Bully three day old chick - bloodying other chicks. :(

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by danceswithronin, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. danceswithronin

    danceswithronin Chirping

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    I've got a brand new small flock of day old chickens that were shipped to me on the 5th - one White Rock and four bantam silkies. These are my first chickens ever. For the first few days it was a peaceable kingdom. I saw ZERO aggression between chicks and I sat with these birds at least an hour a day just watching them or intermittently handling them to get them used to being handled. No problem.

    Today it got very hot (mid-90s) and the brooder is in a garage that is closed most of the day. My five year-old nephews also came by while I was at work and my dad let them handle the chicks, which I think may have stressed them out as well.

    Long story short, I came home to one very aggressive chick and several other chicks with their vents bloodied and swollen. The bully chick (by far the smallest chick in the bunch) was mercilessly going after the other chicks. It sneaks up behind them and bites them directly in the ass, leaving the attacked chick to scream and basically drag this little jerk across the brooder behind them. For some reason this little bantam bully especially has it out for my White Rock, which is by far my favorite chick so far, so that really got my blood boiling. The White Rock is also the calmest, most friendly chick of the group, and much larger than all the other chicks. So it's basically the smallest chick terrorizing the largest chick. The bully chick attacked all the other chicks but especially went after the White Rock and the other buff silkie (but to be fair, the other buff silkie was doing a little toe-pecking of the bully itself, but being totally non-aggressive towards the rest of the flock, so I don't know if that is retaliation or what).

    How I treated the hurt chicks:
    - Gently dabbed at their sore behinds with warm water on a Q-tip to remove any blood, then dabbed a little peroxide to prevent infection.
    - Put a bit of dark green food dye on the bullied chicks' bottoms to cover any blood and let me know that the hurt chicks are still going to the bathroom (they are, I have seen a few green-dyed droppings)

    Things I've tried since to alleviate the issue:
    - Added bits of red wrapping paper scattered through the brooder (they already have a mirror and some bird toys)
    - Marked black dots with a Sharpie at eye level all over the inside of the brooder to give the chicks something to peck at
    - Threw a bunch of weeds with roots and soil in the bottom of the brooder to give them something to peck at (they enjoyed this)
    - Watching the chicks and whenever the bully attacks another chick, poking it with a Q-tip - not hard enough to injure the chick, but sometimes hard enough to bowl it over (this is not sustainable long-term obviously - I don't want to accidentally hurt the bully chick or make it afraid of me, especially since it is one of the most human-affectionate chicks I have)
    - Putting the offending chick in "chick jail" for 30 minutes - a plastic travel tank (1 gallon) with a lid of water and some feed broadcast in the bottom on top of paper towels (this broke my heart to hear the little one cry so plaintively, but I had to give the others a reprieve from the bullying)
    - Put on a fan in the garage and opened the garage door to cool everything off

    Things I'm still going to try tomorrow in the morning:
    - Keeping a shop fan on in the garage to circulate air
    - Cutting a panel in the top of the big tupperware container I'm using as a brooder and installing a panel of hardware cloth, so I can snap the lid on and safely leave the garage door open all day to prevent heat from building up in there and irritating the chicks
    - Close observation and repeated isolation of the bully chick in "chick jail" if it picks up its shitty habits again in the morning

    Preliminary Results: The chick jail seemed to work pretty well. After a 30 minute period in it, the offending chick seemed to improve its aggressive behavior. When it tried to start up the bullying again, I immediately scooped it up and returned it to chick jail for another ten minutes. When I released it again this time, it seemed to settle down and there was no more aggressive behavior. The chicks cuddled up for the night in their snuggle puddle as usual. I'm nervous to leave the bully chick loose in the brooder, but I don't want to kill it from stress by isolating it overnight, especially since it is the smallest and probably most likely to become chilled if it's not allowed to sleep under the Brinsea brooder panel with the others.

    So here are my questions:
    - How long should I continue trying the "chick jail" before culling the bully chick? I really, really would hate to do this, as I'm very attached to all five and the bully chick has the potential to be very human-friendly. That being said, I'm not going to sacrifice four sweet-tempered chickens for one aggressive chick, especially since there is a 50-50 shot it's a cockerel anyway.
    - Is there anything else I should be doing to treat the injured chicks? They seem to still be active and not in any serious pain, eating and drinking and pooping, but their vents are very swollen. Should I use Desitin or maybe a dab of Neosporin with pain relief added?
    - What other tricks can I try to distract the chicks and prevent further bullying behavior?

