Transporting poultry and introducing new hens

You will need a safe, secure, comfortable means of transporting your new hens to their new home. You can buy custom made crates, but a cardboard box with ventilation, a good lid and lined with straw or shredded newspaper will do. A cat carry box is also useful. Try to make sure the base is non-slip, so that the risk of leg damage is minimised.

Integrating new hens

If you are bringing new hens into an established flock, keep them separate, if you can, for a week or so to make sure they are healthy.

We've found that the best way to introduce new hens is to put them in a run near the existing flock and corn them together so they can see each other but are not in physical contact. Do this for a week or so.  Then put the new hens into the roosting area with the old ones at night - the idea being that when they all come down in the morning, the old hens don't realise that there are new hens in the flock.

If you don’t have the accommodation to manage this, put the new hens in at night and keep your fingers crossed!

Remember to be extra vigilant at bedtime, as the new hens may need some guidance and encouragement to get back to the henhouse for the first few nights. Hens see very poorly in the dark, so if they are away from the house when darkness falls, they will find an alternative roost. Better to invest the time now than provide Mr Fox with an easy meal.

Offering a feed of corn just as the light fades will bring your hens back to the henhouse, then you can shepherd them to bed. Feeding corn at bedtime also gives them something to digest overnight.

Dealing with bullying

Keep an eye on the flock for evidence of persistent bullying. Hens have a clear hierarchy so a bit of chasing and the odd peck is normal in maintaining the rank order; if hens are free range or in a large run, the "victim" will just run away. However, sometimes this normal behaviour becomes bullying and the bullied hen may have a miserable existence. If a hen is off-colour or unwell, she may become a victim of bullying.

Hector, Copper Black Maran cockerelHector, our Copper Black Maran cockerel, keeps the peace and minimises bullying

There are various ways of dealing with bullying; one is to isolate the bully for a few days, another is to introduce a cockerel.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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