Bringing Home New Chickens
Bringing home new chickens is an exciting time! Whether you’ve just adopted full-grown hens, or selected chicks from a store or breeder, your new fluffy bundles will need a gentle hand. If it’s your first time owning chickens, or adding chickens to your existing flock, a few preparations will go a long way to ensure a warm homecoming for your new feathered friends.
Getting your flock’s home ready for new arrivals is almost as much fun as watching them strut around in their space for the first time! But there are also things to consider when deciding how and when you will be bringing them home. And, if you have an existing flock, you’ll want to decide how to quarantine your new chickens and how to best introduce them when the time comes.
Mobile chicken coops, freestanding chicken perches, and a variety of chicken toys are all excellent tools to help you welcome your new chickens home. Other special considerations will need to be taken if you’re bringing home chicks, as they will need special accommodations until their adult feathers come in. No matter what type or how many chickens you’re adding to your flock, the following tips will make their transition as easy as possible!
Transporting your new chickens
You’ve selected your new feathery-family members, but have you given thought to how you’ll get them home? Some things to consider:
- The number of chickens you’re bringing home
- If you’re bringing home full-sized adult chickens or chicks
- The type of vehicle you’ll be driving
- Length of the journey home
Adult chickens can be transported in wire dog kennels safely, but should have towels or blankets placed in the bottom and part way up the sides to prevent toes from getting caught in the gaps. If you’re only bringing home a couple of hens, a plastic-sided dog or cat kennel can be used so long as they are not overcrowded. If your chickens will be riding home in an enclosed vehicle, you may also consider bringing them home in a cardboard box of adequate size. Boxes from small appliances or similar items are a great size for a few hens. Just be sure to poke some holes in the top and sides of the box for ventilation before placing the chickens in their cardboard shuttle!
Chicks are easily transported in hard-sided dog or cat kennels, or smaller cardboard boxes with proper ventilation. Pine shavings, newspaper, or straw should be used for bedding for chick-transports as their smaller claws can become easily snagged in the fibers of fabrics. Most stores provide disposable transport kennels with the purchase of your chicks.
If the journey home with your new chickens is under an hour, water will not be necessary. For longer travels with your chickens, consider a scheduled stop to offer water. Don’t worry about offering food – your new chickens will likely be too nervous to eat, and adding food to their stressed bodies may cause digestive upset. They may even be too nervous to drink, and that’s fine! Offer water again once you’ve gotten them settled in their coop at home.
Bringing home chicks
If you’re bringing home chicks, it’s important to know how old they are. Until they are 12 weeks old, chicks will require special housing with a heat source. Chick “brooder” pens can be purchased, or fashioned from a DIY project. Whichever method you choose, be sure the chicks have ample ventilation and space for several weeks. Once chicks begin growing adult feathers in place of their fluffy down, they’ll be able to flap and hop to impressive heights! Make sure the sides of the brooder pen are high enough to keep them contained.
A quick checklist of items needed for chicks will get both you and your fluffy bundles off to a great start:
- A brooder pen, rated for the number of chicks you plan to house
- Chick-starter crumbles
- Chick feeder
- Chick grit (chickens need grit to digest food properly)
- A heat lamp with a clamp or adjustable base (the height of the heat lamp will need to be adjusted as the chicks mature)
- Chick-specific gravity waterer
- Bedding such as pine shavings, shredded newspaper, or a shallow layer of straw
- Keep electrolytes and probiotics on hand to add to their water if any chicks appear ill
Your chicks will need to be checked daily. They are notorious for spilling their feed and dirtying their water during play! Chicks have a lot of energy, so be sure they have ample room in their pen to play and stretch their legs and wings. If the sides of the brooder are high enough, try adding a commercially bought chick-perching station, or make one of your own design!
Getting home with your new chickens
If you’re bringing home adult chickens, they’re ready to go into their coop and run right away. The ideal chicken coop is easy-to-clean, with ample ventilation, and has features that will delight both you and your hens! And when it comes to chicken runs, bigger is always better. With plenty of room to sleep and play safely, your new chickens will adjust to their home quickly and easily.