    Any advice is appreciated, I'm in uncharted waters here. This is the culprit:
    20180606_064146_resized.jpg
     
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  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Making Coffee

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    How big is your brooder? Is it that tote in the background? Those are stuffy and don't have good air exchange sometimes. Hopefully you aren't providing extra heat.

    They are already too hot at anytime over 90 degrees. They can go outside in the grass in a pen at those temperatures to keep busy. Provide shade.

    I occasionally see that behavior in a chick. They generally grow out of it. I make a small circle of hardware for a jail and put them in it in the brooder if necessary. I would not cull a chick for being vigorous and healthy.
     
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  3. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

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    After reading through your entire post, it sounds like you've been doing your reading. You seem to be doing everything that we recommend.

    Do understand that this bullying is very temporary. Yes, you got hold of a little tyrant, but the hormones that are possibly responsible for this dreadful behavior will have dissipated after about a week, and by the time the chicks are two weeks old, this likely will have passed. Keep up with the poking discipline. It works. But you need to do it every day when you see bad behavior.

    With your warm temperatures, you could be brooding outdoors where the chicks would have much more room, and if you have adult chickens, the chicks will be integrated very early, saving a lot of hassle later on. Read up on outdoor brooding here. https://www.backyardchickens.com/ar...and-start-raising-your-chicks-outdoors.71995/

    New chicks can be quite comfortable at 85F. If the ambient temp is 90F, you wouldn't need any extra heat for the chicks. As for the first aid for the wounds, peroxide isn't a terrific wound dressing. I recommend Blu-kote to disguise the wounds and to help prevent infection. You do not ever want to use any product with the pain reliever "caine" in it as it's toxic to chickens.
     
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  4. danceswithronin

    danceswithronin Chirping

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    May 24, 2018
    > How big is your brooder? Is it that tote in the background?

    It is the tote. It's a 50 gallon, so I thought it was large enough for a brooder since there is almost two feet between the "hot" side of the brooder and the "cool" side (brooder heat panel on one end, feeder and waterer on the other).

    > Those are stuffy and don't have good air exchange sometimes. Hopefully you aren't providing extra heat.

    I'll work on getting them into something else. I've thought about just building a box the same general dimensions as the tupperware container but with wood and hardware cloth, so I can make a lid with a latch for it. I think they'd get better air circulation that way. I was providing a Brinsea EcoBrooder panel at one end of the brooder but I thought they had plenty of room to get away from it if they were uncomfortable from the heat. They seem to stay pretty evenly dispersed throughout the brooder and don't really seem to either huddle under the panel or avoid it. I did take it out at your recommendation though and replaced it with a wicker guinea pig tunnel hide they can huddle under if they want to get some shade.

    > They can go outside in the grass in a pen at those temperatures to keep busy. Provide shade.

    I'll buy some kind of playpen for them today (I saw some made for guinea pigs that looked adequate) so they can go on field trips outside in the shade. I'll just fashion some kind of hardware cloth hood for it.

    > I would not cull a chick for being vigorous and healthy.

    I should clarify that when I say "cull" I just mean remove from my flock, not euthanize. My brother already has dibs on the troublemaker for a housepet should he/she continue to make trouble with the other chicks to the point that it becomes a safety issue for the others.

    > With your warm temperatures, you could be brooding outdoors where the chicks would have much more room

    I'll definitely move towards doing this. I already bought a coop, but I need to rototill the area where it's going flat today (already rented the rototiller) and then I'll get going on getting it set up for them so they can have some time in the fresh air to scratch around. I added to the brooder a small sandy area, some chick grit with probiotics sprinkled throughout, and a bunch of pulled weeds with soil still attached to the roots, and the chicks seem a lot calmer in general and really seem to like foraging in it all. Plus it seems to have cleared up the little bit of pasty butt going on that I had in one or two of the chicks, which I think may have triggered a bit of the butt-pecking going on.

    > As for the first aid for the wounds, peroxide isn't a terrific wound dressing. I recommend Blu-kote to disguise the wounds and to help prevent infection.

    I'll definitely pick up some Blu-kote at Tractor Supply today.

    Thanks for the advice guys, I appreciate it! This morning the bully chick (named Short Round) does seem calmer than yesterday, but I've still had to isolate him/her a few times for attacking the other chicks. I'll continue using "chick jail", poke discipline, and improve the brooder to try and ride this thing out. :)

    EDIT: I got a mesh travel dog pen for large dogs with a zippable top so the chicks can stay outside in it during the day to get fresh air and then when it gets cooler at night, we'll move them into the closed garage with a fan. I'm also going to probably leave the bully chick in a transparent plastic chick jail in the brooder for a few days and see if this behavior subsides when reintroduced. Hopefully if it's just a hormonal phase it'll pass eventually.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
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