Just brought home hen house with 6 hens & 1 rooster - advise needed.....?

Lost Mule Ridge

Hatching
6 Years
Jun 10, 2013
5
0
7
We just brought home a hen house and 6 pullets and 1 rooster. I am so excited but need advise...

1. How long do I leave them "cooped" up in their house before letting them out to free range? a few days? a week?

2. I want these hens to be people friendly. So far they run from people. any ideas on getting them to warm up to me?

3. Any other suggestions or advise would be MUCH APPRECIATED!!!
 

The Yakima Kid

Cirque des Poulets
9 Years
Aug 7, 2010
1,850
124
241
Valley of the Dominiques
If the enclosure is large enough, try and leave them cooped until they have established good egg laying habits. I don't know how old they are; but if they are near point of lay or already laying, put a nest egg (ceramic egg, available at feed stores) in each nest box. Biddy sees the ceramic egg and thinks that this must be a good place to lay an egg since somebody else has laid here. This takes until they have all figured out where the nest box is. The drill is keep them in until at least mid-afternoon until they have established good laying habits.

Good laying habits are important unless you enjoy daily egg hunts, followed by egg dunkings to make sure the eggs haven't gone rotten.
I don't know what kind of chickens you have; but only six hens to one rooster can result in biddy's backs getting a bit torn up. If so, then move the rooster to a separate area in the mid to late afternoon, or put aprons on the hens. If he is a gentleman, this is unlikely to be a problem - but too many roosters aren't.

First, friendliness isn't simply based on human interaction with biddies; some of it is a matter of inherent temperament. You can start warming them up by scattering a *small* amount of scratch or mealworms or a chopped apple at your feet while calling "CHICK, chick-chick-chick-chick." Some people substitute a loud "HERE" for the loud "CHICK" in the call. This teaches biddies and rooster to come when called because chickens are highly motivated by food.

Sit still while they eat the first few times. Gradually extend a hand, palm up, holding a treat while they are eating. Eventually one will decide to take the risk and eat out of your hand. Live bugs or mealworms are a good idea if you are trying to persuade them to get close - chickens weigh the risks against the reward. Over time they will eat from your hand. Then try showing them the treat, but holding your hand open in your lap. Eventually one will take the bait. Just let them eat; then gradually work around to petting them.

Depending on breed and temperament, you may have them all sitting in your lap in fifteen minutes or it may take months, with not all of them ever jumping into your lap.
 

nab58

Songster
6 Years
Mar 28, 2013
948
73
151
CT
They will come to know that you're their feed source and follow you anywhere. Find out what their favorite food is. When you let them free range and are ready to get them back in the coop, pull out their treat and they'll comerunning. My hens LOVE black oil sunflower seeds. I put a handful in a plastic cup and shake it. They know the noise and come running. I throw the seeds in the run and they run right in.
I don't think I let my chickens out of their coop for at least a week when I first put them out there. They stayed pretty close to the coop at first and roamed further and further once they acclimated. We have fox and hawks so I have to keep an eye on them and never leave them unattended.

My chickens don't 'like' people...they like food. If you have some, they're your friend.
 

crazyfeathers

Songster
6 Years
Aug 24, 2013
844
81
138
Auburndale, Wi
I would coop them up for 3 to 4 days and then they should go in at night. A way to any animals heart is treats. Spend some time in the coop, take a chair, book, and treats. Show the chickens that you mean no harm, after a few days they should start trusting you. When you give treats say something like here chick chick or come on girls and pretty quick all you have to do is say here chick chick and they will come a running. It's really quite simple, but sometimes depending on what breeds you have you may not ever get to pet your chickens. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Best of luck with your new flock!!
 

Lost Mule Ridge

Hatching
6 Years
Jun 10, 2013
5
0
7
you are so right about the rooster being less than a gentleman to these poor hens! the hens backs are bare and sore looking. Thank you all for the great advise. I am really looking forward to raising these young hens.
 

Lost Mule Ridge

Hatching
6 Years
Jun 10, 2013
5
0
7
Update - Thank you all for your great advise! These hens are so happy here. I am giving them "treats" and calling them every time I bring food and they no longer run from me. Yesterday I got 5 eggs from 6 hens. I found a new home for Mr. Rooster - he was not much of a gentleman and only had 6 hens. Here are a few more questions I still have...

1. Is there anything I can do to help the hens backs heal and get feathers?

2. I am feeding them "Layer Feed" - is there anything else I need to be feeding them?

3. Their house (purchased with chickens included) has no perch and no nesting boxes. We want to put a perch in the hen house - but since they have never roosted on a perch, do you think they would know what to do?

