Integrating chicks and one hold out bully

SnootyHen

Songster
Apr 18, 2020
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I have 7 pullets that are 8 months old and 5 chicks that are almost 2 months. I am working at moving the chicks out to the coop. I have a dog crate in the run where the chicks spend most of the day and a few times a day when someone can go in there with them, they are let out to mingle together. Of the 7, 5 are either accepting or indifferent to the chicks. One doesn't care for them but after the first few "play dates" she's tempered a bit and now she's mostly indifferent with the occasional peck if they get all up in her business. One pullet just hates them. She's low hen in the flock and tends to skulk in the background with the flock but she's downright mean to those chicks. I've had to segregate her more often than not when the chicks are out and even when she's allowed to be out I have to keep an eye on her because she stalks them.

Is there a way to get her to give it up so the chicks can finally just move outside (right now I bring them inside at night to sleep in their brooder)? Will she break eventually or the other pullets get on her about it?
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
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It's not uncommon for the lower ranked older birds to be unfriendly or outright aggressive to chicks - for once, they outrank someone else, and they want to keep it that way.

When you say she's being aggressive, has she actually injured any of them? Or is it more general harassment? Harassment is fine and I'd leave them to sort it out themselves, but outright aggression leading to injury is not.

Are they all in a run or free range? Free ranging should give the younger ones enough space to escape from pursuit if needed, but if they're all in a run you would benefit from adding clutter to provide extra hiding spots for chicks.
 

SnootyHen

Songster
Apr 18, 2020
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Illinois
It's not uncommon for the lower ranked older birds to be unfriendly or outright aggressive to chicks - for once, they outrank someone else, and they want to keep it that way.

When you say she's being aggressive, has she actually injured any of them? Or is it more general harassment? Harassment is fine and I'd leave them to sort it out themselves, but outright aggression leading to injury is not.

Are they all in a run or free range? Free ranging should give the younger ones enough space to escape from pursuit if needed, but if they're all in a run you would benefit from adding clutter to provide extra hiding spots for chicks.
She hasn't drawn blood but I haven't given her the chance. She stalks them and picks their feathers. It's enough to make them shriek and run away. They have only been together with someone (either me or one of my sons) with them so we can put a stop to anything before it gets very far so I'm not sure how far she'd go if left unsupervised.

They are in a run. We have a lot of predators and can't have a rooster to protect them so I only let them out to free range when my dog and I can be out there with them and never very far from the coop.

The extra clutter is a great idea! Right now, the crate is helping because the chicks can fit behind it and the pullets can't but once that's gone, some extra "stuff" would help for sure.

Thanks!
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
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She hasn't drawn blood but I haven't given her the chance. She stalks them and picks their feathers. It's enough to make them shriek and run away. They have only been together with someone (either me or one of my sons) with them so we can put a stop to anything before it gets very far so I'm not sure how far she'd go if left unsupervised.

They are in a run. We have a lot of predators
I know it's a bit of a risk, but try being hands off when she interacts with the younger birds. Supervising is fine, but don't interfere unless you must. Like this past spring I watched as a hen picked up and flung a chick a few feet - the chick was upset but uninjured and the hen did not pursue any further, so I saw no reason to intervene. The chicks wisely learned from those types of interactions to stay well out of the way of that particular hen (and now that the chicks are POL pullets, that same hen isn't bothered by them at all).

That's fine - having a variety of clutter should help then. One thing to consider with clutter placement when dealing with possible aggressive older birds, is to make sure there's never a "dead end" where a chick can get cornered.

This is roughly my run layout (no longer current, but serves as an illustration): Note that most items are not up against a wall, so birds can circle around it entirely. Any item against a wall has an additional opening cut on one side, so if a chick gets trapped under there, there's 2 directions out.
obstacles.jpg
 

SnootyHen

Songster
Apr 18, 2020
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Illinois
My bully is relentless! I've tried leaving her out with them and she is obsessed with stalking and pecking at them. I had to throw her in chicken jail several times so the chicks could eat and drink. And every time I let her back out, she goes straight for them. Even the other pullets are getting on her for it. How long does it take to break a bully?
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
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Would like to see photos of your coop and run if possible, to see if layout could be improved since you mentioned thinking about adding more clutter.

My bully is relentless! I've tried leaving her out with them and she is obsessed with stalking and pecking at them. I had to throw her in chicken jail several times so the chicks could eat and drink. And every time I let her back out, she goes straight for them. Even the other pullets are getting on her for it. How long does it take to break a bully?
You'd possibly need to remove her long enough (and by remove I mean completely out of sight, maybe out of hearing range) to remove her from the flock's pecking order entirely. Basically, make her a complete stranger. The new issue is then she'd need to be reintegrated as a new bird would be.

If you could set up something big enough for may another bird or two that gets along with her to go with her, that might help with reintegrating as she won't be coming in as a solo stranger, but rather as part of a group.
 

SnootyHen

Songster
Apr 18, 2020
500
1,360
196
Illinois
Would like to see photos of your coop and run if possible, to see if layout could be improved since you mentioned thinking about adding more clutter.



You'd possibly need to remove her long enough (and by remove I mean completely out of sight, maybe out of hearing range) to remove her from the flock's pecking order entirely. Basically, make her a complete stranger. The new issue is then she'd need to be reintegrated as a new bird would be.

If you could set up something big enough for may another bird or two that gets along with her to go with her, that might help with reintegrating as she won't be coming in as a solo stranger, but rather as part of a group.
That sounds pretty harsh and I hate to do that to her in the winter. I just wish she'd get over herself already. Right now I have a giant dog crate in the run. It was there for the chicks to have "see but don't touch" time in the run before they moved into the coop. I planned to take it out but I have been using it to separate them when she won't let the little ones eat. Conveniently, it also creates a giant obstacle that allows the littles to escape since they can fit behind it and she can't. Once I can get that out, I'll be able to add more "fun" clutter.

I've been trying to let them work it out as much as possible. The little ones don't come out of the coop unless the big girls are inside or a person is out there with them. And they flock to the nesting boxes the minute something spooks them. The 2 head pullets don't mind the chicks and most of the others are taking their cues from them. Just this one needs to come around but I feel like maybe there's some progress....slow progress.
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
13,411
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WA, Pac NW
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Well there usually is a bird or two that just isn't as accepting of the youngsters as much as the others, so this isn't unusual.

I guess one other thing you could possibly try... in my obstacles illustration, you can see I have my run split. I was shutting the gate between the two sides if some of my hens were being too pushy, so my chicks could eat uninterrupted for 10, 20 minutes. So maybe just in the morning, partition off some of the run space for the chicks to eat in peace. After everyone's eaten a bit you can let them back out of there, but at least it'll let them eat without harassment during a time of day when a bully could be more active.
 

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