Flock Integration - Docile Cockerel Dilemma

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by FurAndFeathers, Jan 19, 2015.

  1. FurAndFeathers

    FurAndFeathers Out Of The Brooder

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    A little background: I have five hens that will be a year old in May. They're all happily laying. I have one Plymouth Barred Rock, one Silver-Laced Wyandotte, one Blue-laced Red Wyandotte, one Blue Cochin and one Silver-laced Cochin. They all get along reasonably well and have a fairly gentle pecking order.

    Fast forward a bit: I purchased two young 'pullets' in October. I guesstimated their ages to have been about 12 weeks old. They're likely six to seven months old now. One Blue Marans and one Salmon Faverolle. They have been under quarantine for a very long time (since October) because they got very sick and I nearly lost them. They've been treated and tested for MG. They're healthy and symptom free at this point. Side note, the Salmon Faverolle is actually a cockerel rather than a pullet. I wasn't thrilled with that discovery, but no biggie. He's a super sweet, gentle and adorable cockerel.

    So far, I have set them up in two tractors, side by side, so that they could see each other for a handful of hours a day for a handful of days. Then came the placement of the two new interlopers in the coop, on a roost, in the wee dark hours of the night. I woke up EARLY the next morning to let them out of the coop and spend a few hours monitoring behavior and ensuring any bloodshed was immediately addressed. It seemed like all was going as well as can be expected, so I felt safe leaving them for a while to run errands. I came home a few hours later and the Marans' comb was bleeding profusely. I promptly treated it and dyed it so they wouldn't continue to pick at it. The cockerel was shoved in a corner of the run with his head buried in the straw.

    Fast forward a few days later. The Marans is still working on the pecking order, but she is otherwise part of the flock and even puts herself to bed at night in the coop. She has a good start in figuring out how things work. The cockerel, named Benny Hill, found himself bullied relentlessly into the corner of the run, on the side that rain comes in. It was pouring rain and he was soaked to the skin. I set up a plastic bin in his favorite corner with some straw in the hopes that he could have a dry spot to hang out. Well, the original five chased him out and scratched out all the straw. I found him hiding under a pallet roost on the other side of the run, with his head buried in the straw in terror. Needless to say, his integration to the flock has not gone so well. I brought him in the house, blow dried him off and let him spend the night in the laundry room (his original quarantine spot).

    Benny is the absolute sweetest bird I have ever seen. He is calm, docile and dare I say, snugly. I would really like to integrate him with the girls, but at this point, I'm at a loss for ideas. I want him to be my flock boy. He's beautiful. He's chill. He will sit on the couch next to me and preen or take a nap. I want a nice rooster that I don't have to worry about attacks and stew pots.

    My next thought is to place him in his own mini coop immediately next to the big coop and have him spend some time there for a while. I'm just not sure how long would be enough. I'm not sure what else to do! Any thoughts or recommendations? Have any of you tried to integrate a docile cockerel into a coop of bossier hens?

    Thanks a bunch for your thoughtful input. Please enlighten me! =) Here is my sweet Benny post blow dry spa treatment, with comb dyed to help prevent additional pecking.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    It is worth repeating that a 6 or 7 months old baby cockerel or stag is not a rooster and no matter how may times we call him a rooster, he never will be a rooster until he gets enough age on him to find his courage or maybe the word I'm looking for is to become more sure of himself.

    His baby rooster instincts tell him to wade hip deep into the pecking order thing and when he did he was rejected by the flock because first he was outnumbered and second he was perceived by the older hens as the greatest threat to their own position in the pecking order. Not to mention he looked and acted different from all the older hens. Give him 3 to 6 more months then re-introduce him, but stand back, he may then be cock-sure enough to make a few feathers fly himself. Just remember that you are dealing with a chicken and no mater how much we wish that it was otherwise, a chicken will never in a 1,000 years act like an old maid Sunday School teacher.

    You wouldn't cull a young pullet if her first eggs didn't measure up in both size and number would you? Well don't blame a baby cockerel if he is unsure on how to act like a rooster.

    Like wise do not save hatching eggs from a 6 months old pullet because she like your Benny is insufficiently mature to produce strong, full-sized, vigorous, and healthy chicks.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
  3. FurAndFeathers

    FurAndFeathers Out Of The Brooder

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    The Dalles, Oregon
    Oh, I'm not blaming him. I've put so much work and care in this bird, I would really like to make it work. He has a home here. I just want to make it work so that it's a happy, integrated home for him. Right now, he's sitting next to me on the couch, watching TV. =)
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Better to leave him out with the flock, but separated by wire, 24/7 until he grows up some.
    He not going to learn anything sitting on the couch watching tv.

    Takes way more than a couple hours for a couple days for birds to familiarize prior to integration.

    Read up on integration, lots of different ways:

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.
    See if any of them, or the links provided, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens to flock.


    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders.

    If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.


    The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/adding-to-your-flock
     
  5. FurAndFeathers

    FurAndFeathers Out Of The Brooder

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    May 16, 2014
    The Dalles, Oregon
    I did do a bunch of research on integrating flocks. The pullet I added is doing fine. She's low on the totem pole, but she's eating, drinking, putting herself to bed in the coop at night and laying her eggs in a proper nest. I also understand dominance in the flock and the pecking order. I guess I expected Benny to be stronger about taking the role further up the top.

    I will be moving a small coop to be directly alongside the main coop. Until that point, Benny is staying in the house in the ghetto coop. Since he's a cockerel, I handle him as much as I can so he will hopefully remain a sweet bird. And, since I totally threw my neck and back out today, I'm unable to do the moves necessary to get him out of the house. Hopefully he'll be out in the next day or so, depending on how I feel. I'll give him time in the small coop, observing the hens and hopefully growing up a bit in the process. I'm not sure how long it will take, but if anything interesting happens, I'll make an update.
     
  6. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Favs are prone to being picked on in general. I second the advice on using a dog crate. It's how I introduced my pullets and with good results. First I had to escort them into the coop and crate but eventually they started putting themselves to bed in the crate. One day I went in to find a couple on the lowest roost and that was it. It's funny because those 3 now rule the coop.
     
  7. FurAndFeathers

    FurAndFeathers Out Of The Brooder

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    May 16, 2014
    The Dalles, Oregon
    Well, Benny has been living in the house since I brought him in to be blow dried. Between the stress of the girls beating on him and being soaked to the skin by the rain in cold weather, he has become ill. For now, he's being treated and will be quarantined again before going back outside. I've moved the mini-coop right next to the main coop in preparation for him to move back out there when he's better. On a side note, he has started crowing. It's the most pathetic and hysterical thing I've heard. I'm not sure if his crow will change as he gets more practice, but at this rate, my neighbors will think I'm strangling him.
     
  8. FurAndFeathers

    FurAndFeathers Out Of The Brooder

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    May 16, 2014
    The Dalles, Oregon
    Benny finally got over his illness and subsequent quarantine. He lived in the mini coop directly next to the big girls coop for a week or more. By this point, he definitely outsizes all of the girls. He's braver as a whole, but my silver-laced Wyandotte immediately started picking fights with him, as did my Plymouth barred rock. The two bullies have been relegated to the mini coop and are rather distraught. But this gives Benny a chance to live with the other four girls and reset the pecking order. He still needs help finding his way in and out of the coop at night, but hopefully that will change. he finally has his crow figured out and sounds like a real cockerel. Little baby steps at a time will hopefully make this work.
     

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