Introducing two single hens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Segwyne, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. Segwyne

    Segwyne New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
    Alstead, NH
    Hi, I am new to the board, so I hope this is where this thread belongs. Last fall we took in two 6-year-old hens from our neighbors who had to move. They only had the two hens left from their original flock and these two were very good friends. Since we had never had chickens before, we put their cage (formerly a rabbit cage) in our garage and since they were used to free-ranging, we open the garage door and the cage door in the morning and close them both back up again at night. With all the winter snow, they loved roaming around in the garage, which has some furniture, power tools, random wood and other such nonsense as most people have in a garage. Shortly after we got them, one of them (Goldy) got lost in the back of the garage for two weeks. I don't know what she ate and drank for those two weeks, but we were sure she was gone until we stumbled across her. During those two weeks, the other hen (Frosty) stayed holed up in their box in their cage and never came out to play. She seemed very depressed. As soon as Goldy came back, Frosty came out of her box and seemed very much happier. This was all well and good and the two of them spent the winter together.

    Fast forward to this past weekend and when we closed up the cage on Saturday night, Goldy wasn't there. This has happened for single nights before, so we closed the garage door and left the cage door open. In the morning when I went to give them fresh water and open the doors for them, I looked around for Goldy. I found her dead on the floor in the back of the garage. I did not see her head at first and thought it was gone. When I picked her up, I saw that her head was folded completely under her body. I have no idea how she broke her neck. Rigor mortis had set in, and I didn't know what to do with her, so I put her in a trash bag in my freezer. The broken neck was the only injury I saw, thought I was distraught and did not look very thoroughly.

    I did not want Frosty to get depressed again, so I asked a friend from church if we could buy one of their grown chickens from them. We brought home one black sex link and put her in a separate but very nearby identical cage. I know better than to just thrust them together and expect them to be friends. The new hen is very restless in her new confinement (I can't blame her), and she snuck out when I was giving her fresh water to replace what she had dumped. Very cautiously, I watched the two chickens in the big open garage front. My 3-year-old gave both hens some treats and they were very close to each other as they pecked up the treats. Frosty pecked the black one once on the back of the neck then went back to gobbling up treats. I took that as a message of, "Get out of my face." A minute or two later and another little peck. A couple of minutes later and the black one flew at Frosty, who then tried to run away. At that point, I picked up the black one and put her back in her cage to separate them. I have heard varying times to keep them separated, and we are on day 2 now. The black one is unhappy being cooped up (literally) and keeps tossing her little waterer around and dumping it. I've refilled it three times today already at only 3:30p.

    What can I do to introduce these two birds most easily? The one hasn't had a flock of more than just 2 for quite some time (I don't know exactly how long, but I've had them since November), and the other comes from a flock of 5. Frosty is about 6 years old and the new one is about 10 months old. The new one is slightly smaller than Frosty, but not much. The new one is a black sex link, and I think Frosty is a Buff Orpington, but I could very well be wrong. She is a large breed, though. We also plan to get some chicks next month to expand our flock to a dozen or so.

    Thank you.

    Judy
     
  2. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    sorry for your loss, it is always sad :(
    Keep them where they can see each other for at least a few more days. when you do introduce them, they will fight. That is totally normal. They will peck, scuffle, and might even jump and attack each other some. just let them do it unless one if getting actually injured more than a scratch (open would, blood, etc).

    Chickens have a pecking order, and it goes from highest to lowest. The top chicken has the authority to peck every single chicken in the flock, and no one can peck her back. The next chicken can peck everyone in the flock except the top hen. and the pattern continues until you reach the last hen, who can get pecked by everyone, but can't peck anyone back. When birds die, new ones are introduced, etc, the who pecking order is messed up, and they all have to figure it out again. pecking and fighting is normal.

    as for the new ones boredom, i would try hanging a cabbage or other veggie from the top of the cage. It will give her something to do. I do that for the flock on day when they can't go out side...they love it. If your cage is tall enough, hang it just out of reach so she has to jump for it. If it isn't, just having it will help. :) good luck!
     
