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Hen turning feral?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jettgirl24, Aug 23, 2011.

  1. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    Hi All - So I'm just wondering if anyone has had their free range chickens turn feral? Or have your free range chickens become extra flighty?

    Here's the back story... I have two chickens, a Faverolle pullet and a Blue sexlink rooster, who grew up together and can't go in the pen with my big girls. The pullet is just about the same size as the big girls now but has always been kind of flighty so the hens chase her around mercilessly and she gets so worked up that I couldn't in good conscience leave her in there as she was going to hurt herself. The big girls were the same with the roo and I don't have another place to put them right now so I've been letting the two free range during the day and I shut them in my horse barn at night. Separating them has turned out to be a good choice as I tried one more time to put the roo in with the big girls and they just about tore him apart. His comb and head were completely covered in blood... I felt terrible for having done that to the poor guy [​IMG]

    Anyway... The roo is pretty happy to strut around and hang out in the barn. He doesn't really like to be caught but he's nice enough and not afraid of people. My Faverolle on the other hand has gotten increasingly flighty. She used to be fairly friendly but now every time I come down to the barn she flies off into the woods and won't come out of the brush until I leave. If I do manage to corner her in the barn she screams bloody murder until I pick her up and then she's ok. She no longer lets the rooster go near her and she flies into the woods like a bat out of hell every time he tries. I've tried to put her in my other pen with my half grown baby bantams but she's terrified of them too even though they're about 1/4 of her size. She hangs out by herself all day and seems content enough but I feel bad for her being lonely... She at least comes in the barn at night where it's a little safer but I have to wonder how long she will continue to do that since she seems to be getting more and more wild.

    Has anyone else had a chicken like this that has turned feral (if you can call it that)? Is it just her personality? I don't know whether to "force" her to live with the babies for companionship or to just let her be.
     
  2. so lucky

    so lucky Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 31, 2011
    SE Missouri
    I don't have any answers for you but wanted to give this a bump so folks will see it again. Hopefully someone out there has some suggestions.[​IMG]
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    jetgirl24,

    I used to keep good numbers of free-ranging birds that roosted in barns. They were games with strong flight capacity but not inclined to be flighty unless chased a lot. I recommend not chasing your Favorelle pullet any more. Effort to get her to come to you voluntarily. I can do it with red jungle fowl so you can with her. She will cease to avoid rooster once she matures which in itself will change her disposition.

    Keeping birds in barn usually not a problem, especially if livestock present. Three predators can be a concern, especially when no livestock. Great horned owls will catch chickens off roost. They seem not inclined to enter barn if elevated openings tight so owl can not fly in directly or elevated opening lacking. Red foxes are surprisingly capable of pursueing chickens in building but rafters or hay rope can provide good refuge. Racoons usually can not get into rafters either, especially if route to chickens is not direct.

    More detail a function of barn itself, design and what it contains (hay, etc.).
     
  4. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    Thank you centrarchid - I hope you're correct and she will settle down a bit once she matures a bit and starts laying. Last night she was roosting next to my cockerel for the first time in at least three weeks so that made me happy. Lately I've been trying to give her lots of attention after she comes in to roost because she doesn't fly off in a panic once she's roosting. Hopefully she'll come around. I just feel bad for the poor crazy bird - every little thing seems to be so darn traumatic for her [​IMG] I try not to chase her much and only catch her when I absolutely have to, otherwise I try to bribe her close to me with treats. If she's still out when I'm closing up the barn I've started just leaving the door open a crack for her and then I go back down to close it later in the evening so I don't upset her. The few times I've tried to round her up and get her inside she flies off into the woods.

    The barn situation is not ideal and not permanent. We took over my family's farm in July and my big new coop was supposed to be done by now but we've been so busy it hasn't happened. The barn I've got them in is a 6 stall horse barn (pics below). It's fairly secure but could be more so. I can close it up tight to where nothing will get in but my retired horse doesn't really like to be separated from his mini-horse so I leave their paddock doors open at night. They roost up nice and high on top of the dividing walls between the stalls and I have a barn cat that is super protective of them so I think they are fairly safe but I know I'm taking a risk. I NEED to get the coop done soon not only for their safety but also because the two chickens are REALLY messing the place up. I grew up in Pony Club so I'm fastidious about order and cleanliness in there and the mess they are making is driving me nuts!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2011
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    jettgirl24,

    Your barn is in many ways a chickens dream in supplying protection from weather and most predators, much coming from horses, spillage (grain) and hay. The risk is the open area outside barn. The chicken poop is good source of nitrogen and phosphorus for horses. If the chickens have a choice, then they will take the barn before the coop.

    Some of our walks had flocks housed in horse barns, sometimes for only a few horses like yours while a couple had much larger numbers of horses like with pacer / trotters kept near race track.
     
  6. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    It really is ideal in some ways because it's nice and warm in the winter and very secure. I wish I could close off the stall on the left front of the barn in the first picture with hardware cloth, build a run off of the sliding door there, and keep them in the barn permanently... The stall front is identical to the stalls in the second picture so it would be extraordinarily easy to do. That would definitely be ideal and not nearly as much work as building the separate coop, which is 12x12, the same size as the stalls! Unfortunately I'm looking to bring in a couple of boarders for my other two stalls so I really need the space for the horses [​IMG] You're making me think twice about my previous plan though - perhaps I'll look at my options and see if I could incorporate a coop into the barn. I would have the added benefit of having all of my animal chores located in the same building which would save a TON of time.... Hmmmm...
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Ultimately, time for me is a major consideration. I like to be able to feed, water and clean quickly enabling more time to scrutenize and enjoy life. Horses would also benefit from a distraction now and then, ours certainly did.
     

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