Help! New Chicken Being Attacked

sarahm

In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 10, 2009
13
0
22
CT
We have an urban, free-ranging flock of five hens--three standard size easter eggers, one standard orphington, and one bantam silkie. They grew up with a cochin who turned out to be a a rooster. We recently had to rehome him since roos are not allowed in the city. My son really wanted to a polish hen and the departure of our roo left room in the flock for our more, since city zoning allows us to have up to six hens.

The farm where we got the chicks offered to sell us one of their bantam polish hens, who is about the same age as the others, 10 months. We brought her home and I utilized the same approach used with success on other occasions to integrate new birds--put her in the coop with the others and keep it closed for a few days. Seemed fine the first afternoon--usual harmless pecking to indicate dominance from the three dominant hens, but nothing more.

But when I came home from work after the first full day, I noticed the new hen's head was bleeding and she was cowering in a corner of the coop. They had cornered and really attacked her. A patch of feathers was gone. I removed her, cleaned the wound, applied antibacterial, and put her in a dog crate equipped with roost, food and water next to the coop for a couple days to let the wound heal. I put her in the coop with the others at night, back in the dog crate in the morning. After a week, I let her out to free range with the others. They partly ignored her. But when she got nearby, the three bullies tried to corner and attack her. I intervened when I saw this happening and the bullies dispersed. But if I'm not looking and she comes close to them, they will go after her. So, not surprisingly, our newbie free ranges away from the rest of the flock, essentially on her own, sometimes hiding in bushes. She isn't laying (though she laid an egg on her first day, before the attacks began). At dusk, she stays out in the yard rather than going up in the coop. I have to lift her up each night and put her in the coop for safety.

A few mornings ago, I noticed fresh wounds that must have happened in the roost overnight or in the early morning (this had not been happening before). Since then I have been keeping her in the dog crate all day and night to let the wounds fully heal and figure out what to do.

Is there any hope of successfully integrating her with the rest of the rest of the flock? Should I somehow isolate the bully hens--three of them--instead? Grateful for any advice!
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
Putting a new bird straight in with the flock is not advisable. It's better to keep it in a separate cage for a week while they get used to one another, and then let it out. That's from a social point of view; from a biosecurity point of view you wouldn't integrate them for at least a month.

Caging hens who were used to free ranging daily and putting a new hen in with them can serve to help them turn their frustration onto the newcomer who has so rudely taken up residence right in their territory's most important part, the nesting/roosting area. It's terrible manners for a chicken, or any animal, really; it's actually one way you bait animals into killing one another. I always put mine in a separate cage nearby where they could see one another, but not fight, and where the newbie could return to roost at night unless or until it felt welcomed into the main flock and the main cage.

I would reckon you're onto the right idea there, separate the pullets to start with. But maybe not all together. You need to break their gang mentality. They have a pecking order among themselves, and if you separate all three from one another, then release them after a few days, they will focus on one another when released, most likely.

Best wishes.
 
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