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Merging the chickens

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

First off I know that many people have made posts like this because I read through them, but I feel that my situation may be more unique than others so decided to ask the pros directly.

Here is the scenario I am facing. We have a very large fenced yard that is well maintained with two vegetable gardens, flower gardens, etc. We have two chickens that have the chicken pen that are almost two years old. We also have two chickens, that I will refer to as the chicks, that are just old enough to start laying their eggs that have a makeshift wire coop and dog house that was thrown together for them. The chickens and the chicks are let out to wander the yard at will during the day, but even now stay separate at night. All chickens are Golden Sexlinks.

Roughly two months have gone by doing this, but a problem has emerged. At first, the chicks would keep their distance from the chickens, and would usually be found at opposite ends of the yard. However, lately I have been finding the chicks huddled in a corner (a place where there is no food i might add) some place random just laying there or just standing there! I figured something was up, so yesterday I spent a good amount of time watching them out of the windows, and then i saw it! When one of the chicks would find something good to eat, the chickens would fly/run up to them ASAP, at which time the chick would go into the terrified "OK IM SORRY" stance of lowering its head all the way to the ground, and standing there petrified while the two chickens would peck at its head continuously. When I witnessed it, I had time to run down the stairs, get my shoes on, and run out there the entire time the chick was getting abused. At the time I was very angry, and gave the "alpha" chicken a hard enough kick to give it a limp. That was enough to send that chicken into hiding for the rest of the day, but later I witnessed the same thing between the second chicken and one of the other chicks!

The problem is that eventually I need to get them all in the same coup with proper behavior. The chicks are just as big as the chickens now, and of the same species but they are TERRIFIED of them, probably because of the pecking. When I go out to scatter scratch for them, the chicks get chased off if one of the chickens even comes close. I do not have time to sit there and play rooster with them, and must find a way to get them to coexist without any suffering.

Am I doomed? Am I doing anything right? What should I do next?


Edited by slek - 7/7/10 at 6:23pm
post #2 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by slek 

First off I know that many people have made posts like this because I read through them, but I feel that my situation may be more unique than others so decided to ask the pros directly.

Here is the scenario I am facing. We have a very large fenced yard that is well maintained with two vegetable gardens, flower gardens, etc. We have two chickens that have the chicken pen that are almost two years old. We also have two chickens, that I will refer to as the chicks, that are just old enough to start laying their eggs that have a makeshift wire coop and dog house that was thrown together for them. The chickens and the chicks are let out to wander the yard at will during the day, but even now stay separate at night. All chickens are Golden Sexlinks.

Roughly two months have gone by doing this, but a problem has emerged. At first, the chicks would keep their distance from the chickens, and would usually be found at opposite ends of the yard. However, lately I have been finding the chicks huddled in a corner (a place where there is no food i might add) some place random just laying there or just standing there! I figured something was up, so yesterday I spent a good amount of time watching them out of the windows, and then i saw it! When one of the chicks would find something good to eat, the chickens would fly/run up to them ASAP, at which time the chick would go into the terrified "OK IM SORRY" stance of lowering its head all the way to the ground, and standing there petrified while the two chickens would peck at its head continuously. When I witnessed it, I had time to run down the stairs, get my shoes on, and run out there the entire time the chick was getting abused. At the time I was very angry, and gave the "alpha" chicken a hard enough kick to give it a limp. That was enough to send that chicken into hiding for the rest of the day, but later I witnessed the same thing between the second chicken and one of the other chicks!

The problem is that eventually I need to get them all in the same coup with proper behavior. The chicks are just as big as the chickens now, and of the same species but they are TERRIFIED of them, probably because of the pecking. When I go out to scatter scratch for them, the chicks get chased off if one of the chickens even comes close. I do not have time to sit there and play rooster with them, and must find a way to get them to coexist without any suffering.

Am I doomed? Am I doing anything right? What should I do next?


Is your situation "more unique than others" because you kicked your chicken hard enough "to give it a limp"?

It sounds to me like the chickens are just doing what comes naturally to them when they establish their pecking order. If the "chicks" have the space to get away from the "chickens", which it sounds like they do, then let them figure it out on their own. At some point the "chickens" are going to venture far enough away from the feed and water that the "chicks" will be able to eat and drink, so no worries there. Honestly, it sounds like you'd be better off ignoring them rather than getting so frustrated that you hurt them more than they hurt each other.

BTW, we've got the same thing going on in our flock. The young pullets were left alone until they were almost as big as the older hens. That's when the serious pecking began, and the subservient posture. It's what they do. In due time, they sorted it out. Now the pullets keep the newest batch of chicks away from the yummy stuff. While you might not consider their behavior "proper", it is typical.  It's just the nature of things.

post #3 of 13

It is quite normal for them to fight they fight over food, nesting boxes, roosting spots, and everything else in the world.

Plenty of times my alpha hen will peck another hens comb until is bleed, I just tap her head with my finger to get her stop, but if I am not there nothing worse then a spike missing ever happens, and the combs heal very quickly.

