Introducing new birds also means the risk of introducing disease. Never buy sight unseen, and always visit the flock you’re purchasing from. A recognised breeder, like Your Chickens contributor Dudley Mallett of Highdown Poultry, in Kent, is the best place to go. The Poultry Club of Great Britain also has a list of clubs and breeders.
Never put new chickens in with your existing flock as soon as they arrive. Hens are territorial and will attack outsiders. Instead use a separate run for new arrivals, allowing everyone to get used to each other. Keep bird apart for 7-10 days. This will also reduce the risk of disease transmission, if the birds you’ve bought are sick.
Chicken guano contains all sorts of pathogens, so be prepared to move your temporary hen run two or three times, for the sake of your garden and the health of your birds.
If your animals are free range, make sure that you’re on hand the first time new arrivals are released.
If there’s trouble, make sure you still have somewhere safe for your new chickens, like this Brahma.
The best time to officially introduce new birds to your flock is after they’ve roosted at night. Chickens do not have night vision, so territorial unpleasantness will be kept to a minimum, but be prepared for an early start the following morning so that you can step in and separate birds if there’s trouble.
The more space you have for your chickens, generally the less stress they will suffer, because newer, or less dominant animals can get away from the others. However, if bullying persists, step in and separate either the bullied or the perpetrators. Even with established flocks keep an eye out for animals who become withdrawn, quiet or are constantly chased from food, otherwise you risk losing your pets.