I sought and obtained vet approval and guidance since we wanted to minimize our chances of losing another chicken (we received results from UC Davis, which performs free poultry necropsies for backyard flocks, and learned that Sparkle Shiny died of Marek’s disease, which unfortunately can linger in the soil a long time but for which a vaccine is available). The vet — the same one we saw at the emergency clinic who was awesome enough to give me his email address to use anytime I had questions — felt it was not unreasonable to add new birds to our sad little flock of one and said our best bet was to go with vaccinated chicks in standard, established breeds who would be the least likely to fall ill.
I read all about ways to introduce chickens to one another, and compiled a list of things experienced chicken owners had found to be effective: (This was one of the most helpful pages, in addition to many discussion threads on Backyard Chickens.)
- Divide run so they can interact through fence but not reach one another
- Wipe a little vinegar on each before putting in together
- Add fresh bedding to coop
- Add new birds to coop at night
- (Maybe put new birds in coop first and then add Isbar?)
- Sprinkle lots of corn on ground of coop at night for them to find in the morning
- Check on them at dawn and let them out, separate during the day still if necessary
- Can try introducing in neutral territory
I braced myself for trouble of all kinds. We began with a fence bisecting the chicken yard with the newcomers having access to the coop.
The Buff Oprington (with Owlet, above) calmed down almost instantly, long before the others, and Owlet was even able to hold her several times. Then, after they’d been out for perhaps 20-30 minutes, the Barred Rock managed to push through to the other side of the enclosure! We braced for impact… And nothing happened. So we moved the fence back and let them get on with the business of getting acquainted. No fireworks! Aside from a few light pecks and wing flutters later on and the occasional dash or squawk (all of which our original pair of chickens did to work out their pecking order), they have been extremely docile. I’m sure it it is mainly due to us only having one chicken instead of an established flock to add to and of course also them all being fairly young and roughly the same size and age. But even so, it feels pretty lucky!
And now the best part: names! The black Isbar you may remember is Scratchel Diggy, Platypup’s chicken from our original pair. Owlet chose the Barred Rock as her new chicken (she often says black and white are her favorite colors), since hers died July 4th, and decided to name it in her honor: Sparkle Shiny II. She and I brainstormed names for the remaining two based on the delightfully unusual naming pattern previously established, looking at coloring and temperament, and she settled on Sunshine Honey for the Buff Orpington and Twilight Rosie for the New Hampshire Red.
Platypup thought we said “Toilet Rosie” at first and he laughed and laughed. But he approved of Owlet’s choices and the names have stuck.
It is so nice to hear their soft clucking as they nestle down for the night. And though I apparently wasted my time researching the best ways to make sure they didn’t maim one another on sight, I couldn’t be happier that they’ve taken so well to one another and are already forming a little flock staying close together as they putter around in the dirt and grass. Happy hens, happy kids… What could be better?