Because of the pecking order it is important that you integrate new flock members carefully. Trying to introduce a docile breed into an extremely dominant flock can spell disaster. Introducing chicks that are too young into an adult flock often leads to loss or permanent injury of those chicks.
We've tried a variety of methods, each works even though the tactics are different. The most important part of integration is doing it when you have the time to actually observe the behaviors within the flock, so if you work during the day, it would be best to introduce on your days off if you have two or three days in a row.
Introducing at night is generally successful as the established flock is ready to calm down and sleep for the night. Placing the new members on the lowest perch, will generally go unnoticed until morning light.
Never place the new member on an upper roosting bar; that order has to be earned and if not earned can lead to some serious altercations. In the morning, be there to let the chickens out of the coop, and offer a diversion of a special grain or treat that you know they enjoy, and set up a feeding station for the new inductees, to make sure they are not kept from the normal feed rations or water. The diversion works to take attention from the new members of the flock as the hungry birds go after the special treat and pay little mind to strangers among them. Provide objects within the run to allow the new birds to escape for protection after the feeding frenzy subsides. This can be pallets, boards, or other objects leaned up against the coop or fence, as a safety zone. If there are altercations, do not interfere unless they become serious and the new flock members are in peril. Allow the chickens to work out their differences unless you are seeing serious aggression, blood drawn or ganging up.
Introducing in daylight at feeding time is another effective method. It's the same process as above, except that the new members have not been disguised by the dark of night. Again, be there to observe the behaviors of the established flock, offer diversion and offer a safety zone for the new members.
A method we've found quite successful is to introduce the new member by placing them in the coop, while the established flock is out seeking their daily ration, which allows the newest member to come out of the coop when it feels safe, secure and ready.
We never introduce just one new flock member. We introduce no less than three at a time, which creates some confusion with the established flock, so they are not as apt to bully or take exception to a single inductee.
Never introduce chicks to a flock until those chicks are of a size that they can hold their own. Depending on the breed, that may be 3 months or 6 months. They need to be big enough and resilient enough to stand their ground and to fight back if necessary. We've heard way too many times that younger chicks have been placed with a flock, and those chicks have been severely pecked which usually develops into a neurological disorder, or worse and will require your attention to deal with that special needs chick or new flock member. Never assume that if chicks are hatched by a broody mama hen, that the flock will accept those chicks, this rarely happens and the mama hen will fight to the death to protect her chicklets, which can result in the loss of her as well as the chicks. Section them off from the other flock members if they were hatched within the coop or run area. This protects the chicks, the mama, and allows the rest of the flock to adjust to their newest family members.
Never introduce a very docile breed such as Faverolles to a known dominant breed such as Leghorns. The dominant breed will win and they can potentially harm those new members. It's difficult to even introduce their own kind to an established flock much less a docile breed. You can introduce a known dominant breed into a docile breed however, since they will be at the bottom of the pecking order to an established breed, and that dominance will have no place in the pecking order, except at the very bottom.
Introducing a new rooster may or may not be successful. Generally if there is already an established rooster, the younger rooster will challenge, which may or may not end up as a battle to the death. Most often the established rooster will win and never challenged again, however, a young rooster can take the lead roll, forcing the older rooster to a lower status. But keep in mind, an established flock of hens can be just as aggressive as any rooster, so when introducing a new rooster, don't for one minute think all will be well. If the hens take exception to that rooster it would not be unusual for the ladies to attack him. We've actually had to remove new roosters that the ladies completely rejected and would have killed if not for intervention.
Another method of introduction is to section off part of the run or provide carriers or cages, so the flock can see the other birds, but can't get to them. The natural curiosity will draw their attention, but after a few days, they become used to the interlopers, and pay little attention to them.
Introducing new members to a flock can be stressful to you and to the flock and especially to the new inductee, but give the chickens a chance to establish proper pecking order without intervention, as long as no blood has been drawn.
As a reminder, never, ever introduce a new flock member that has been purchased or acquired elsewhere until it has been quarantined at least 30 days. More often than not, even if a new member has no visible symptoms of illness or disease, they or your flock can succumb to foreign pathogens. So above all remember quarantine is highly important to maintain a healthy flock and should never be overlooked as part of routine bio-security.
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