Hobby Farm Articles

Protecting Your Mixed Flock

Protecting Your Mixed Flock

Chickens come in multiple varieties and breeds, with each one having different qualities. Whether you're raising chickens for meat or eggs, by mixing breeds within your flock you can get a variety of looks, personalities, and products. When creating your flock, it is best to get chickens at the same time and around the same age. If they group up together from an early age, they will be more likely to get along no matter what breed. If you're adding new birds to an existing flock, there can be issues, so follow these tips for creating a diverse flock.

Adding to Your Flock

There will almost always be some type of scuffle when you try to add new birds to your flock. Chickens establish a dominance system, or pecking order, within each flock. When new birds are added, they must find their spot within the flock, causing chickens to fight. The dominant hen generally gets the best things and gets them first, and the lowest is often picked on by the other birds. Additionally, roosters also fight over flocks, and an existing rooster will protect his flock from new ones.

For introducing new birds to your flock consider the following tips:

  • Pens

Put all birds into a new enclosure, this way none of the birds will have prior claim to the land. If you aren't able to do this, divide your pen into two parts with a wire divider. This will let the birds see and interact with each other but remain separate. You can remove the divider after about a week or after they stop trying to fight with each other through the wire. If you're only adding one or two birds, you can put them in a smaller cage and place it within the main pen.

  • Age and Size

There will generally be less fighting if you introduce birds that are the same age or at least the same size as the birds in your existing flock.

  • Roosters

Generally, don't add a new adult rooster to your flock. If you're going to have more than one rooster, get them at the same time. If you're just starting your flock, one rooster can generally service about 10 hens, but it is nice to have another in case you decide you want more hens or the other rooster dies.

  • Time of Day

It is best to introduce new birds when it's dark or when the other birds go to the roost for the night. If the chickens wake up together, they are less likely to notice that the new chickens weren't there the entire time.

  • Distractions

Try to distract the rest of the flock using treats when you introduce new birds or the morning after you introduce new birds. If you can keep them focused on something other than the new birds, it's more likely to go smoother.

  • Cannibalism

Cannibalism in chickens occurs when they peck each other and inflict injury resulting in the consumption of blood and tissues. Once a bird is injured or constantly picked on, it will usually continue to get assaulted, eliminating weak birds.

Preventing cannibalism is much easier than stopping it, so try to avoid conditions that encourage this behavior. Overcrowding is the number one cause for cannibalism, so make sure your birds have enough space. Other conditions that cause stress and increase cannibalism include not enough feeder or waterer space, poor nutrition, and cold temperatures with not enough protection.

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