I'm very excited about this post. Well, not excited, but pleased! My dear husband knows what an animal lover I am. He has also put a moratorium on any more animals joining our family. He has been long-suffering and tolerant for the most part when any new critter appears at our house. That is why I was astounded when he told me that a friend of a friend of his was looking for a babysitter for their two chickens. They spend the summer in Utah. I was convinced that aliens had stolen my husband and left another man in his place. I think he secretly thinks it's cool to tell his executive friends that, "Yea, my wife has chickens. She even does the rooster's toenails." So it must be that he thought, 'what's a couple more chickens?'
The thing is, it's not that simple. You don't just add two more chickens to your current flock. There are a multiplicity of reasons, but bloodshed and disease are the primary ones. The words Pecking Order were hatched (no pun intended) in chicken flocks. Someone has to be low chicken on the totem pole. Adding new chickens stirs things up and the totem pole has to be reassembled. Just dumping new chickens in with the old ones ensures enormous bloodshed---usually on the part of the new chickens.
Tribe Deb, as I call the new chickens are just babies--not yet a year old. They are a Black Australorp (Glitter) and a Barred Rock (Gertrude). Guess which one Deb's kids got to name. :) For several days they were by themselves so I could watch for diseases. After that, I jury-rigged a pen within a pen so the two tribes could see each other, but not have all out war. It's what the folks at Feathersite.com call a "Meet and Greet".
Some folks like the idea of introducing new chickens by putting the new ones in with the old ones after dark. There's a theory that says if they wake up together, they won't know anything has changed. For many people this way works, but I wasn't so sure. My chickens are up and around in their coop before it's fully light outside. During the summer, I am not up and around before it's fully light outside. That would mean Tribe Deb would be trapped in the chicken coop with Tribe CeeCee with no one there to referee. Wouldn't risk it.
After a week of being able to see each other, I took a special snack out this morning and let all the chickens into the big chicken run. Another theory is that special snacks will take their minds off new chickens. There were a few tussles and a bit of chasing, but no blood was shed. Hooray! The two tribes are staying well away from one another at this point. I've put out two buckets of water and two buckets of feed. One of my books suggested that the old chickens would run the new ones off food and water if there was only one set available. Thankfully, I have a very large chicken run so that can't happen. I will be there tonight for bedtime. The roosting situation will have to watched very closely. Mine, after 3 years, still fuss at one another about who is sleeping on the "top bunk".
I've learned and successfully integrated one flock with another. Small potatoes for most folks. It won't bring about world peace, but it will make my life, and the life of the new chickens a bit easier. I think Tribe Deb was a bit embarrassed about the Beverly Hillbilly look of their jury-rigged pen anyway. Chickens are very sensitive to such things. :)