Increasing size and number-Problems?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by WyattsChickens, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. WyattsChickens

    WyattsChickens In the Brooder

    Nov 1, 2015
    When we first started with our chickens we had 3. However, due to a bear attack and an illness of some kind we are down to 1. I have heard from many people that chickens get lonely by themselves so I'm looking to get possibly two more. A friend of mine told me that if you introduce new birds at night while your old ones are sleeping they wake up and don't seem to have as many problems. Now I understand there may be some rearrangement of the pecking order considering I only have one and am going to three. Should I expect any big problems? Since I only have one will that make her happier to see more or more angry? She seems lonely so I'm hoping all will be well. Thanks, Wyatt
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    The old 'put the new ones in at night and the existing birds won't notice' is usually pure folly.
    Like bobbie-j sez "chickens aren't the brightest animals on this planet, but they're not that stupid."

    It's about territory and resources(food/water/space).
    Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to protect their space and resources.
    Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.......
    ......take what applies or might help and ignore the rest.
    See if any of them, or the links provided at the bottom, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens into flock.

    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    The more space, the better.
    Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best of mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

    Another option, if possible, is to put all birds in a new coop and run, this takes the territoriality issues away.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders. If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Chickens are flock animals. They are much happier in a flock than on their own. Some people do keep single chickens and it works out well, but most of the time these are house chickens that live in the house with people or they bond with another animal, maybe a dog or cat, to complete the flock. Adding a couple of more chickens is a great idea to me. Dogs, cats, or people may not always be available or willing to bond.

    Some people are successful adding chickens at night but with others it is a great disaster. Why the difference? Each chicken is an individual with its own personality. Each flock has its own dynamics, adding or taking away just one chicken can significantly change the whole flock’s dynamics. Some chickens will attack strangers, whether in their territory or on neutral ground, though territory can make a big difference. Some don’t. They will work out the pecking order between them. Sometimes that process can be pretty violent, even fatal, but sometimes it is so gentle you wonder what all the worry was about. A lot of times it’s no worse than one chicken pecks the other to establish dominance and the other runs away. Dominance established. Occasionally there is a scuffle but usually it doesn’t take long for one to decide they are better off running away. Sometimes there is chasing and repeat performances, but it normally ends peacefully with no one hurt. They become buddies that know their place.

    The main danger comes when a chicken cannot get away. If the loser can’t run away, either trapped against a fence or cornered, the winner doesn’t realize they’ve won and keeps attacking, usually going for the head where they can do great damage. They need to be able to get away. That does not boil down to square feet of space per chicken. It means the ability to get away. That might be square feet, it might be a pop door open so they can get to the run if they are in the coop, it might be roosts high enough that he aggressor can’t peck the feet from the ground.

    I suspect most of the people that are successful just sticking the chickens in at night find the new birds on the roosts while the others are on the coop floor. They found a way to get away and there is not an unusually aggressive chicken in the main flock. It can be fairly peaceful.

    It’s hard to say how much room is enough. Due to personality some chickens will be a lot more aggressive chasing than others. Some will be less reluctant to run away than others. Age can play a factor too. Immature chickens are at a higher risk than mature chickens.

    Something what often happens, especially with immature chickens, is that they form a separate sub-flock until they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order. They are simply avoiding the bullies. You are in a bit of a unique situation though with just one hen. She will want to be with the others but the others may be afraid of her, maybe with good reason. She might or might not peck them when they get close even if she wants to be close. It’s not so much a matter of intelligence as their bird brains don’t always run the same logic circuits ours do.

    I could be wrong but I suspect with only three chickens your facilities are pretty small. Aart has some good suggestions. If you can at all, house them side by side for a week or more so they get used to each other. Provide different feeding and watering stations. You can increase your effective space by giving them something to hide behind or under, out of line of sight. Sometimes a perch in the run can help but they may want to sleep there instead of in the coop with the older hen. That may be a problem anyway, they may not want to go into the coop at night. If you do put them in the coop after dark so they wake up best buddies be down there to open the pop door before they wake up so they can get away if they need to until things settle down

    I know we make this sound like it is sure to be a disaster. It’s not. Most of the time it works out pretty well even in fairly tight spaces, but there are risks involved, especially in tight spaces. A lot of us integrate chickens all the time and really don’t have serious problems. Some of these things will help improve your odds of success. Good luck!
  4. WyattsChickens

    WyattsChickens In the Brooder

    Nov 1, 2015
    Thank you very much for your reply. I really appreciate the detail and will take all those things into consideration before I add new hens. My current hen (Goose) is very friendly and seemed to interact completely fine with our other two when we still had them. Honestly I didn't notice much of a pecking order at all other than a few rare circumstances when they would gather around for treats. Anyways, thanks again, Wyatt

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