Adding new chickens to the flock is not easy. Just ask this fine feathered lady…
*I apologize for the picture quality- it’s not easy taking a mirror selfie one-handed with a hysterical injured chicken in your arms!*
So we have in fact done this once before. We originally had four chickens, and almost right away decided to add two more to make an even six. The lovely ladies at the feed store gave us all the tips for easier transition:
- Add the new chickens in at night, while the others are sleeping. Sometimes, you get lucky, and the original chickens just wake up, look around, and think “I guess you’ve always been here”, and they all get along alright.
- Add something new to the area for them all to look at, peck, play on, etc. This distracts them (hopefully) from killing the new guys.
- Don’t interfere. Chickens need to establish their own pecking order and that is gonna cause some fighting. You have to let them work it out, even if one chicken is being picked on a little. The time to intervene is if someone is bleeding. Even then, you will have to let them hack it out eventually.
When we added the other two, there was a little hostility and chest bumping, but overall they transitioned easily. I think part of the reason was that it was very shortly after getting the first four, so they didn’t have a solid, long term pecking order already established (aka their “gang” wasn’t totally solidified) and it was also summer, so they had the whole space of the run to work with. More turf to go around. In hindsight, getting these new ones (we added four new girls to the original six) in winter, when they are confined to the small indoor space of the coop, may have not been the wisest course…
Honestly it’s like West Side Story in that coop right now. Every time I go out there, I come back with the “When you’re a Jet” song stuck in my head.
I call these ones the Sharks (they’re the four new ones):
And the Original Six get to be the Jets:
Clearly the Jets are owning the floor and the Sharks have taken to the high rises. Anyway, we put the new ones in in the middle of the night, put a bunch of hay in there as a distraction and an empty box, and hoped for the best.
Clearly there was a turf war of some kind…
And one of the Jets took a hit.
Now, it’s all fun and funny to talk about them having gangster wars out there, until one of them is bleeding. A bleeding chicken is pretty serious. Once chickens have a taste for blood, it’s game over for that chicken. So when I checked on them and found her injured, I knew it was time to remove her, temporarily, from the squabble.
What do you do with an injured chicken? Well, I wasn’t too sure myself, but my best guess was to bring her in the house and clean her up first.
So I gave her a bath and cleaned her wound. Not having exposed blood or active bleeding would be important for returning her to the coop.
I used some Dawn dish soap to clean her wound. I figure if it’s gentle enough for oil spill wildlife animals it must be okay for a chicken.
Then I put her in a box to dry out. It’s too cold to put her back outside wet, she’d freeze, and I can’t very well have a chicken just walking around the house. Not only would she poop everywhere, but I think the dog and cat would be a little TOO interested, if you know what I mean.
She seemed perfectly content to hang out in this box. I later moved her by the fire to help make sure she was warm and drying.
The cat was very interested in this strange box I’d brought in that smelled like bird.
The puppy was mildly interested. He was more interested in chewing on the box than in what was inside.
Once the chicken seemed dry, I wanted to get her back in the coop as soon as possible. Not only is it impractical to have her in the house, but I didn’t want her to miss out on the changing dynamics in the coop, and re-enter like a new lone bird. That would be trouble. So I covered her wound in Vaseline in the hopes of saving it from infection by keeping dirt out, and then I covered the rest of her body with the stinky, anti-cannibalism, Stop Peck stuff that I mentioned in an earlier post. That’s about the most I could do for her. Here’s hoping they settle their differences soon, and there’s no more chicken knife fights over territory out there!