Integrating New Chickens into the Flock: “The Playpen Method”

The prospect of integrating new chickens into an existing flock is always nerve-wracking, whether they're 8 weeks old or 8 months old. The main concern is that the two groups of chickens will not get along. However, it is possible to introduce new chickens to a different group of birds without drama or bloodshed. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock does not have to be stressful for the chicken keeper or the chickens.
Integrating new chickens into an existing flock is always a nerve-wracking proposition. The main concern is that the two groups of chickens will not get along. However, it is possible to introduce new chickens to a different group of birds without drama or bloodshed. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock does not have to be stressful for the chicken keeper or the chickens.

I use an approach to flock integration that I call the “Playpen Method.”  I have used it successfully with each addition to my flock over the years. The Playpen Method is simple: allow the newbies and the original flock members to see and hear each other without having physical contact for a period of time. This allows both groups to familiarize themselves with one another while maintaining a “safe zone” for the new chickens. Integrating new flock members should be done slowly in order to minimize the stress on everyone.
Chicken Tractor for integrating new birds with an existing flock.The Playpen Method entails creating a confinement system (“playpen”) for the newbies in the vicinity of the flock. This can mean that the flock remains in the run with a small, separate playpen near or in the run for the newbies. It can also mean that the flock free-ranges with the newbies in a playpen nearby.

I have used several different playpens for my newbies but the technique is always the same: look but don’t touch.  Water and feed should be made available to the birds in the playpen at all times. After the confinement period of approximately a week, provide the newbies with an opening from the playpen to venture out at their leisure. They will stay close to the playpen and maintain a safe distance from the flock initially, but eventually they will become comfortable and begin mingling freely. It is normal for the existing flock members to make it clear to the newbies that they are in charge, however, there should never be excessive chasing, harassment, bullying, aggression or similar monkey business. If hostility is persistent, the newbies should be returned to the playpen for another week or so. DIY Chicken Playpen Tractor

The newest chicken tractor Mr. Chicken Chick built. Get the DIY instructions HERE!I hatched two different groups of chicks a few weeks apart and wanted The Littles to have a chance to spread their wings for a few days before letting them play with the big chicks. It’s safer that way and the older chicks became caretakers of the babies soon after being brought together. Hardware cloth inserted in the middle of the brooder provided proximity and safety for everyone.
I hatched two different groups of chicks a few weeks apart and wanted the Littles to have a chance to spread their wings for a few days before letting them play with the big chicks. It's safer that way and the older chicks became caretakers of the babies soon after being brought together. Hardware cloth inserted in the middle of the brooder provided proximity and safety for everyone.The dog kennel below is subdivided for two different age groups of chickens. The ‘teenage’ chickens will reside here for a week until being moved to the grow-out coop next door. When they are moved, I will close off the nest boxes for the first week or two, which will prevent anyone from hiding or sleeping in them and teach them to sleep on roosts as they should. When chickens get into the habit of sleeping in nest boxes they soil the nesting material where eggs will be laid. Good coop management leads to clean eggs.
The dog kennel is subdivided for two different age groups of chickens. The'teenage' chickens will reside here for a week until being moved to the grow-out coop next door. When they are moved, I will close off the nest boxes for the first week or two, which will prevent anyone from hiding or sleeping in them and teach them to sleep on roosts as they should. When chickens get into the habit of sleeping in nest boxes they soil the nesting material where eggs will be laid. Good coop management leads to clean eggs.Newbies whose playpen is NOT in the coop, are put in the playpen every morning and returned to the brooder at night until I’m certain they’re reasonably comfortable with the flock. It’s a little tricky to get them to understand the concept of going into the coop at night, however, as they have not been trained to the coop yet. When they are placed into the coop full-time, they will be confined to the coop itself for a week or so in order to reinforce the new bedtime routine. Again, close off the nest boxes as described above to discourage sleeping and pooping in them.

Some minor scuffling is to be expected as the established pecking order is rearranged. However, if there is any persistent bullying or bloodshed, remove the victim from the general population immediately, clean their wounds and keep them segregated until they are fully healed. This is necessary for their own safety. If the victim is bullied upon her return to the flock, separate the bully in a playpen for a few days, after which she should play nicer with the other kids.

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Comments

avatar
Susan F. Hudson
Guest

Would April or May be a good time to order chicks?
I am a newby and have a chicken house, but need to get a porch with roof built

Heather
Guest

I recently moved my chicken teens into the playpen next door to the big ladies. Some show more interest in my nuggets than the others. Mostly my game birds act like they are going to eat the newbies, the RIR’s and Cochin’s don’t seem to care one way or another! We still have a few days before we let the nuggets have any sort of doorway into the big girls world, it should be interesting for sure!

Sonya
Guest

“Kerfuffle” is the best word ever used for this!! 💕

kali
Guest
so here is my dilema…. i have 5 girls now, I would love to get a few more…. obviously the babies will be raised inside until weather permits and feathers are grown. with the current 5 I blocked off the nesting boxes until they started laying eggs, but now that they lay eggs every day…. how do I block those off when the new chickens are added to the outdoor coop? and how do I keep the newbies in the coop for a week when that is where the current 5 come and go as they please? they have a… Read more »
Brenda Reese
Guest

I did this when I had a chick hatch naturally. I separated the front yard and the back yard of the chicken yard. My big girl had a large birdcage to sleep in (which I covered and made very comfortable for her). Subsequently I now have an upstairs on my simple chicken coop, so if I need to separate new arrivals, I can. Upstairs is called the Condo. Has its own entrance and its own nest door at the back. Not bad for a city farmer.

judydowellb
Guest

Fivedonlans, I have the same problem. I ended up ordering a chicken diaper for my big red hen, after all, she lays the doubl yoker eggs! She is now my official house chicken! My cat doesn't mind so it is a new venture for both the cat and me.

lovinthefarmlife
Guest
I am truly a newbie as a chicken owner and i would love some advise. I have 3 girls in a coop with a clear greenhouse covered run inside a pen. Dec 20 i got 3 more girls. I got them in their own coop and they have access to the pen that has the greenhouse in it but not inside the greenhouse. Can i introduced them now? With the freezing temps im having now i want to put them together for warmth. Just so you know, i didnt know you had to introduce them this way. I originally had… Read more »
fivedonlans
Guest

So my 11 girls decided to pick on the ee when she started to molt. They have been flock mates since the beginning, yet they turned her into a bloody mess. I separated her for weeks now. She is in a separate cage in the coop. Feathers are back she has healed and the blood is gone. They still hate her. I would separate the bully but it is every one of them. I feel terrible for her. Every chance they get they go after her. Blood again today and back into confinement.

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