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So you’ve worked out how much room your chickens need, designed your chicken coop and your chickens, chicks, or pullets are on the way.
We can still remember the excitement of waiting for the delivery of our new chickens- our first question was: I wonder how long it will be until they lay their first eggs!
Are you wondering what you need to do when they first arrive and how you can get them off to the best possible start in life?
Well, look no further, because we’ve written exactly what we did when we received our 18-week old hens and how we got them laying sooner rather than later.
Just before we get into the meat and bones of this article, it’s assumed that you don’t currently have any chickens at home- as introducing new chickens to an existing flock is a completely different process.
What To Do When Your Chickens First Arrive?
Although the temptation is for you to be very loud and excited when they first arrive, this is the worst thing you can do.
Your chickens will be very confused and daunted after their journey and they will be afraid of any loud noises.
Read more about transporting chickens humanely.
The best thing you can do is carry them into their coop and lock them in there. They will normally be delivered inside a cardboard box, make sure to leave them inside the cardboard box and just place the box inside the coop.
You can then open the top flap of the cardboard box so the chickens can leave the box once they are feeling confident enough.
The only other thing inside the coop at this point should be some water and pellets or crumbs which can be spread on the floor.
Check up on your chickens in a few hours and you will find they have probably left their cardboard box and are happily roosting together. If they are still inside the cardboard box lift them out one-by-one and place them on the roosting bars.
The reason behind leaving them locked in their coop for the first 24 hours is that they will realize that the coop is their home.
Then when you eventually let them out into the pen, they will happily return to the coop to roost in the evenings.
In our experience chickens who haven’t been kept in the coop at the start, tend to be stubborn and don’t return to their coop in the evenings without ‘persuasion’!
Check Local Ordinances
It’s best to double-check the local laws in your area. Some areas have changing ordinances when it comes to raising chickens.
You can check with the city clerks and see if it’s perfectly legal to raise chickens in your backyard or farm. There are also local laws available online that you can easily browse over.
If you are getting chickens for the first time, the last thing you want is to be reprimanded for not following the laws in the first place.
Do Some Research Beforehand
When getting chickens for the first time, you need to do some research beforehand. This means knowing the basic needs of your chickens when they get home.
It also pays to continue your research about raising chickens even if you already have them.
For instance, you need to know more about moving chickens to new coop or how to manage the flock with new ones.
Raising chickens is an ongoing learning process. You get to grasp new things and other experiences that you weren’t able to research.
Continue learning and take initiative as you get more exposed to raising chickens. You’d be amazed at the things you could learn from experience firsthand.
Introducing Them to Their Pen
Once they’ve spent 24 hours in their coop it’s time to introduce them to their pen/run for the first time. This is always an exciting moment and a great opportunity to get a really good view of your new chickens.
It’s important at this point to say don’t force your chickens out of their coop. All you need to do is open their coop door and wait.
For an added incentive you can spread some feed in their pen along with fresh water. If you’re not sure what to feed them, read our beginner’s guide to feeding chickens.
The more curious chickens will leave the coop first and explore but within a few minutes, the rest of the flock should come out and join them.
If after a few hours the flock is still inside the coop give them a gentle push out into the pen.
You can leave your chickens for the rest of the day now to explore their new environment and get comfortable!
What To Do When You Have Your Own Coop
If you’ve built your own coop, run, or yard for your chickens now is a good time to test its ability to contain them as well as the safety of the coop.
When you’re in construction mode, it can be easy to overlook important features that may allow for chickens to escape, become stuck, or even allow predators to enter.
So, even while you leave your chickens alone to enjoy their new space, it’s wise to return frequently, in the beginning, to ensure their safety and make any adjustments to their new home.
You might be surprised at what chickens can get into in short amounts of time, especially if they are flighty birds. Heads get stuck, water buckets get tipped, and birds escape.
So check back frequently in the beginning, and then taper off as the day goes on.
Introducing Your Chickens To An Established Flock
In most cases, you would need to quarantine your new chickens before putting them together with an existing flock.
So, when can I let my chickens out? After checking symptoms for any chicken disease, you can slowly introduce them to the flock after 7 to 31 days.
The best way to introduce new chickens to your existing flock is to let them free-range first. Some of your birds would greet the new chickens they meet.
But if it doesn’t work like this, you don’t need to worry. It sometimes takes 3 to 4 attempts before your new birds can adjust to the existing flock.
