3 Mean Girls...What to do?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by NoAgenda, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. NoAgenda

    NoAgenda New Egg

    Oct 20, 2016
    So we just started with backyard chickens about a month ago. We got 3 that are about 18 months old and had them for two weeks. It went really well so we got 3 more that are about 8 months old. The problems started when we put them together. The first bunch jumps on the backs of the new ones and tries to tear out their combs. We quickly put a stop to it and set up a second run where they could all look at each other, but the groups could not interact with each other. Every few days, we'll let them together for a bit and the same thing happens. Two weeks later it still happens every time we try.
    Whats the solution? Should I try to replace the first 3 mean girls? Do I keep trying? I'm afraid if I let them all alone together for more than a few minutes the mean girls are going to just kill the newer bunch.
    Advice is appreciated!

  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Chickens take their social order very seriously. They do not take kindly to newcomers. The most important factor when trying to integrate two flocks is space. You need a lot more than the usual estimates for an established flock. You need, at minimum, separate, but nearby, living quarters for both flocks. After living side-by-side for at least a month, you can then allow them to start mingling. Ideally, you'll have at least 20 sq ft of common run space per bird. Multiple feed and water stations in different positions around the run will help reduce territorial tensions.
    It takes space and time. Playing musical chickens will only add to stress levels. And remember, it's called pecking order for a reason. Chasing, grabbing, and pecking are all part of normal behavior and is essential for a stable flock social order.
    1 person likes this.
  3. NoAgenda

    NoAgenda New Egg

    Oct 20, 2016
    Ok great! I've got plenty of space. It looks pretty brutal when they start grabbing the combs and stuff. Will the mean ones actually kill or maim the new ones? Or does it just seem that way and I should let them duke it out?
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    As long as nobody is getting seriously injured, leave them to it. It will seem brutal. But it is absolutely necessary for a peaceful flock in the future.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Try putting one of the older hens in with the younger girls. She'll be outnumbered, and not able to chase them all at once. Use the bigger space for this, put the two older girls in the smaller area. make sure there are some hiding places for your younger birds, this can be as simple as a piece of plywood, etc leaned up against the side of the run. She may try to chase the younger ones around, but as long as they have enough space to get away from her she should lose interest. Toss some scratch, etc out to give a distraction.

    See how that goes for a few days, with just the one older hen. If things are good, add in another one. Rinse and repeat.

    Breaking up the established group of the older girls often seems to do the trick.

    do you have at least 10 square feet per bird in the run? That's going to be a big factor.
    1 person likes this.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
  7. lynnehd

    lynnehd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2015
    Vancouver, Wa.
    Great suggestions above.

    @NoAgenda , do you ever free range your chickens? Mixing them while free ranging might be more successful initially, even if just an hour per day.
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I am a believer in a cluttered run. Multiple levels where birds can get away from each other, and hide outs.

    The pecking order should work like this: two birds meet, the higher bird indicates that she is higher, and the lower bird accepts this by moving away, out of sight. The higher bird accepts this as her due, and peace is in the flock. I have seen two bird approach feed, a peck, lower bird, move away out of sight, and with in seconds, eating beside the higher bird. Think of it as curtsying to the queen.

    The key is the lower bird HAS to be able to show deference. Often times I see runs, where they are just an open rectangle. No use of the third dimension of height is used. By adding some pallets up on blocks, setting up a partial wall in the middle of the run, adding some roosts, allows the lower birds to get away and out of sight. Do make sure that none of these are a trap, there should be two exits to each of them.

    What happens when there is no place for the lower bird to get out of sight, is that the older bird thinks, that even though they may have moved away, they are still challenging the older birds. And a continuous attacking goes on.

    Have multiple water and feed. Often times I put a single pallet up on 4 cement blocks, so that it is about 8 inches off the ground, all birds can get under it, but it is uncomfortable for the older birds. I often place water and feed under this. Gives the younger birds a place to eat without so much competition. A food and water station behind a wall out of sight of the other feed bowl is also a good set up.

    Mrs K
  9. Elemes

    Elemes Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2016
    My Coop
    I like this idea of the pallet! I have 6 new chicks to integrate in a few weeks and think this is a swell idea. Thanks!

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