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Free range drama

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by travl4me1, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. travl4me1

    travl4me1 In the Brooder

    Sep 26, 2012
    Our 6 hens live in a 6 x 14 tractor coop and get along marvelously. I let them out in the morning and again in the evening. I really try to give them 2 - 4 hours of free range time a day. More on the weekends when I am home working in the backyard.

    I spend a lot of time observing them in and out of the coop, but have a question for my own knowledge.

    When I let them out, the first few minutes they all run around and have stand offs. They bump chests and their neck feathers stand up like they are going to tangle with each other. They never actually fight. Its a very short lived stand off, but they all do it, and just go from bird to bird repeating it. Its not one hen starting it. It's all of them, doing this to all of them.

    WHY do they do this? If they can tolerate each other in a confined pen, why all the drama under an unlimited sky ?

    Even when I drop treats into their confined coop, they are very cordial of each other. The first two minutes outside is the most aggressive I ever see them.

    I'm not worried about the hens...I'm curious for my own knowledge. Is it just the excitement of being "free" or are they actually accomplishing something with this behavior?

    I see pecking order being played out in the hen house when they roost, but it's still pretty respectful overall. Just wondering why they go momentarily spastic when I swing the door open to the outside world?

    I do not have a rooster if that is at all relevant to my question.

    After a few minutes, they mellow, and move around as a pack looking for insects and such.

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    In my opinion it is nothing more than 'mock' or'play' fighting exhibited as a result of their exuberance over being free.
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I can get similar reaction by taking a group of birds with an established pecking order and releasing them all together in a location they have never been in before. Resulting fights are real to establish pecking order. New order is usually similar to but not always sames as original. Apparently, knowing somebody also requires consideration of where.

    My juveniles tractored in same manner as OP do the play fighting sometimes immidiately after release. That may be like with horses released into pasture from stalls where they get all excited by release.

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