Bringing Chickens Home And Introducing Them to Other Pets
If you are bringing chickens home that is filled with other pets, make sure to slowly introduce them under supervision.
Dogs are often protective around chickens. However, if your dogs and cats chase them, it’s best to keep them apart.
You can even keep the new flock on their side of the farm and focus on moving chickens to new coop.
Taking Your New Chickens Back to Their Coop
When it starts to get dark it’s important you go back outside and make sure your chickens are inside their coop.
We’ve always found that by getting the chickens to use to the coop (before they are allowed in the pen) they are much more likely to go back into the coop when it’s dusk.
If your chickens aren’t in their coop yet gently move them towards the coop- we do this by using a large sheet of wood (8×6 foot).
Have a person at either end of the wood and drag the wood across the floor- moving the chickens back towards their coop.
It’s important that any move you make around the chickens is calm and slow; don’t charge at them with the wood whatever you do!
We found this great video if you need other creative ways to catch your chickens. Or if you don’t want to watch the video, look at Tips for Catching Chickens.
A great question at this point which people ask is: “is all this necessary if I’m planning on letting my chicken’s free-range”?
This is still necessary and perhaps even more important if you’re planning on letting your chicken’s free-range. Before they free range they need to know exactly where their home is.
Otherwise, you will find your chickens roosting in nearby trees if you’re not careful…
How Long Until Your Chickens Settle In?
You may find that for the following week or so your chickens need to be encouraged to leave the coop in the morning and go back to it during dusk.
As previously mentioned, to do this, just leave the coop door open and sprinkle food out in the pen.
After a week or so, they will leave and return to their coop on their own and your chickens will be settling in nicely.
It’s at this point that if you are planning on letting your chickens free range, you can take down your temporary pen and let them roam!
After their first day of free-ranging, make sure they return back to their coop during the evening.
Interestedin learning more about the benefits of keeping free-range chickens?
There are certain signs to look for to check if your chickens are settling in and becoming happy in their new environment:
- They should dig for bugs and merrily cluck as they do so!
- Oh speaking of clucking, they should begin to cluck to each other more often.
- Another great sign is that they will take dust baths.
This behavior will be in stark contrast to unhappy and scared hens. Unhappy hens will pace around constantly and are very noisy.
You will learn to notice the difference between a scared squawk and a happy cluck.
After a week or so, if you have any pets or young children you can now introduce them to the chickens. For the first week, we’d just let them settle in on their own without the audience!
If you do have any dogs, make sure to keep them on a leash when you introduce them to your chickens.
You might be surprised to find that chickens can actually recognize their owners’ dogs- read more here.
When Will My Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
The answer to this question mainly depends on both the breed and age of the chickens which you’ve bought.
Some breeds, such as Buff Orpingtons, can lay over 200 eggs per year whereas other breeds, such as Silkies don’t lay that many (up to 100 eggs per year).
Of course, the other factor is age.
If you’ve purchased a started pullet (a hen that’s between 15-22 weeks old) then you should find within 3-4 weeks of them arriving you will have your first egg!
You will probably find the first few eggs will have soft shells and might be slightly odd shapes, this will settle down after a week or so- if this continues read what to feed them.
However, if you’ve purchased matured chickens (aged 1 year old +) you will find they start laying sooner.
Give them several days to settle in and you should find they start laying again.
Also, you might find that they start laying as soon as they arrive, and then after a few days stop laying. This is normal. Give them a few days to settle in and they should start laying again.
As a general rule of thumb, pure breed pullets (Rhode Islands, Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, etc.) will start to lay eggs from around 20 weeks. Hybrid pullets will start at around 18 weeks old.
One last thing to remember is the time of year greatly affects when your chickens will start laying.
If you get your chickens during the winter, then it will be a lot longer until they start laying. However, get your chickens in the spring and they should be up and laying in no time!
READ MORE: Best Beginner Chicken Breeds
Bringing Chickens Home For The First Time: Conclusion
It’s very exciting to be bringing chickens home for the first time. Still, there are many things to consider before actually putting those birds in your coop.
You want the safety of your new chickens and existing flock. So, it’s important to quarantine the new birds to detect early signs of illnesses.
Getting chickens for the first time also means preparing all the basics beforehand including the feeder, coop, chicken feeds, and the like.
Don’t forget to keep doing research once you have new chickens in the flock. You may face unexpected issues in the future and it’s better to be prepared.
Do you have any other tricks to settle in your new chickens? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below…