The ultimate hen setup is an Eglu Cube with an attached walk-in chicken run. Your new chickens will feel safe and secure, and you’ll love the chicken-keeping features like a nesting box door, removable droppings tray, and a twist-to-close coop door to tuck hens in for the night. Plus, with the spacious walk-in run, you can spend time with your flock and customize their space with ease!
Chicken perches give hens an elevated view of their new surroundings, which will help them feel comfortable faster in a new environment. Or, for optimum perching space and aerial views, a PoleTree Chicken Perch can be added to your walk-in chicken run. Add in some chicken treat dispensers, and your new hens will feel right at home in no time!
Protecting your chickens from predators and weather
Chickens are fairly self-sufficient, so long as they have a safe space to call their own. The main threats to chickens are predators and extreme weather. Thankfully, both of these issues can be addressed with a proper chicken setup.
Predators of chickens include:
- Mountain Lions
These predators come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to have a strong chicken coop and run to thwart their attempts. All chicken runs should be covered to prevent aerial attacks from birds of prey, and run bar or mesh spacing should be as small as possible to prevent heads and paws from reaching through. Chicken coop doors should be closed and latched securely so that your hens are safe while they’re sleeping. If you live in an area with a strong reptile presence, cover the bottom 4 feet of your chicken’s run with hardware cloth or aviary mesh to prevent snakes from entering.
Weather can also wreak havoc on your flock. The main dangers to chickens are extreme heat and extreme cold. Like most animals, chickens have a biological rhythm to help them prepare for the changing seasons, but will appreciate help from their humans!
For summer weather, be sure to:
- Have plenty of fresh water available
- Offer frozen corn or other veggies as treats on hot days
- Add chicken-electrolytes to their water periodically
- Create shaded areas with chicken run covers
- Monitor for signs of heat stress
Heat takes a toll on chickens more so than cold, so stay vigilant during warmer months to ensure your flock stays as comfortable as possible.
Chickens molt in preparation for winter, and will grow dense, fluffy down feathers to help keep them warm. Things you can do to help your hens in the cold include:
- Creating multiple chicken perching places throughout the run to warm chilly toes
- Insulate or add bird bath heaters to water sources to prevent freezing
- Offer extra scratch grains, chicken treats, and hay to help keep their metabolisms up
- Consider adding extra insulation layers to chicken coops in frigid temperatures
- Cover chicken runs with tarps to prevent snow accumulation and muddy conditions
Year-round weather protection should include covering your chickens’ runs to keep precipitation out (muddy conditions create a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria) and provide wind breaks. You may also consider a chicken tractor to move your hens around the yard and into shaded or covered areas when needed. Chicken tractors are a great option for flocks kept in areas where tornadoes or hurricanes are commonplace, as they can be moved quickly in preparation for wild weather.
New chickens in the flock
If you’re a seasoned chicken-keeper and are adding new chickens to your existing flock, you’ll need to quarantine your new chickens for about a month. This practice is two-fold: to monitor new hens for potential illness, and to slowly introduce new arrivals to their flock-mates.
The following steps should be taken when quarantining new chickens:
- Set up a quarantine coop and run for new chickens. This setup should be as similar as possible to your main coop and run to make transitioning as easy as possible. Make sure your quarantine coop is far away from your flock’s housing to prevent the spread of potential airborne illnesses. Having an additional setup is beneficial not only for new arrivals, but also for separating ill or injured chickens as needed.
- Monitor for illness during the first 2 weeks of quarantine. The majority of communicable chicken-diseases will present symptoms by this point. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any unusual behavior from your chickens.
- Once the concern of potential illness has passed, slowly move your new chickens closer to your existing flock. Having a mobile chicken coop or wheels for your chicken coop will make introductions even easier! You can also set up a chicken fence around the perimeter of either coop and run to allow the chickens to get to know each other through the safety of the run wire.
