Introducing a single rescue hen, any advice?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by hen1415, Jun 10, 2016.

  1. hen1415

    hen1415 New Egg

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    Long time reader (and learner), first time post.

    We rescued a young (near 1 yo) Australorp hen and are trying to integrate her into our flock. She was quarantined and we did the "see but not touch" method of introducing her. The girls (we have 4 others who are all around 3 yo) all showed interest in her, they'd forage around her fenced area, there were occasional squabbles near the fence, but nothing huge. She would go back in her separate house at night at that point. Eventually we built a couple of new roosts in the run and coop in preparation for her full integration. We started letting her free-range with the flock. She bonded quickly with out other Australorp, and now follows her around. Our #2 hen gave her a good peck on the head and has since been someone with whom the new hen can benignly hang. The new girl is firmly at the bottom of the pecking order, she is very, very sweet to people and is extremely submissive to everyone in the flock. When our #1 hen comes close, she will squat completely flat. The #1 hen will mount her and peck at her, but not super hard. The new girl is missing head feathers, but we expected that from the integration. We've been keeping an eye on her and she doesn't have any open sores. I dabbed some blue coat in the bare areas to hide them a little better.

    Now onto the huge problem, our middle hen. Like a middle child, she's giving us fits. She charges and attacks the new hen. The new hen will run away from her and hide by me or will seek refuge by our other Australorp. If the bully gets her to squat, everyone will join in and start pecking her. I break up those instances quickly because she's doing nothing to defend herself. The bully got so bad that the new hen couldn't eat or drink even though I have multiple food/water sites. Our coop/run situation isn't huge so it's hard when the new girl is afraid of the #1 hen and the bully. They split up and one guards the coop, the other guards the run.

    To try and solve this, I decided to separate the bully. I put her in a dog kennel in the garage. In the 2 weeks that the bully was removed, the new hen became more courageous. She's not 100% integrated, but she was better. For the next few days it's supposed to be blazing hot and the bully can't be in the garage. I put her in with the rest of the flock and everything went to heck. The new hen perches at the highest point in the coop. She can't get food or water. I take them out to free range and they're ok as long as the new hen doesn't get cornered by the bully, which she doesn't for the most part. After the heatwave (about 2 more days) I'm putting the bully back in the garage.

    It's been about 6-7 weeks that we've had the new hen. I'm just wondering if anyone has suggestions to make this integration happen a little easier with the bully. Please don't suggest freezer camp. The bully is my sweet hen, she loves to be held and is the one hen that comes up to people to socialize so getting rid of her is out of the question. After the heatwave is over I'm planning on rearranging the coop and run. I'm hoping that making it look different will shake things up a bit. My original group of hens freak out if I change the shavings in the coop so I'm hoping that a huge blast of "differentness" may help.

    Thank you so much for making it through my post. I'd appreciate any advice. I'm not at my wit's end, I just want peace and for the new girl to not be so picked on.

    Thank you!
     
  2. Poultry parent

    Poultry parent Chillin' With My Peeps

    maybe do some more of the see but don't touch, set up a mini run in your run so they can see her in their run and not hurt her
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    First off , as a middle child I resent your post.[​IMG] Now, the middle bird has the most to lose by the addition of the new bird, and probably feels like her position is threatened. I would stay out of things at this point and let them play out. If you see anything excessive or blood is being drawn than I would intervene doing exactly what you have been doing, bluekote and separation for a bit. Many times chicken pecking order issues looks and sounds more horrible than it is. Otherwise it sounds like it has gone fairly well. Just give it more time. Your birds need to forget that she wasn't there at one time.
     
  4. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think the "bully" hen has the most to lose by the new hen. If the new hen moves up in the pecking order, then the other hen will be moved down, and she doesn't want that. She's doing what comes naturally. The number one hen should only make sure that the new hen understands who is in charge, then not bother her after that.

    It's like any other animal that observes pecking order in their ranks. I have three horses. When we introduced a fourth, the omega horse was the meanest, chasing the poor new guy all over the pasture. The alpha horse barely paid any attention to him at all.

    Chickens are the same.

    Old hen likes dogs gave you the best advice, I think. Also, the see but don't touch might be an option if she needs a break.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I have to give you credit for exploring a lot of options already. It sounds like you've done a lot of research.

    You do have a problem. One of the most difficult things about chickens is their individual temperaments, and when you get one who needs to be a bully, it's hard to change them.

    One thing, though, that's true with all chickens, regardless of temperament, is that they are creatures of habit. Inasmuch as the problem behavior is due to temperament, not much can be done. But if this bullying was triggered by the new hen arriving, then the bullying may now be growing into a habit. So by taking the bully out of the flock for as long as it takes to interrupt the habit, you may be able to see improvement at some point.

    As I see it, you may have two options. One is to continue to segregate the bully, trying her back with the flock occasionally to see what progress has been made. This will be a slow, tedious process. It could take a while, but at some point, she will have lost her rank in the social order and will need to focus on more chickens than just the new hen in order to try to recover.

    The other option is to rig up a "jail" enclosure within your run to accommodate this bully hen. I did that with a serial feather picker after all else failed. She had an area of about fifteen square feet in which to spend her days, and it spared the rest of the flock as well as my nerves and patience. I took her out of her enclosure each night and put her in with the others to roost, then back into jail in the morning. She was content since she still had a flock and she could still interact with them. It's a solution many of us resort to when everything else has been exhausted.
     

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