Merging Two Flocks

I have two barns and two flocks. This gives me flexibility to divide my hens into different groups. Over the years, I’ve had a young flock and an aged flock. A flock of mellow hens, and one with those more assertive about their resources. I’ve been able to raise chicks in one barn and have everyone else in the other. Right now I have only four hens in one coop and ten in the other. I’m planning on merging these two groups into the Big Barn. Fourteen hens can fit comfortably there. I’ve got several reasons to do this.

I remember last winter. There was a lot of shoveling and water hauling. All of the hens in one space will ease up the work load.



Phoebe lives in the Little Barn. Unlike the late, great Empress of the Coop, Candy, this little rabbit isn’t that fond of the chickens. She doesn’t have it in her to boss them around. She prefers to avoid them. Unlike Candy, Phoebe pees in the coop. The added moisture and urine isn’t good for the respiratory health of the hens in the winter. If we moved the chickens to the Big Barn, and leave Phoebe where she is, she’ll happily live there on her own. Phoebe likes to tunnel in snow, so we wouldn’t have to shovel the pen. Also, it’s easy to clean up after her, because she has one area that she pees in. Tidy, less work, and a happier bunny. Win-win.

But, these flocks have lived separately for a couple of years. Even when free-ranging at the same time, they keep to themselves.

four hens


I want them to meet and mingle. Twice now, I’ve let them out and tossed corn on the lawn.

hens on lawn


Scratch corn is a rare treat, and hard to resist. Veronica is the last to brave going near the other hens to get it.



The hens are wary of each other. Except for Agatha, who doesn’t seem to notice that there are chickens about that she doesn’t dorm with. She eats right next to Owly and Beulah.



I was not at all surprised that the Black Star, Beulah, was the first to take offense at a strange chicken nearby. She’s on the top of the pecking order. I was also not surprised that the hen that Beulah gave the stink-eye to was Jasper. They glared.

Red Star and Welsummer


They chest bumped. Notice who is looking on. Agatha.



There was drama.

drama 2


There wasn’t any blood. No one was going in for the kill. In fact, they were taking a lot of care to avoid each other.



But I never like to see one hen pin another down, and when that happened I quietly stepped between them and called Jasper away.

step between


Everyone had had enough for now, so I called the Gems back to their coop. Agatha was last. Of course.

Agatha is last

The weather should be beautiful all week, so I’ll continue to let the hens out onto the lawn, entice them to mingle, and monitor what happens. There will be tussles and scuffles, but hopefully it’ll settle enough that I’ll be able to merge the flocks before the first snowfall.


  1. Not since Alexis and Krystal’s classic mud fight in the Eighties prime time serial “Dynasty” has there been such a spectacle!

  2. Lucky Phoebe will have the world`s largest rabbit hutch all to herself! She might enjoy a fellow `hare-ball` to keep her company? Or do you think the fur would fly? In the mean time, continue enjoying the hen drama and hopefully they will soon all be feathered friends.

    • I’m sure bunnies like others of their kind for company, but there are no guarantees that Phoebe would like a new rabbit that I pick out. She seems quite content with her situation, so I’m not going to risk upsetting things. Also, at this point, she’s an older bunny and set in her ways.

  3. Oh agatha! She’s just liking the show…
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you moved twiggy away from the little barn hens right? Has there been a fight between her and her former housemates?

    • Both Twiggy and Misty used to live in the Little Barn. Twiggy appears happy to be in either place. Misty is so grumpy from her molt I don’t know what she’s thinking.

  4. Brilliant post, Terry; I’m confident you’ll achieve harmony with your gradual approach. On a side note, Veronica is looking really good, as her feathers have come back in.

  5. Jasper is a cobra about to strike in that first picture. Looks like she was having her Fried Green Tomatoes moment…”face it [Beulah] I’m older and I have more insurance”!

  6. Hope all goes well when you merge them. Twiggy will think ‘ not Beulah again ‘ , she will probably want to pack her bags and move back with Phoebe’s. With a bit of luck she may be able to stand up to Beulah as she no longer has Nancy Drew (rip) as her accomplice. I added two hens to mine successfully after I had a rogue dog attack, but I sourced around for two the same age as they were only 28wks old when it happened, this seemed to help as I had no problems or I was just lucky…:)

  7. i have had smaller flocks, but when i wanted to introduce a newbie or strenghten a bond i would take them on car trips so they would cling together….only problem is now they have a specific seating arrangement in my car!

    • I doubt they’re actually “bonding.” More likely, taken out of their home environment, neither no longer has security or known status. Chickens, being flock animals, will attach to another hen if isolated from her group. No doubt, they’ve now settled into a companionable dynamic.

  8. I will be very interested in how this works out for you. Thanks for sharing.

    • With this method, I should be able to do it during the day. The problem with doing it at dark is they wake up well before me, and if they aren’t getting along it could be a blood bath before I get to the coop. I’d rather do it when I can be there to watch.

  9. Boy, last winter was a doozy, wasn’t it? Phew. And doesn’t little Veronica look so anxious standing by the red door…aw. I always feel like watching out for the nervous, scared ones.

  10. Terry, when you have them together will you add one of the other roost ladders and ease them apart a bit ? Reason I ask is I watch them most nights at roost time and there is quite a bit of squabbling with the Gems as to who roosts where, wondered with 4 extra girls if it might help so they could get away from each other if needed.

    • There would be squabbling even if there were 3 more ladders :) I’ve had no problems with 12 hens in the Big Barn, so I think that the 14 will be fine, but I’ll add another roost if need be.

    • Several years ago and a coop ago I brought in 6 pullets into a flock of a dozen or so.

      The 6 were first quarantined for a while in the garden shed. Terry I did what you are doing and after about a month I coaxed the 6 pullets into the coop.

      There was a few little squabbles but the pullets knew who was boss and avoided the older girls for quite a while.

      The real problem came at roosting time. It was just a free for all. Fighting, knocking each other off the roosts etc. This went on for a week.

      Observing this every evening It was the top roost for the most part most fought over and fought for and defending violently and I mean it was all out war.

      A light bulb went off. I redid the roosts so that no roost was higher than the rest. Guess what the fighting was reduced by 99%.

      • What I was going to suggest as well. I have one long roost for my six so they have plenty of room to snuggle to a friend or avoid a foe. No squabbles as everyone is the same height..:)

        • My older and heavier hens need to have the ladder so as to get up and down safely, but one more roost in there will be a good idea for the transition.

          • I have a ladder to get up onto two same level roosts they all share. It seems to work for my crowd. Actually, it’s not a crowd: it’s only six, but they are mostly different ages and breeds.

  11. How’s the flock integration going? Will you be getting new chicks for the Little Barn in Spring 2016 or will it be Phoebe’s home only?