It’s Spring and baby chicks are here. Many urban farmers have a peaceful flock in various degrees of laying. Some add new chickens every year so that there is not a lag in egg production. Others add more chicks each year because it is so fun. And while having multiple generations in a backyard flock can be tricky, if you follow a few steps you can keep the pecking order at a manageable level.
Ideally you have a broody hen that will take to some new chicks. Just slide them under her and let her do the work. However you can’t force broodiness and even if she is broody, she may not make a good mommy. In which case expect to raise your new chicks indoors for awhile.
By the time they are three or four weeks old they are nearly feathered out. Slowly introduce them to the flock by having a separate run for them. This run can be as simple as some wire or a large cage in the corner of the overall run. They can stay outside during the day, then bring them in at night. Be sure they have access to food and water in their separate run. Also be sure their run can be accessed by the older hens. They will scratch and cluck around the pullets but will not be able to peck them.
In a week or two, they should be used to each other. By now they are five or six weeks old and you are ready to take the plunge. Pick an evening when the nighttime temperatures will not be too cold and wait for the hens to go to bed. Once it is completely dark, take the pullets to the coop and place them on the roost next to the older girls. do it quickly and make sure they are all on the perch. Then close the door and walk away.
Chickens don’t see well in the dark so the chickens will spend the night smelling each other, clucking to each other, and getting used to each other. Come sunrise, the chickens will ideally act as if they have always been a big happy family. But just like any family, fights are bound to break out. Remember that establishing a pecking order needs to happen and it is generally a dynamic process. A couple of pecks and squawks are perfectly fine but even this should subside after a few days.
Over the next few nights go out to the coop at night to be sure the pullets are sleeping on the roost. You might have to help them up for a few nights until they learn the routine from the older gals. Keep the young girls out of the nesting boxes to avoid soiled eggs. Now give them plenty of fresh water and high quality feed. Before long you will have plenty of eggs for friends and neighbors.