how do I get my 2 new pullets to share the coop with my 2 old hens?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by smnytx, Nov 2, 2010.

  1. smnytx

    smnytx Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 9, 2007
    Hi, everyone - I'd appreciate any advice:

    We have a pair of 3 year old hens (a RIR and a BR) that we've had since they were chicks, and they have a nice run on our side yard, about 12' x 18' with a nice A-frame coop that once held three (our EE died away a year ago) but easily has room for four, with two nest boxes. It has an open area underneath where the food and water are kept, and a ladder that goes up to the roost and nest box area inside. We never close it up unless there is a freeze (which is exactly once in the last three years).

    12 days ago, we acquired two 5 month old pullets, one EE and one Speckled Sussex, from a friend who has several hundred birds. She lent us a nice 2' x 2' cage, and we kept the cage in the run for three days, so the two pairs could get used to each other. The two new birds are, not surprisingly, quite shy and deferential to the older ones, and the older ones are (as we expected) bullies with the younger ones. We had to clip the wings of the new gals, because they kept flying up to the top of the 6 foot fence to get away! They seemed to favor one corner of the run, so we put extra food and water nearby and nailed up a 2x4 for them to roost on there.

    I think there is a bit of detente now, with each pair staking out an area of the run and not as much bullying going on. However, the problem is the coop. The new pullets haven't had the pluck (forgive the pun) to go up the ladder and check it out, and since they're not quite laying yet, they haven't needed the nest boxes. They had been sleeping on the little outdoor roost, but both yesterday and today, we discovered them sleeping way on top of the fence again (undeterred by the clipped wings, apparently). Since they were asleep, they were easy to catch. We had a big storm coming, and I didn't want them out in the rain, so last night, we got another piece of wood and placed it under the coop, and perched them on it, and they went right to sleep there, under the cover of the coop.

    Today, the storms continued, and I feared that the old hens were going to come down the ladder and scare the newbies out into the rain, so we caught them and put them in the cage they came in, on top of some newspapers on our screened porch, and then released them back into the run in the afternoon, when the weather had cleared. When we caught them roosting on the fence again tonight, we put them back into the cage, and we'll put them in the run again in the morning.

    SO... with all that background info, here is my question: how do I get them to use the coop, so I don't have to keep worrying about the weather? And how long do you suspect it will take for the old hens to acclimate to their presence enough to tolerate them in there? With more wet weather coming, I need them to become a single group instead of two alienated pairs.

    Thanks for advice!
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I've had mine for 3+ years and they still hang around in their groups. They all go in the coop but sleep in different places in it, but then I have a big coop.
  3. smnytx

    smnytx Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 9, 2007
    Thanks - how long did it take them to all use the coop?

    I have no problem with them staying as two "couples" - but I really need the big ones to let the little ones come in out of the rain!
  4. MissJenny

    MissJenny Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Could you put the big ones in the cage while letting the new ones roam around the run and show them the coop without interference from the big ones?

    At night have you put the new one's in the coop?

    I'm not saying these are sure shot solutions -- I have similar issues going on here -- two camps -- one coop. Oy. I have a screamer, a chaser and a feather picker... if I didn't feel so sorry for the screamer I'd let them all fight it out. I did not count on being a chicken psychiatrist.

    Good luck -- let us know how it all works out.

  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    You will need to place the newbies on the roost for several nights (if there's an easy access for you to do that) after dark. They don't see the coop as "home/safety," and they need to learn that. Since it's all new to them, the fence is just as much "home" as anything else most likely. When I added two pullets to my little established flock, within 3-4 days they knew to go inside at night. Of course I had to continue placing them on the roosts, because some of my girls wouldn't let them up there. That was August, and even now I occasionally have to move them from the nest box perch to the roosts when I go to check on them at night. Full integration/acceptance has been a long process for my little flock; hopefully it'll go quicker for you. [​IMG]

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