hi :) been using this website forever but this is my first post so i'm sorry if this is posted elsewhere, and I would *so* love to hear from other people experiences with this.
I have a mixed bag flock of four birds-I don't know the two bigger girls breeds but they're pretty and about 4lbs each, a silician buttercup bantam hen about 1.5lb, and a 20lb jersey giant rooster.. who was supposed to be a hen, but isn't that what everyone always says? :p
my question today is about our bantam girl. she was badly injured awhile back (somehow got out of the coop at night and ripped open the back of her neck trying to get back in through the fencing). she's a fighter so she's fine now but the awful injury left an awful scar on her neck where the feathers are never going to come back. the bald spot is basically proving to be a target sign to the others and I've tried putting her back twice now. both times, everyone is so mean to her, I cant leave her in there. they draw blood. all these birds were raised together and never had a problem before this. I think part of our problem is that we had a nasty r.i.r hen that may have taught my girls bad dominence habits. (it was an older hen we rescued and we quickly found out why she was unwanted, and rehomed her to a house where she can see and talk to other birds without straight interaction with them. they named her zombie for her evil ways but she is loved there). I'm not sure how to get them to accept my sweet tiny hen without really hurting her. she's obviously lonely for other birds. on the back of her neck, her skin is practically rice-paper thin in places, but they need to re-establish a pecking order and that involves....pecking. has anyone ever seen a shield for that area? or is there some sort of deterent I can apply? what if i get a few more small hens as like-sized buddies? would it helps if everyone was new and confused? my other half thinks maybe trading where everyone is for a few days would help, so the coop smells like and is 'dominated' by my bantam and then replace the other birds slowly.. add the lowest rung hen, then the alpha, then the rooster.. has anyone tried something like that? hiding spots don't seem to quite cut it, she just huddles until she's dehydrated- even if theres a water and food sorce nearby that the others aren't using. and as soon as one of us humans is in the coop, she flies to our shoulders and wont get off because shes afraid to be on the ground. if we didn't have young cats I would just make her into a house chicken, honestly :p
to compound issues, my rooster has a developed a feather plucking issue and I'm addressing it with more protein, more calcium and more activities to keep them busy but until he's re-focused his attentions I see him basically killing her, just because she's so fragile already. (plus his being 18lbs more than her, which is already a worry with those two. does anyone else have a giant rooster with itty-bitty hens?.. does it work out?)
it's winter here for real now in northern california, and I need my dog run back for my dog and the little hen to be able to keep warm and happy with her flock, so this is becoming a real issue for the family as a whole.