Discouraging Bullying Chicken Behavior
I am a relatively new chickener.
I did everything completely bass ackwards.
I bought baby chicks before I had a coop.
I bought more chicks 6 weeks later and that made my by then coop too
small for the number of chickens I had.
I mixed breeds, some with combs, some without, some light some dark,
some white, some black, all different ages sizes and colors and health.
I agreed to take 8 rescue chickens from an unknown person and I
imediately mixed them in with all of the others.
I nursed sick chickens and tried to keep them with my flock.
Then I agreed to trade a perfectly peaceful chicken for a known bully from another flock.
Oh, and did I mention I kept a psychopathic goose with my chickens for 6 months?
These are all major mistakes that usually lead to bullying, torture, blood and worry among a flock. It also usually leads to less egg production, stressed chickens that get sick easily and an unfulfilling chickener experience. Always avoid the above referenced mistakes.
I’ve asked myself, after all of these mistakes,
“Self, why do you have a peaceful flock of happy laying chickens?” This is what I replied:
Number one trick to peaceful: Good Roosters
Roosters will work together if raised together from chicks.
Roosters will strategically surround the flock and be the look out.
Roosters will not allow chickens to fight each other.
Roosters will eat last and share the best with the hens.
Roosters protect even the newest lowliest and sickest hens.
Roosters are always alert to danger and will let out a
warning and/or fight to the death to protect the flock.
Roosters make hens feel nurtured, cared for and protected.
Number two trick to peaceful: Space in the yard
Chickens will hang out with their friends in a large yard
Chickens will be able to avoid conflict in a large yard.
Chickens will not get as bored in a large yard.
Chickens will be happier in a large yard.
Number three trick to peaceful: The psychology of plenty
Plenty of food, plenty of water, plenty of snacks makes chickens relax.
Plenty of feeders so none are dominated means everyone eats without incident.
Plenty of stability keeps chickens relaxed.
What I mean by stability is, let them out at about the same time, close them up at about the same time, give them table tossings at about the same time every day and they become content with the world.
Number four trick to peaceful: Act like a Good Rooster
Spend time watching over your flock.
Protect your flock from predators.
Look after the sickly and the weaker hens.
Share goodies with your flock.
Show your commitment to your flock every day.
Handle your chickens gently.
Watch how your chickens care for each other and appreciate those that are more sensitive because they are the glue in your flock.
Value each chicken for what she brings to the overall flock.
Number five trick to peaceful: Expected results
Your expectation is what your chickens will give you.
I expect any problems in my flock to resolve within a week.
I expect a bully hen to have a rough day and then fit in.
I expect my animals to respect each other.
I expect a sick chicken to get better fast.
So, among my mistakes, I brought in new chicks. I kept them in a crate in the coop with the older ones until they were big enough to mix in. The first chickens did not fully integrate with the younger ones until they were all laying and mature. However they never tormented each other.
My coop is still too small for the number of chickens I have, however, I don’t leave them in the coop unless there is a predator around and they know that. On the rare days they are “cooped up” I spiff them with cabbage and corn.
They know I have their best interests at heart.
I mixed up my breeds to the point that there are only a few of each and that makes them more tolerant of the ones that are different than them. They are all so different that they have accepted that different is normal.
I let the rescue chickens have the time and space to work out the pecking order on their own, even though they were puny and pale I respected their ability to handle their own issues and I expected the healthier larger chickens to behave.
I gave extra food and treats for a couple weeks until the new order was established. I did not over think it and move them around on their roosts or interfere. I observed and gave them all plenty. With the new chickens came new and varied treats and the roosters took care of everything else.
I let the Roosters be the referees. Never underestimate a roosters’ sensitivity to the flock. Roosters, better than anyone, know how to bring peaceful resolution.
My bully trade hen had been pecking and torturing her old flock mates for months. Many of them so badly they had to be separated to heal. In one day with my flock she got pecked hard enough to bleed a little. I left her be, acted like it was not a big deal and that evening I put wunder dust on the pecked comb and the whole flock watched me do that- from the roost. The next day she was hobnobbing, eating with the best of them and she’s been happily roosting each night on the second rung. I’m telling you, act like a rooster. Ignore minor squabbles, protect the weak, be subtle sometimes and sometimes let the whole flock see what your motives are. Now I have an assertive peaceful new flock member who is content among her betters and her lowers. It took 2 days.
If you are nursing a sick chicken that might die, separate her with in sight of her flock. You will be surprised by the behavior of her friends. They are very aware of what you are doing. One of my chickens actually sang a cooing song for a whole afternoon to a sick old rescue chicken that did actually die. So, here is to plenty. Plenty of respect, plenty of caring attention, plenty of the body language an animal always understands.
If you are nursing a sick chicken that probably will not die then just doctor her up and let her back with her mates. That is the least stressful on them all. If it’s a toss up on the survival aspect, separate within sight.
Number six trick to peaceful: One week allowed
If you have a problem that is not resolved in 1 week then cull the problem.
Your flock will visibly relax when the problem, in my case a crazy goose, is gone.
Your flock will get a sense of your timing and self correct smaller issues quickly. Issues like laying eggs in the wrong place. Show your disappointment if you find an egg on the floor. Shake your head and make a sound that they will learn.
Get excited when they hunt a mouse and let them know you are glad about it.
Give your flock a language they can understand from you and they will do the same. Watch them to learn their language. Then you will know what they need or what is lacking and you can provide it quickly and efficiently and they will be peaceful no matter how many stupid mistakes you make. They will feel heard and understood. Like all creatures this will give them peace.
I liken it to raising kids, the relaxed observant mother has confident kids that behave. It seems magical to an outsider, but she makes sure her kids have eaten before they have to wait in line, have played at the playground for a couple hours before she needs them to sit still in church, have gone over the rules of behavior before visiting a friend……mmmm.
Good luck with peaceful!