  3. Segwyne

    Segwyne New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
    Alstead, NH
    Thank you very much for your advice, cityfarmer12. I read this after I had spent an hour with both chickens outside closely supervised. The younger new chicken is very restless in the little rabbit cage and keeps having tantrums and kicking over her water bowl and tearing it apart (it is a plastic two-piece set). I let them both out while I was never more than 10 feet away. They seemed to get along okay, but the younger one is definitely the more dominant one. She likes to fly after the older one, who crouches down and submits to the younger, or just runs away. I did not break up any of their squabbles, and after an hour, I waited until they were occupied with other things to put the younger one back in her cage so that it could not in any way be tied o their interactions. They ate some beet peels, some apple chunks that my toddler had started and never finished, and the younger one explored the driveway and got chased by one of our dogs who was on her run when she wandered into the dog's reach. I repeated the process today, but since it was colder and windy, I only spent a half an hour letting them interact today. Do you suppose it is okay to continue this pattern of closely supervised interaction for a while each day? I hate to see the younger being so frustrated with being in her cage and I hung a half a cabbage in there for her today, but she doesn't seem interested in it.
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I was reading your little tale with interest and much excitement. As I got to the introduction of the new one with Frosty and their subsequent interaction, I thought, cool! This is classic and they've worked out the pecking order and it's going to be just great!

    Then you snatch the black away from Frosty and interrupt the start of a perfect friendship, chicken-style, that is!

    If you had left the two of them to finish their ritual, which wouldn't have gone much beyond Frosty flying back at the black and a couple more pecks, and maybe one semi-bitten comb with a spot of blood, it would have been all over in less than a minute.

    You need to let them be free to decide between them who is alpha and who will be second banana. Turn away and don't watch, wait one minute and then you can turn around and look. They should be happily going about the business of exploring the yard together.
     
  5. Segwyne

    Segwyne New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
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    I didn't think I had snatched one away from the other. As I said, I waited until they had moved on to other things. Frosty had retreated into her cage and the younger one was pecking at the driveway. I didn't want to risk any problems while I wasn't there to supervise, and I didn't want the younger roaming down the driveway too close to the road, which is a main town road and so has quite a bit of traffic. Was I wrong to put her away? Should I just let them both out of their cages together in the morning and come back in and leave them be? Frosty isn't venturing much out of the garage at this point, but the younger is very keen to explore her new surroundings. We still have a few inches of snow on the ground, and we live in town and so have neighbors very close on each side (our property is 100' wide by 350ish" back). I just don't want her getting lost. Perhaps I am being too paranoid.
     
  6. ShockValue

    ShockValue Chillin' With My Peeps

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    West Sound, Washington
    Welcome to Thunderdome.
    2 chickens enter, 1 chicken leaves!
    [​IMG]
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I would continue this for now. You want the new one to 'home' to her cage before letting her roam too far.

    Am I correct in assuming that you don't have a coop and run...and no other chickens?
    If so, I would strongly urge you to get proper housing for them.

    Oh BTW, Welcome to BYC!
     
  8. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    that sounds good what you doing...i would continue :)
    bummer that she doesn't like the cabbage...mine all do :)
     
  9. Segwyne

    Segwyne New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
    Alstead, NH
    Our coop is currently two rabbit cages with wooden boxes very much like nesting boxes attached to them. Once the snow is clear here, we plan to renovate an unused section of the garage into a better coop. We need to do some roof repair and rake out the driveway gravel first, and make it predator proof. We are using the setup that they were used to with their old owners. I will go to the coop forum and see about posting pictures there, if I can figure out how. We know it is not ideal, either for the chickens or us, and we definitely need a better setup before we get chicks.

    I let the new one out today for a couple of hours with minimal supervision, and when I was out there with them, it looks like they have definitely established their order. The new one chases the older one, and even followed Frosty right into her (Frosty's) own cage and right into the box and while Frosty lay down, the younger was stepping all over her and lightly pecking at her. Their behavior reminds me very much of my children, who will sometimes randomly poke each other to provoke tears when they think I'm not looking.
     
  10. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I began my flock with two adult hens almost eight years ago. One died right away, leaving one very lonely hen. So I found another adult hen the same age and brought her home. It's been my experience that introducing a new hen to a current lone hen is a pretty simple affair for the simple reason that each one only needs to sort out her relationship with one other. This "sorting" can happen as quickly as a couple of seconds, and at most, maybe several minutes. Most of the time, all it will involve will be a simple peck on the head of the incoming hen by the current hen. If the newcomer insists on challenging the current hen in her own territory, that's when it can take a bit longer and get a tad more physical, with feet and wings thrusting and flapping. But it's almost never a knock down, stomp-her-into-the-ground fight.

    Now that you know what to expect, maybe you won't be so paranoid next time, although, keep in mind that the more hens that you introduce, the more inter-relationships there will need to be worked out. Even in stable flocks like I have, where the newcomers arrive as baby chicks, even those, now two-year olds, will occasionally challenge an older hen for her rank. There will be wing flapping, hackles flaring, combs chomped, and it's all settled in about five seconds, and the combatants then move on as if nothing had happened.

    You get used to it.[​IMG]
     

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