2 Yr Old RIR hen needs companion(s)

Rusty's Ranch

10 Years
Mar 25, 2009
So Cal
We lost one of our girls to internal laying a few months ago, leaving Penny an "only child". Penny is a RIR and is approximately 2 years old. Penny has a great personality, but is a dominant hen.

We brought her in the house to be a house chicken since she was apparently very lonely, but it isn't enough. We noticed she sits in front of the mirrored closet doors for hours and talks to herself.

In an effort to get her outside more, I positioned a mirror out in her run. She was intrigued at first, but then looked behind the mirror and realized I had played a trick on her. She "yelled" at me and grumped at me the entire morning. Makes me think she REALLY needs a companion other than me and the dogs!

So ... any suggestions on what type of hen to get. I was hoping not to have to get chicks, but will if that's the only way. I was told that we might do well with a different breed that's more submissive like a silkie.

Anyone have suggestions on what to get that would be a good companion for a dominant RIR hen?

Can you get two to add?

If it was me. I would try to find teenagers or close to POL (point of lay) chickens if you can. (you have a quarantine area, if not – then I would get a couple chicks - but still you need brooder area)

If you get two, they will be friends with each other. You will not have a super lonely, confused, scared bird - they will buddy up.

Penny will not be able to focus her dominant behavior on just one bird, it will need to be split between the two. Sometimes a single bird brings out more aggression in the “home defender” – because Penny will likely see them as intruders first.

Once they come out of quarantine - put them in the run, while Penny free ranges for a bit each day (for a couple days, a week depending upon how Penny reacts) - then let them free range the yard together. If you have space in the coop, let the younsters sleep in a dog crate at night - this will let Penny and them grow accustom to each other quicker.

I would not add a silkie if Penny is a large RIR (would be ok if she is a bantam) and not if she is a mean dominant. I like EE (easter eggers - sometimes sold as Americanas by hatcherys or feed stores) and you have a chance of getting green eggs or bluish green eggs.
Thank you for the input. Penny is a small bird, not a bantam, but on the thin side. I think you make a good point about adding 2 more birds -- I'm just afraid they will all learn to use the dog door and then I'll have THREE birds in the house!! I was thinking Americana and Maran, or Barred Rock - any thoughts on the Barred Rock's and Maran's personalities?

Also, hadn't thought about quarantine. How long should we keep the birds apart? Penny currently sleeps in a dog kennel in the house
. The new birds could be put in the coop/run and we could keep Penny out of the garden where the coop is. Would this work?

I'm also concerned about reproductive problems. Lost one bird to it already and had a scare with Penny. Not really looking for heavy egg producers, just healthy, happy birds that will be around for awhile.

In the garden for Penny during the day would work - as long as they do not come in contact with each other.

I do not have any Marans, I have one BR. She joined my flock as an adult and is a bit pushy. My flock is mostly orpington blood (even my EEs) and they are really laid back.

For the reproductive issues (I totally understand) - I would look for someone close to you, or within driving distance that crosses their flock with a hertiage (apa) bird or someone who breeds heritage chickens. (or see if you can split an order with others from a heritage breeder who ships chicks)

Heritage lay later, which allows bone structure to mature and their internal organs – reproductive tract being very important - to mature also.

Quarantine for 30 days and longer - if you feel the need (some QT for 6 weeks). I have read of "problems" not showing themselves for a couple weeks in quarantine birds.
If you want to worry about quarantine, you can, but with just one bird, I would just get them together asap. It is a risk, but you are only risking one bird, not a flock. And chances are you will be fine.

Just another opinion, if you don't have a great space for a quarantine. And you want to solve the loneliness problem as quick as possible.

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Thanks so much for all the input. I've been reading up on biosecurity and there's a lot to consider before adding to your flock. Gives me a lot to think about ... won't rush into anything until we're ready to set up a proper quarantine.

Penny's been alone for awhile now and it won't hurt her to hang out with me and the dogs a little while longer

Think we'll look for 2 additional birds - may go with chicks if I can get hubby on board. Adding more chickens to the family is a big decision, especially in light of their potential life span. Not something to rush into.

Thanks again ... it's nice to have folks to toss things around with.

I think we'll set up a quarantine area just to be safe. Even though I only have 1 bird, we kid that she's "Penny the Wonder Chicken" and I'd hate to have anything happen to her. We believe she's not really a chicken, but an alien disguised in a chicken suit. My husband swears he's seen her trying to build rudimentary tools

If she wasn't so stinking smart, I might just go for it and see what happens - but she's become too precious to us to take any chances.
My BR girls just tore the skin off of the neck and head of my new EE girl, so they may be a bit too rough... though before this incident they were great birds- they just really pick on the little EE.

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