Frustrated!!!!!!!! Integrating a new hen.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by abserbean, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. abserbean

    abserbean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am so frustrated! I rescued a hen three months ago, after quarantine we tried to integrate and my girls would not accept her. She was an only chicken at her prior home, and is terrified of chickens, doesn't know how to behave. One month ago I purchased a pullet to live with her, in hopes that I could integrate them together later. They bonded well, no significant problems. The two new hens have been in a side by side run with my other girls so that they can see each other, and they have their own coops. Yesterday we combined the flocks, and while the hen I purchased is doing fine, the rescue hen is being beaten up by my girls. They sense how scared she is and go after her. She keeps escaping the run and hiding behind our trash cans, shaking in fear. I don't know what else to do with her, we can't maintain a separate coop for one hen! She doesn't even lay, she has only laid one egg since we have had her, she's too stressed to lay I guess. Everything that I have read says that they will eventually integrate and work it out, but this hen is neurotic! I'm don't know if anyone has experienced this before, but I'm out of ideas. Short of giving her back, or just letting her get beat up and hoping they stop eventually. I'm afraid they will kill her though. Ugh, crazy hen.
     
  2. BroosterSpringsteen

    BroosterSpringsteen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here's something that worked for me. I had a similar problem with a new hen. Instead of trying to integrate her into the whole flock, maybe try introducing the flock to her one hen at a time. Separate her with the other friendly hen again, and try introducing one new hen to that flock at a time, waiting until they all seem to get along before adding another one. There will probably still be some bullying during the adjustment, but it will at least be one hen doing the bullying instead of all of them. It is a long process though. Also, do you have a rooster? I've found that often once a rooster accepts a new hen, the other hens will accept it too.
     
  3. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Can you pick her up?

    If so, put her on your lap and throw scratch out for the others to keep them occupied. Just keep her on your lap at first. Then slowly over time, put her on the ground at your feet where you can grab her if others try to get her. (keep the scratch going through this process) After a while, she'll venture off away from you and the others will hopefully accept her. I had to do this with a broody that could not reintegrate and I did this. She managed to fully reintegrate with the flock, but was my lap chicken from that point on. She'd peck at my leg if she wanted picked up.
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Recently, I helped a fellow BYCer navigate her way through this very problem you now are experiencing. In short, you've already accomplished the first step by giving your timid girl an ally. The next step is to ferret out the ring leader(s) that are causing the conflict and isolate them while you integrate the two new ones.

    This worked very well for PegM. She eventually got rid of the worst bully, and reintegrated the second worst after about a month. The pecking order had shifted, and with the addition of pinless peepers on the re-integrating bully, all has been peaceful since.

    So, first step is to observe and isolate out the worst bullies. It will involve some time and work to identify them. But this is doable.

    Report back here after you've figured out who is causing the conflict and we'll help you go from there.
     
  5. abserbean

    abserbean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We don't have a rooster, but she thinks my daughter is her roo! She runs to her for help and protection. She is very friendly to people, we carry/hold her often around the other girls. We did try putting just one of our flock at a time in with the other two. Two of my girls accepted her, two attacked. The two that are doing the bullying are the two lowest on the pecking order, I guess they are worried about losing their spot. The two top hens may chase her a little, but otherwise ignore her. Maybe put the two lowest in the separate coop and let the two new girls in the main coop with the top dogs for a few days? I don't want to stress out my girls too much. The rescue girl complete freaks out if one of the other hens gets close to her (except for the buddy that she has been living with). The funny thing is, she is twice the size of the hens bullying her, but she won't stand up for herself.
     
  6. abserbean

    abserbean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here are pics of my flock, for size reference. Does the size of the hen even matter in pecking order?
    This is Lillie, the bullied rescue hen, barnyard mutt/EE.
    [​IMG]

    This is Angel, Gold Star and the worst bully. Only to this hen though, she is normally a very sweet and easy going hen, and is my best layer.
    [​IMG]
    This is Pepper, BR and boss hen around our house. She is not a very bossy lead, but she def is number one.
    [​IMG]

    This is Paisley, the buddy of our rescue hen. She is a silver welbar, but she is going through a molt so please forgive her appearance! Normally a gorgeous bird, has integrated just fine.
    [​IMG]

    This is Lucy, a RIR, second in charge, a big, lazy bird that can't be bothered with bullying b/c she's too busy looking for something to eat. Notice the huge crop. :)
    [​IMG]

    This is Cookie, our EE, and the other bully, although not as bad as Angel is. Cookie lays a gorgeous green egg!
    [​IMG]
    I think you can tell from the pics, the bullies are the smallest hens by quite a bit. I don't want to get rid of either of them, b/c until Lillie came along they were great. Both great layers, sweet to me and my kids. Our flock is pretty small, only six hens. I really hope we can work this out with the girls, my kids are attached to all of the birds and I would hate to have to get rid of any of them. I just think Lillie has no idea how to act with other chickens.
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    No, size isn't an important factor in self confidence. It's attitude. I would bet Lillie is timid by nature, and raised alone, she never had to encounter the pecking order, which is what makes chicken world function.

    By removing the two trouble makers and keeping them out of sight for a couple weeks, at least, you'll be giving Lillie and Paisley the calm to adjust to life in the main run without too much conflict. After they've adjusted and found their rank in the pecking order, then you can reintroduce the two bullies, and I would do that with the lesser bully first. Then several days later, bring back the main bully and see what happens.

    The object is to shake up the pecking order and give the new two a chance to slip in. By the time the two bullies return, they will spend their time, hopefully, trying to fit into the new pecking order and they won't have the luxury of being certain where they fit. They'll focus on that and not be in such a rage over two new comers. That's the theory, anyway. That's why you need to report back at each step so we can help your solve any problems that come up.
     
  8. abserbean

    abserbean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay, I have the two new girls locked in the run/coop while the original flock free ranges. I will put my two easy going girls back in with them, and leave the bullies out. Tonight, I will have the bullies in the temp coop that the new girls have been living in and the newbies in the main coop. Fingers crossed that this will work! I can't move them so far apart that they can/t see each other, just for lack of space, but I'll keep them separated and see what happens. Hopefully Lillie and Paisley will go into the coop to roost, they have only been inside once and don't see it as home yet. That's why I have them locked in alone for now, so they can explore.
     
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Can you throw up a blanket on the partition separating the two groups? As long as they all see each other, the pecking order remains intact. They're more sight oriented than audio, but let's hope just hearing each other won't retard this endeavor.

    Let us know how the control group in the main run is getting along. If we're lucky, they will have sorted out their respective new ranks even as I'm typing this.
     
  10. gander007

    gander007 Chicken Obsessed

    I hate to say it but sometimes there are some animals who just will not integrate with the flock otherwise known as outcast [​IMG]






    gander007 [​IMG]
     

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