Nature takes care of everything that we don't mess with.


ETA: that stance with the head near the ground is basically bowing to the queen, it is not terror but a 'Your majesty' to the alpha.


Edited by Hollywood Chickens - 7/8/10 at 11:26am
I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
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I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
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post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

I am not proud of kicking my chicken that hard, and definitely didnt think I did it hard enough to hurt it like that. I had asked some other people what a rooster would do, and I was told that the rooster would be really REALLY mean to an alpha hen which would create a more of an even field for all hens. So, at the time, I thought I was doing right by physically punishing the alpha hen.

I feel my situation is more unique because I have let the chicks live separated from the chickens for so long, that I was not sure I would be able to get them to live in the coup together.

There is "good" food everywhere in our yard. Does this mean that whenever a chick finds something good to eat it is going to get punished like that by one of the older hens? When I go out to give them scratch will I be able to feed the younger and older chickens together or will I have to somehow separate them prior?


Edited by slek - 7/8/10 at 12:46pm
post #5 of 13

Usually in nature "Might makes Right" they will eventually coexist, but for now the hens will eat first and when they are full the chicks will eat.

They will all be fine, don't worry they will not starve your chicks and they will not peck them to death. I put out a few food dishes for my chickens simply because they don't all fit around 1 dish, but if I didn't they would still fight over food, even though they have been merged for 4 months.

Don't feel too bad about kicking the hen, she will be fine and she might hesitate to peck that hen, but then again I do not know how good their memories are smile   

In my experience the pecking order is more fair after the "chicks" start laying.

I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
Reply
I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
Reply
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thank you all very much for the insight and help big_smile

post #7 of 13

I just merged my 2 mo with my 1 yo's, it was six against four and I sat with them for about two hours. Everytime there was some rough aggression, I would get between them and shoo the big ones away. It took two hours for the initial bullying to subside and while there is still some of it now, it's not as bad on day 2. It was funny because these chicks were the previous aggressors in the chick coop, they got a taste of their own medicine and surprisingly the red sex links were coming to my lap for safety. That was a shocker. I will get back in the aggressor's face and remind them I'm boss. It settled them and they already forgot that I was mean yesterday tongue!

16 layers, 1 accidental Roo!
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16 layers, 1 accidental Roo!
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post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

So is there a specific way I should do the actual merging after they figure out the pecking order out in the yard? Maybe I should take the dog house and put it in the chicken coop so the first night they dont have to feel like they should be in where the nests are? Should I do it like AlaskGirl did hers?

Also, I have two food and water dispensers. When I do the merging to the main coop should I put up both pairs or should I make them get used to using just one(I imagine there will be some fuss over this).


Edited by slek - 7/8/10 at 2:31pm
post #9 of 13

I integrate them at night and I make sure the chicks are higher then the hens at night.

I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
Reply
I have a Chicken illness Flow chart but it is a PDF file, so if you PM your email address then I will email it to.
Reply
post #10 of 13

I usually throw the chickens some scratch first thing in the morning, and for us it works like this: throw some scratch and watch the older hens go for it. Once they're happily pecking away, toss some towards the younger pullets. They might get some, but they might not. If not, I just wait a few seconds and try to toss some to the young ones again. Eventually the older ones will have settled down and the younger ones will have their turn.

The fact that the chickens are able to more or less free range during the day is a great set up. I'd be surprised if the young ones are as troubled by the situation as you are. If they were spending all their time in an enclosed run, I might be more concerned. But from the way you've described their living conditions, they'll be just fine. Really. No. Really. And since you don't have a rooster to be the boss, somebody has to do it. Who knows, maybe your alpha hen will turn out to be a good protector and alert the others to danger. I'm not sure how it is where you live, but we've got our share of aerial predators here and I'm glad to know that the hens sound the alarm for one another.

Sometimes I'll read about chickens that are seemingly getting pecked to death, losing all their tail feathers or some such thing. That doesn't seem to be your problem right now, and with only 4 chickens and so much space, it's not likely to happen.  Try some of the suggestions for integrating them into the coop at night if it makes you feel more comfortable. Ours do just fine finding their own places on the roost without human intervention. Everyone settles down at nighttime, so as long as the new ones know where they're supposed to go into the coop with the other two, you could just let them choose their own spot to roost. 

I didn't get the sense from your initial post that the chickens were being raised separately since you said they roam the garden together during the day. I can't think of a better way to let them get used to each other. If you had a broody hen, she'd bring her peeps into the flock and defend them from the others for a while, then they'd be on their own. Kind of like yours are now. But you needn't worry that the young ones won't ever get any of the good stuff you've got in your yard. The older chickens aren't going to spend all their time stalking the younger ones for the occasional yummy morsel. They'll be too busy doing their own scratching. Really good stuff is never assured to the one who finds it though. It doesn't matter where the hen falls in the pecking order. If somebody finds a snake or a frog, you can be sure that they'll have to run pretty fast if they want to keep it.

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