4. Same with nesting boxes.... they lay the eggs on the floor of the coop. If I get them nesting boxes do you think they will use them?

Thanks in advance for your help, I will add that this has been a very rewarding hobby!!

Teresa
 

The Yakima Kid

Cirque des Poulets
9 Years
Aug 7, 2010
1,850
124
241
Valley of the Dominiques
Update - Thank you all for your great advise! These hens are so happy here. I am giving them "treats" and calling them every time I bring food and they no longer run from me. Yesterday I got 5 eggs from 6 hens. I found a new home for Mr. Rooster - he was not much of a gentleman and only had 6 hens. Here are a few more questions I still have...

1. Is there anything I can do to help the hens backs heal and get feathers?

2. I am feeding them "Layer Feed" - is there anything else I need to be feeding them?

3. Their house (purchased with chickens included) has no perch and no nesting boxes. We want to put a perch in the hen house - but since they have never roosted on a perch, do you think they would know what to do?

4. Same with nesting boxes.... they lay the eggs on the floor of the coop. If I get them nesting boxes do you think they will use them?

Thanks in advance for your help, I will add that this has been a very rewarding hobby!!

Teresa
If the other hens don't start pecking the denuded areas, they should heal right up. Otherwise try using Rooster Booster Pick No More lotion, or the black stuff used for treating trees when you prune them - be careful you can wind up with either of these staining your clothing or skin. Another option is to make or purchase hen aprons.

They need layer feed and oyster shell. Some granite grit would be good, too, since many yards don't have enough grit for them. Be sure to not overtreat - an obese hen is more likely to have problems laying or to develop fatty liver syndrome - these problems can kill her.

Put in a low roost, and see if they use it. Don't make it too high - I don't know what breed they are, but 18" is a good place to start. If you need more than one roost, put them 18" apart to prevent them from picking each others backs.

If you put a nest box in - a cardboard box on its side works well - and put a ceramic egg in it so they will know that this is the place to lay an egg.
 

Lost Mule Ridge

Hatching
6 Years
Jun 10, 2013
5
0
7
thanks for your advise - I really appreciate you taking time to help. the hens are all Buff Orpingtons and seem very nice to each other. No pecking - I got them just 4 days ago. So far I have kept them in the run and coop -

Do you think I could let them out by the weekend? Saturday would be their 6th day in the new home.

And when I do let them out, should I let them all out to roam or just a couple at a time?

I don't want to lose any of them...

I am headed out to get the Oyster Shell, Granite Grit and a ceramic egg!!

Thanks so much!
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,563
13,086
707
Southeast Louisiana
Is there anything I can do to help the hens backs heal and get feathers?

If the entire feather including shaft is out, the feathers will soon grow back. If the feather is broken off and the shaft is still in there, the feathers will not grow back until they molt.

2. I am feeding them "Layer Feed" - is there anything else I need to be feeding them?

If all you feed is Layer, they should be getting everything they need from that to lay well. It’s a balanced diet formulated for laying hens where Layer is all they eat. If you feed them other things or they forage, they are no longer getting that exact formula of nutrients and minerals they need. As long as these other treats are less than 10% or so of their total diet, they are still close enough to balanced and will do OK. If they forage for food I don’t worry about how much comes from Layer or how much form forage.

They do not need grit if Layer or prepared chicken feed is all they eat. It has already been ground up so they can digest it, even pellets and crumbles. But if they eat much of anything other than the prepared chicken feed, they need grit to grind it up in their gizzard. Grit is just small pebbles, the size of a green pea or smaller. Most ground has that in abundance and they can find plenty of grit for themselves. It doesn’t hurt to offer them grit, but for the vast majority of us it is n=unnecessary if they are on the ground.

An important component of Layer is calcium. Laying hens need plenty of that for their egg shells. If all they eat is Layer they should get enough calcium from that for the egg shells. But if they eat other things than Layer, they may need supplemental calcium. Chickens can get some other calcium form their environment, though how well they do with that depends on their environment. Some plants are rich in calcium. Many creepy crawlies they love so much contain calcium. If your native rock is limestone, they will get some calcium from that. You could let your egg shells tell you if they are getting enough calcium or not. If the shells are thick and hard, they ar3e getting enough. If the shells are thin or soft, they need more. I consider it good practice to offer oyster shell on the side, whether they need it or not. They are pretty good at self-regulating. If they already are getting enough that oyster shell will last a long time. If they need calcium, he oyster shell will disappear.

