I have been offered some free chickens...

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a neighbor had to change jobs and with the new schedule she doesnothave time for her chickens anymore. They are mostly 2 years old-so have at least one good year left of laying. they are healthy birds and pretty gentle, but I am wondering if I am aksing for trouble with my own flock.

I know that when introducing chicks that you have to be careful because the bigger birds can be pretty ruthless. But how about older birds? Mine are 26 weeks old-not laying yet (sigh-maybe by spring?) So the thought of at least a few eggs is tempting. I have room in the chicken house though I am not sure if we can divide it before Saturday-and she really would like to move them soon-she hates to not have them get lots of attention...

A friend has told me that once they roost together they should be okay-these are only hens. We have 11 hens and the one rooster-and I think she said there are 20 hens, though two or thre are three years old and about ready for the stew pot.

Should I accept? Any advice or cautions?

Thanks! Sarah

-- Sarah (heartsongacres@juno.com), December 27, 2000


I say take em. We have introduced hens with an established flock before. THey wil always have a pecking order but where your birds are all the pretty much full grown there shouldn't be any trouble. Even if you put large breed hens in with banties. THe only trouble would have been from introducing another rooster. Then you will see fighting. Good luck with your hens. My parents had gotten some two year old speckled hamburgs at $1 each. They were still laying eggs when they were 5 yrs. old! Good breed.

-- michelle (tsjheath@ainop.com), December 27, 2000.

If at all possible combine them at night as you mentioned. They wake up thinking all is well with the new hens. Also, since your own flock will be outnumbered and the new ones in strange territory, the transition should be easier. Just be sure to observe them in case of trouble and be sure they have lots of space and places to hide, feed and drink in case someone is really obnoxious.

-- marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), December 27, 2000.

I agree with putting them together at night after yours have gone to roost. Put the new birds on a roost. For some crazy reason, chooks think they're all family when they awake in the a.m.

BUT, I would put the new birds in a different pen away from your flock for at least a week ~ a quarantine period ~ just to make sure they're disease free and don't transfer something unwanted to your flock.

My birds free range during the day and tuck themselves into the pens at dusk. I presently have 7 roosters and there's no fighting ~ standard Old English Game and standard Old English Game/Turken cross. If your pens are large enough, there shouldn't be any fighting. The hens/roos will go thru the usual pecking order thingy, but that's the norm.

-- ~Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), December 28, 2000.

Via the "college of hard knocks"we've learned to quarantine new birds at least 2 weeks.Then keep a tight eye on them re dominance battles, pecking[Polish chickens were never accepted by my Auricuanas], etc. Consider medicating their water supply for a brief time too[coccidia]. Good luck.

-- Karl P.Bechler (kbechler@frontiernet.net), December 28, 2000.

do you have the room? If you put a flourescent light on in the coop for a few hours every night it will induce your hens to lay until the days get longer. Also the new hens might slow or stop laying if they dont get enough light. the flip side is that you could be in the egg business

-- paul konstantin (ptokonstant@aol.com), December 30, 2000.

Hi Sarah, take the chickens, hens only of course, and put them on the roosts at night with your birds, when they wake up together, they will be fine. If they were healthy chickens at your friends house, they will be healthy in your henhouse too. Two things, however, start adding an ounce of cider vinegar per gallon of water to your hens drinking water, do this from now on and continue. Also, put up at least 3 100 watt light fixtures on a timer for 14 hours of "daylight" per day in your henhouse, voila, you will get, and continue to get, plenty of eggs! Five year old hens still produce, just not as often, but do produce bigger, beyond jumbo size, eggs. Good luck!

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (annie@1st.net), January 02, 2001.

I was given 13 older Rhode Island Reds this summer. I put them in with my young (3 month old) Polish chickens. It was awful. The RIRs never accepted the Polish and were downright cruel to them. My husband and I built a separate pen for the Polish chickens, and have since put 1 RIR in with them - she was pecked pretty bad on the comb and was bleeding. I tried to reintroduce her to the RIR pen but they attacked her again. We're going to have to do something different in the spring so both sets of chickens can get outside to free range tho. I'd like to get replacements for some of the RIRs this spring, will the RIRs accept "regular" looking chickens easier than the Polish?

-- Stacy Rohan (KincoraFarm@aol.com), January 08, 2001.

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