator, I give 1 to 2 rabbits for fertilization, and the ducks will lay themselves. All this for our own family, for the most part we have enough meat and eggs at home.
    greetings from Croatia

  5. Do you have any recommendations for integrating a flock that's about 4 months apart in age in the winter? I'm in the south so it's not too cold but at what point can the little be in the coop weather wise? I don't want to heat the coop but it's insulated.
    Thanks so much!

    1. During the winter I try to wait until they have all their feathers. I'm not sure how warm it is where you are, but if they are tolerating room temperatures well without a heat source they if it's around 70 degrees-ish they should be good to go outside. Keep an eye on them and watch for behavior that indicates they are cold or uncomfortable like piling on top of each other or huddling in a corner.


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