3. Their house (purchased with chickens included) has no perch and no nesting boxes. We want to put a perch in the hen house - but since they have never roosted on a perch, do you think they would know what to do?

Chickens seem to have an instinctive need to roost on the highest place available. But they are also creatures of habit. If they have not learned to perch, their habit may override instinct. They are living animals, no one can give you guarantees any way when it comes to behaviors. I’d expect them to use the roosts on their own, but I sure don’t know they will.

If they do not perch on their own, what I suggest you do is go out after dark and set them up on the perch using as little light as possible. It needs to be really dark so they can’t see to move, though they may surprise you how well they do move in the dark. You should only need to do one or two. If one learns the rest usually follow.


4. Same with nesting boxes.... they lay the eggs on the floor of the coop. If I get them nesting boxes do you think they will use them?

Since they like to roost on the highest thing possible, I suggest you determine elevation of nests and roosts by starting on the floor. Determine how high the bedding will be, if you use bedding. Then position your nests. Those can be at floor level or up high enough you don’t have to bend over to gather eggs. Chickens don’t care nearly as much as people do. Then position your roosts higher than the nests. You want them sleeping on the roosts, not in the nests. They poop a lot when sleeping and you don’t want poopy eggs.

I used to have Buff Orpintons. They had no problems at all jumping/flying up to 4 foot high roosts and I’m convinced they could have gone much higher. They do need enough clear room to flap their wings going up and down. If you have a tiny coop that may present problems, but if they have some clear room, they can do really well getting up high.

They are creatures of habit when it comes to laying eggs. I very much suggest you put the nests in and put a fake egg in the nest. I use golf balls but ceramic eggs or a lot of other things will work too. As was mentioned they do like to lay where other chickens are laying. Getting the nests with fake eggs in is critical. They may switch to using them on their own.

If they are used to laying in a specific already though, they may not switch automatically. They are just in the habit of laying eggs there. If where they are laying is OK with you, you are in good shape. But if you want them to lay in a nest, you may have work to do. There are a few tricks that might work. Or they might not. One important thing though, don’t leave any eggs laying where you don’t want them to lay. They do like to lay where other hens are laying.

Try putting a nest where they are laying, with a fake egg of course. This could be a cardboard box, kitty litter pan, or something like that. Put some nesting material in it, wood shavings, straw, hay, Spanish moss, shredded paper, many different things work. Don’t use newspaper though if you use shredded paper. The newsprint will stain the hen and the eggs. If you are happy with it and they use it, you can leave it there. Or you can gradually move it to where you want them to lay. Get them used to laying in it, then in increments move it to where you want them to lay. After they get used to laying near the nests you want them to use, take the temporary nest away and see if they move to the right nests. Sometimes it works.

This trick requires you to be around a lot. When I built my nests, I made some so I could lock a hen in there if I wanted to. When I have a hen laying on the coop floor instead of in the nest, I check on them a lot. When she is on her regular nest on the floor, I catch her and lock her in a nest until she lays her egg. That normally takes a half hour though I’ve had some go 3 hours. Usually I only have to do this once and she makes the switch, but for a couple of hens I’ve had to do it a couple of times.

Some people have said they had success by messing up the nest are or putting something there they cannot lay in. When I’ve tried that, they just lay next to whatever I put there.

Good luck with it. You’ll go through a bit of a learning curve but I think you will enjoy the adventure. One thing to remember, we are all unique. There are a lot of different ways to do about everything to do with chickens. There is practically never one right way to do something where every other way is wrong. There are just a lot of different approaches that work for us in our unique situations. Just stay flexible and enjoy.
 

The Yakima Kid

Cirque des Poulets
9 Years
Aug 7, 2010
1,850
124
241
Valley of the Dominiques
If your chickens are getting treats at all, or grazing the yard while out of the coop, they will need oyster shell. Grit is cheap and is good insurance - you do not want to even approach the risk of crop binding. I never assume that there is enough lime or grit because I have heard too many stories from people who mistakenly made that assumption when neither were easily available to poor biddy.

Forty some years ago when I was in FFA it was just assumed you provided these, even if you were grazing the flock, which was a rarity even back then, although some people still ranged or soiled household flocks.

Both are cheap insurance. Go to a feed store and get them from the bulk bin, but please do so.

You'll love having Orpingtons; they are usually cuddle chickens if handled calmly. If they go broody, that is insist on moving into the nest full time and look like Trilby after meeting Svengali, drop us all a line and we'll help with that, too. Broodiness is the one downside of Orpingtons - but you may be able to trick them into fostering day old chicks if you time it right.
 
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