- After your chickens have introduced themselves through fencing and become accustomed to each other’s company, move your now-not-as-new chickens to run with the rest of your flock!
Even though they’ve been introduced over time, chickens will still establish a pecking order once new hens are added to the flock. This is a normal process that all flocks work through, and while it may be alarming to witness your chickens sparring with each other, they should all settle down within a few minutes. Monitor for any injuries or excessive disagreements between your hens, but most flocks determine their hierarchies quickly!
Considerations for other pets
Chickens may not be the only animals that need introductions to new flock members. Especially if you’ve never had chickens before, your other household pets will need to meet their new feathered friends!
Dogs and cats often do well around chickens, but some breeds or individual pets can encounter obstacles when seeing birds. Why is this? Cats and dogs are predators by nature, and chickens are prey animals. The prey-drive may be triggered in your dog or cat at the sight of their flapping, clucking yard-mates. And in turn, your chickens may react as animals of prey do: frightened!
The best way to ensure safety and minimize stress for both your chickens and your other pets, make sure your chickens are safely secured in their run before introductions are made. Dogs should be kept on a leash during the first few introductions to avoid jumping on the run and upsetting your chickens. Be sure to reward your dog’s good behavior with dog treats!
If you have a large area for your chickens, you may wonder if you can keep your chickens with other pets. If certain accommodations are made, yes! Other pets that house well with chickens are:
- Livestock guardian dogs (dogs accustomed to living with farm animals – particularly birds)
- Horses or donkeys
- Other species of birds such as quail, pheasants, or female ducks (male ducks can be too aggressive with chickens)
Chickens are at the bottom of the animal hierarchy, and as such are usually submissive to other pets. Just be sure they aren’t bullied for their mild nature! Follow the same quarantine and introduction methods as you would with new flock members to allow ample time for your different species to get acquainted.
When will new hens start laying eggs?
You’ve made a valiant effort to make your new chickens comfortable in their new home, but it’s been weeks and they still aren’t laying eggs. Don’t get discouraged! Chickens are very sensitive animals, and their laying schedules are strongly affected by stress. And, if you adopted young hens, they may not be of laying age yet. You can expect hens to start laying eggs between 18-22 weeks of age.
There are also many ways to help your chickens lay more eggs, but as long as all of their needs are met, you can expect newly added hens to resume egg production once they’re settled into their new home. If your new hens aren’t molting, are of laying age, and haven’t produced any eggs after a month or two in their new home, reach out to your veterinarian. And, if you haven’t already, read up on the breeds of chickens to get an idea of how many eggs and the laying frequency you can expect from them.
Getting into the routine
Thankfully, birds of a feather flock together, so your new chickens will take their routine cues from their flockmates! But if this is your first flock, you’ll need to show them the ropes. Setting a daily routine will help chickens thrive in their new environment.
First, you’ll need to decide what type of routine works best for you, the chicken-keeper. Do you want to feed daily, or leave feed out free-choice? Do you enjoy tucking your hens into their coop at night and letting them out every morning, or does the idea of an automatic chicken coop door appeal to you? Does your flock size require that you clean your chickens’ coop and run daily, or can you clean their space as needed?
Chickens love the predictability and stability of a routine, so whatever routine you decide on should be reinforced daily. It takes humans about 2 weeks to create a habit, and you should expect your chickens to catch onto their new routine in that amount of time or less! Once a routine has been established, chicken-keeping will be a breeze!
Omlet can help
Getting new chickens is a wonderful experience with the right tools and knowledge. Preparation is essential to success as a chicken-keeper, and getting off on the right foot will help your chickens adjust to their new environment quickly and safely. Our products are designed to help new chickens and new chicken-keepers start their journey together! We take the guesswork out of setting up ideal chicken housing and enrichment for both hens and humans. And, our dedicated team of experts are always ready to answer any questions you may have!
This entry was posted in Chickens