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Traumatized chicken is afraid of other chickens

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

We have recently added a fourth chicken to our flock with a sad history. Some friends of ours had four wonderful Ameraucanas that were more than a year old and tried to introduce two more much younger birds from a nearby flock. Things went VERY badly, but the larger of the two frequently protected the smaller RIR by spreading her wings over her when they were being attacked. One day, they killed the larger hen, and the small RIR was immediately resegregated in an adjacent pen.


Well, two weeks ago, it became clear that the integration was never going to take. They were looking for a home for a traumatized young hen, and we knew we couldn't do any worse to her than was already done. Her history has left her under human care a few times, and she has turned into the sweetest gentlest little pet bird. We gave her the hopeful name, Phoenix. We have a large yard, so when we introduced her to the flock, she had plenty of space to run and hide. And boy is she fast, and she can leap and climb like a ninja. She slept in a dog kennel for a few days, then we put her in on the roost at night. They continued to have free reign over the yard during the day, and pretty soon, the others stopped messing with her. They might peck occasionally, but no more than they do each other I think.


The problem is that Phoenix hasn't noticed that she has been accepted into a flock. She is terrified of them. She only wants to be around humans. She would spend most of every day up on the porch steps (where the others have been conditioned to avoid so that we don't have poop all over the porch). So, two days ago, now that the others seem to have accepted her, we connected a new larger "play pen" to the coop (with chicken toys), and closed her in there, where the other hens could get to her. Every time they came in, she would freak out, and they would mostly just stare. She continues to hide or ninja-climb the walls throughout the day, and at night she hides in the nesting boxes rather than roost with the others until I put her up on the roost half asleep. Today, she's trying to hide in the nesting boxes all day long, and I don't think she's eating or drinking much at all. She hasn't really this entire two week period.


So, finally, to my question. Closing her in closer to the others seemed to help the integration, I think. But now she's hiding again (and pooping in the nesting boxes!). So I'm thinking of closing off the upper room of the coop with the nesting boxes for the day until she mingles a little and has some food and water. Does this sound like it will be helpful? Or am I just pushing her too hard? My concern is that her fear is depriving her of food, water, and pretty much anything else she might need. Will forcing her to be with the others (who are paying her very little attention now) make it worse? Or better?

post #2 of 3
Sorry english is not my first language. Poor baby. Definite not let poop in nest. I would put scared chicken plus 1 calmest fattest oldest chicken you have in flock in small space. Give plenty treat,so too busy eating to be scared. If still scared after 2 days, decide if life full of fear is real life. Acting scared and floppy around will attraction predators. I keep finger crossing!
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Update on Phoenix:

I decided not to do anything different. All of our other birds were the same age, and had already accepted her. So we left things alone. For a few more weeks, I continued to move her out of the nesting box and onto the roost nightly. She seemed to calm down just a bit more, gradually, but the magical cure was ultimately sexual maturity.

One day, I found a third egg in the box, which I figured out eventually was hers. I think that very evening ended up being her last attempt to sleep in the nesting box. And from then on, she seemed remarkably more confident around the others.She still separated from the others a bit when foraging, for a couple of months, but less and less so. By winter, she seemed pretty well integrated. And after being cooped up with them through a lot of the winter, she's just as much a part of the flock now as any.

But she still holds a special place in her little bird heart for humans. Whenever I come to secure the coop after sundown, I peak in on them. She always gives a sleepy cooing and sketches her neck forward for a little petting. Just her. The others are friendly, but she... seems to love us.
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