How Do I Merge 2 Hens With Older Group?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Barry Natchitoches, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2008
    My broody hatched two hens and a rooster back in September.

    We rehomed the rooster because we didn't have separate housing for it, away from the older rooster that fathered it. You know how two roosters living in the same confined area get along.

    That leaves us with two hens who are sixteen weeks old right now, and an established group of five 10 month old hens and the one 10 month old rooster who fathered these birds.

    I have been trying to merge them into the older group for almost a week now. I'd let them play in the yard together for some time, and three of the hens would take turns running the two little girls ragged.

    But now, I have to blend them in their living quarters, which is more confined. The older birds run the little birds ragged, but even more important, the scared little girls spend alot of time on top of a dog pen in the henhouse where it is impossible to put a waterer or feeder.

    I have put extra feeders and waterers around the henhouse during this merging process because I don't want the little girls to be kept from the food and water, but they keep hiding out in the one place where I physically cannot put either food or water for them.

    How do I blend these birds without the two little ones being victimized so much by the older birds? I haven't seen any brutal violence, but they do get pecked at alot, and run around mercilessly.

    (To make matters worse, they cannot play in the yard for the next few days because we have had so much rain that water is standing out there -- plus, it's going to rain three of the next four days).

    What do you folks recommend?

    Thanks in advance for your insights and suggestions.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2010
  2. bargain

    bargain Love God, Hubby & farm

    Apr 13, 2008
    Bowdon, GA
    Try taking one or two of the older girls and put in dog kennels and then reintegrate with all of them...That will give some change up time.

    Hang cabbage so they can be distracted and pick on it. (raw bacon also works)

    Mainly distract and change up the former power structure!

    Great luck...
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I love challenges! And this is exactly what you have on your hands here. It's going to take some time and effort.

    First, I think you're attempting the merger too quickly. They all need two or three weeks to get familiar with one another without the stress of armed combat. Ideally, the youngsters should have a safe area where they can have their food and water and not be bullied until they've all gotten to know each other. They are, quite literally, scared to death of the older girls.

    I've merged two sets of pullets now with older, established hens. With a few weeks of safely seeing and talking to each other through a chicken wire barrier, they start learning a pecking order and not to be afraid. When you do merge them, it's helpful to keep a sort of "panic room", where they can retreat when the bullying gets to be too much for them. I rigged up a small area in the corner of the pen with little entrances that were too small for the bigger hens to fit through. Even a dog crate left in the corner of the pen might suffice.

    It shouldn't take long for them all to get used to one another, learn the pecking order, and be one big happy family. But meanwhile, you're taking the place of the mother hen, and need to make them feel safe until they learn to fit in and the big hens accept them.
  4. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2008
    I don't think I am rushing it.

    You see, these two hens have lived INSIDE THE BIG GIRLS HENHOUSE since they were one week old. In that dog cage, where they could see and be seen, but were still protected.

    They were hatched by a broody that is part of this older group. She mothered them for about four weeks, then decided she had enough, and she went back to her cohort group and began laying eggs again.

    But the two hens continued to live in the dog house where they could see the older hens and interact with them through the bars.

    At six weeks old, they began to go in a little part of the chicken yard that is protected from the larger yard by chicken wire, but where they could play right near the older hens.

    About three weeks ago -- as weather allowed, since we actually had zero temps here in Memphis during part of this time -- we began to let the little girls play in the big girl yard some while the big girls were playing in it. The big girls would chase them around and make them miserable, and occasionally I had to put them back in their "peeper pen" (that area of the chicken yard that was fenced off from the rest of the yard).

    I really have tried to go slow with this.

    And at least they are not physically violent, but the older girls really are terrorizing the two younger girls.

    I would appreciate any ideas you folks have to share.

    BTW, last night out of desperation, I locked two of the worst bullies in that dog pen. The little girls have a basket they like to sleep in on top of that cage, and have been sleeping in that basket ever since I started letting them out of the dog pen to sleep, about four nights ago.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010

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