“Hatching fever” is a close relative of “chicken math.” It affects people in a similar way to its accumulative cousin. Instead of buying 15 hens when you set out to buy three, which is chicken math, hatching fever results in multitudes of fluffy chicks emerging from the incubator every few weeks. This abundance of babies eventually becomes a gaggle of grown birds, leading to overcrowding in your coop. Too many birds in too small a space can lead to bad behavior among your flock, such as feather picking, pecking, and cannibalism. If you have more than one male, the boys’ battles for supremacy can result in injury for the roosters as well as stress for your hens.
Prevent these petty squabbles and major melees by dividing your oversized flock. While proper housing for each group is one necessity, there’s more to consider than a second coop and run. Follow these three steps to successfully separate your birds into two independent and happy groups.
1. Honor the Buddy System
Chickens are very social animals and, as such, they cultivate relationships with each other and develop close friendships. Avoid adding more stress to already-anxious birds by carefully observing them and noting which individuals pair up or hang out in cliques. Also take note of which chickens have decidedly antagonistic tendencies toward each other. You want to keep friends together when you divide your flock—and also keep enemies apart.
2. Divide the Men of the Henhouse
While hens can live their entire lives without the company of a rooster, having a boy around does have its benefits, especially for a brand new flock. As the new group finds its footing as a separate unit, its rooster can call the girls to whatever tasty morsels he forages, warn them of any approaching threats, real or perceived, and keep them corralled should any of the girls stray too far in exploring her new home. If you have more than one male, splitting your boys up might be more of a necessity than an option to keep the peace among your birds.
3. Make Use of Experienced Hens
Pullets and young hens might be old enough to produce eggs, but being layers doesn’t grant them instant maturity. Older hens have years of experience, making them ideal mentors for the junior generations. Your golden girls can teach your biddies the ways of the chicken world, including how and what to forage, the best places to dust bathe and other important chicken knowledge. Mature hens also serve as superb supervisors for cockerels and young roosters, putting them in their place when they get too full of themselves. Make sure you include at least one older hen when you divide your flock.