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I need advice on integrating broody...

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by cpartist, Nov 16, 2009.

  1. cpartist

    cpartist Songster

    Aug 29, 2009
    Alachua County FL
    I hope some of you super smart chicken people can help. This is the background- I started last spring with our original flock, 6 Buff Orp chicks, one a roo. They have been a delight-very sweet and mellow. Our roo Rudy is amazing; he is super smart and very watchful and protective. He also imitates me when I laugh! He finds food for his girls, and took to sleeping in front of the nest box instead of the roost when they were broody. He did test us a few times, but I pick him up and carry him around when he tries to show dominance and he's generally very respectful. When he first started mating he was a little rough with his girls as they didn't seem ready, but now they've all matured, they have "normal" relations.

    A few months ago, three of the pullets went broody in a months time. I ordered eggs of three different breeds for them to hatch and they've been living side by side in 4 breeder pens, along with an older batch I incubated myself. The three left of the original flock are in their original tractor and are let out to free range when we are home. I think Rudy has gotten frustrated as he feels the need to dominate the whole bunch, but just can't get into the pens. When I let him out in the morning the first thing he does is run to the pens where he pecks on the wire and does the wing dance.

    Phoebe, our head hen was the first to hatch and her babies are 7 weeks old-fully feathered and good-sized. In the last week she has been "beaking" some of the chicks. They run away to a corner, and I don't think she'll seriously hurt them, but I took it as a sign it was time for her to rejoin the flock. I set her out of the pen and when Rudy spied her he chased her down and tried to mate her, grabbing a hunk of feathers as she tried to get away. I managed to break it up, picked her up and carried her to her sisters, one of which pecked her...and chased Rudy off every time he tried to get close. She kind of freaked out and ran under my truck. As I was on one side trying to get her out, Rudy got to her from the other side and "attack-mated" her. After I shooed him away, she just lie there, frozen and traumatized, so I put her back with her chicks.

    I realize some of this is inevitable, but is there a better way to reintroduce her? I've thought about putting her on the roost at night (which would involve major contortions just to get in the tractor and get her up there) but it has a small pen, so if he went after her in the morning, they could really get banged up in a scuffle. The second hen to hatch has chicks just a week younger than Phoebe's, they are also fully feathered and we are in Florida. Should I put them both out together so he doesn't focus on just one?

    Any advice out there?

  2. shaggy

    shaggy Songster

    May 11, 2009
    Orange, Texas
    sounds like the first step would be putting your roo in his place --- might make him less aggressive

    if you see him mating any other hens --- bump him off -- long enough to get it in his head that he is not the alpha roo (might make him less aggressive

    the hens definitely need to be separated from their chicks --- if they are pecking their chicks then they are old enough to be separated and integrated into the rest of your flock
  3. DAFox

    DAFox Songster

    Nov 7, 2009
    SW MO in Vernon Co
    How long before the third broody hen can go back to the original flock? If you can wait for her, I'd say put all three in the chicken tractor at the same time -- at night. Don't interfere unless there is blood. The hens will have to re-establish pecking order. As for your rooster, he'll settle down. If you keep interfering, it may take longer and be more traumatic.
    Will you be intergrating the chicks into this flock as well? I don't know about roosters since I've never tried to introduce roosters that didn't grow up together, but, I'd wait for the hens to be close to the adult size before you do.
    I had just one hen left when I tried to introduce her to 12 young chickens. She terrorized them mercilessly. There was blood. I kept them separated until the chicks were older. Then the tables turned. But, no blood, thank goodness.
    Good luck,
  4. cpartist

    cpartist Songster

    Aug 29, 2009
    Alachua County FL
    Thanks shaggy-the roo is not normally aggressive, probably because I pick him up and carry him around to keep him humble.[​IMG] I think his behavior was expected considering he's only had access to two girls, but is able to see over thirty others he just can't get to. My surprise was how Phoebe reacted-she screamed and ran like she was being chased by a predator. I don't think he would have grabbed a hunk of feathers if she hadn't been so frantic to get away. When he finally caught her and had his way with her, he walked off, but she lay still and trembling and was so traumatized I could feel her heart beating rapidly for some time afterward.

    Fox-I know you are right that my interfering will prolong this. The third momma will have to stay a while longer as she has only one five week old chick. My plan is to wait and integrate by breed when they are older, close to point of lay. I don't think the size difference will matter as much then. Unfortunately, I have different ages within each breed. I hatched all pullets from my first batch of Welsummers and Blue Copper Marans, so when the first hen went broody I ordered more eggs to get some roos. When the second hen went broody, I gave her some replacement eggs the breeder sent because I had half broken in shipping. When the third hen went broody, I ordered more Wheaten Ameracaunas for her because I was so in love with the first ones. Fellow hatching addicts will understand.[​IMG] Anyway, once I get the mommas and extra roos out I'm hoping there won't be too much drama when I mix them up.

    I think I will put Izzie and Phoebe back in the flock together and do it early in the day when they are free ranging so they have time to get used to each other again before they are penned up. Would it be a good idea to keep Rudy in the tractor for awhile, so the hens can work out their issues first -or will this frustrate him more? I also thought maybe I should throw out a mess of scratch so they would become interested in something besides each other.

    Thanks to both of you for your ideas...

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