Added two new chickens - lots of pecking - HELP!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by eric777, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. eric777

    eric777 New Egg

    Jan 17, 2011
    Well, here's another "our chickens are fighting" thread....

    We have an established flock of four laying hens - a Silkie, a Rhode Island Red, a Barred Rock and an Americana.

    All have gotten along nicely from the day we got them from a friend.....the Silkie tends to get picked on, but there is rarely any kind of fighting.

    We recently added two 4+ month old hens from another flock - one Maran and one light Brahma. They are close to the same size as our other chickens, though larger than our Silkie.

    We introduced them, after being quarantined, by adding them to our coop, but separated the new hens from the other chickens with the use of a large dog fence that divides the run in half. After a few days of watching the chickens and not seeing any aggressive acts, we quietly put the new hens in the roost at night without any issues. But first thing the next morning, found that most of our other chickens were aggressively going after the new hens. The Silkie in particular (she is most likely has been the bottom of the established pecking order) has been very aggressive towards the new hens and has drawn blood by pulling out tail and leg feathers. And once blood was spilled, the other starting pecking at the new girls too.

    We quickly separated the chickens again by again using the dog fence. The new hens look a bit scared and tend to avoid being too close to the dividing fence as the Silkie is pacing back and forth and will try and take a peck at them if they are too close. A bit of Vicks on the new Hen's tail areas seemed to keep the flock from pecking for enough time to allow the blood to dry.

    We have checked the feed situation, and our chickens are eating 18% protein chicken feed, and they also have Chicken Scratch and Oyster Shells mixed in. We also added treats in the coop when we tried to integrate the flock, but that sort of distraction did not seem to stop the aggressive attacks.

    We have also let all the chickens out to play in the garden, and they all played very nicely, scratching, having dirt baths and looking for bugs. There were no hostile acts and all seemed fine. As of today, the three existing hens (minus the Silkie) do not seem too agressive towards the new hens once back in the coop, but when the Silkie was reintroduced, she made a beeline for the Brahma and began pecking away. We know the Silkie is small, but wow, she sure seems to pack a punch!

    We understand that some pecking is normal to re-establish a new pecking order, but we are having a hard time standing by and watching blood begin to flow from our new hens.

    What should we do? Give the hens more time to become used to each other in their separate areas and have them "play" more outside of the coop? Keep trying to put the new hens in the hen house at night and hope for the best the next morning? Separate the Silkie on one side of the coop, and let the others be together since they seem to be less aggressive?

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I'd separate the silkie for several days then try again while they are out and about. I'd also stop mixing scratch into their feed as this just lowers the protein. Scratch is chicken candy and should be given like any treat, occasionally, and in small quantities. I'd also offer grit and oyster shell separately. The bottom of a soda bottle wired to the wall makes a good container for oyster shell or grit.

    And yes, in the end they have to work out the pecking order. Generally, people intervene when blood flows, because a chicken can really go after a bloody wound. BluKote is a popular wound treatment because it hides the blood. Flour or corn starch will stop bleeding.
  3. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    I think you need a longer segregation/integration period. The newbies need their own lodging, even if its temporary, and their own small pen/run area. If you can set that up INSIDE your regular run, that would be best. That way, whenever anybody is outside (not in the coops) they can see and hear each other, bump chests through the fence, peck at but not cause injury, etc. I do this for two weeks before I take down the temporary fencing to allow everybody access to each other.

    That's just how it works for me and my flock.
  4. abhaya

    abhaya Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2010
    cookeville, tn
    Quote:I agree just keep them close but seperate a but longer
  5. kristen2678

    kristen2678 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2009
    North Berwick Maine
    When I introduced my new girls they were all allowed to freerange together but they went back to thier own spaces at night. We did this for more than a month. The silkie is trying to make a jump in rank. Any blood will cause more attacks so be careful with that. I think they need more time.
  6. chickenology

    chickenology Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 3, 2010
    Do you have hiding places for the chickens to get away from each other? I am new to chickens and am having a hard time imagining something as sweet and docile as a silkie behaving so aggressively. Good luck!
  7. eric777

    eric777 New Egg

    Jan 17, 2011
    Thanks to all of you for your advise and tips.....

    We will keep them separated for a longer period, while still allowing them to play in the garden together. Hopefully, this will help everyone adjust.

    We'll report back once everyone is happily living together.
  8. dwegg

    dwegg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Yes I agree here. I have introduced new chickens twice to my flock and all has been well. They need at least two weeks of seeing and not touching and then gradually let the new chickens put to free range together while you are there as referee.

    It will always be the lowest of the original flock to be the most aggressive as she is trying to hold her place now above the new comers. That has been the case both times I have introduced new girls.
  9. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Quote:Mine, too. Luckily, this is pretty much only at the "who gets to eat first" or "who gets treats first" or "who gets to eat out of Big Person's hands" situations. And it's one reason why I have more than one feeder. The "I am higher in rank than YOU newbies!" syndrome can be pretty fierce at first.

    Pecking order stuff is hard for humans to observe, but it's The Chicken Way.
  10. eric777

    eric777 New Egg

    Jan 17, 2011
    Update -

    With all of your nice suggestions above, we kept the chickens separated and have had them free-ranging together in the afternoons. The Silkie continued to show little aggression outside of the coop, but as soon as they all came in, she would just make a bee-line for the new hens and begin pecking away. More time needed I guess.....

    Well, this morning we found a bit of a surprise....our new birds and our existing flock had decided it was time to get together, so they found a small gab in the fence separating the coop, and all got together. We were shocked/thrilled when we found them this way this morning....We decided that since they came up with the new living arrangement, we would let it be and see what happened.

    This afternoon, there still is the occasional peck from one of the older hens, but in general, things are looking very normal and peaceful. The Silkie seems to be more mellow and doing less agressive pecks. Phew!

    So, thanks to all of you for your suggestions - seems like the "look, but don't touch" strategy is a really good idea, and taking 1-2 weeks to let the hens work out the new environment seems like a good healthy plan.

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