MEEEAN Chicken - integrating "bigs" with "littles"

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Frijole, May 12, 2016.

  1. Frijole

    Frijole Out Of The Brooder

    Hi all -

    New problem for all of your expertise if you could take a minute and weigh in -

    We have a small flock of 7 that are 10 weeks old, and a newer flock of 14 that are 6 weeks old. The older chicks were moved into our big hen house. The younger chicks were in a brooding box. They were separated only by a small screen and were together since the babies arrived.

    Both flocks are a mix of rare breeds - we are pretty close to determining what everybody is at this point (that's been the fun part).

    Here is my recent dilemma.

    The older girls have been free ranging daily - my husband built a coop that has a solar powered door which closes at 8:00. After a few days of having to put them in the closed coop for roosting, they were in that hen house for about a week before we started to integrate the two flocks.

    During this last week we were successful at integrating the flocks - both are allowed to free range during the day and they successfully put themselves into the closed coop for two nights.

    However, during this integration we have watched our Golden Campine (Speckles) become dominant, and actually is quite the bully. Of all of the older chickens, the rest will occasionally find a younger one and give them a peck, but for the last two nights....

    (I have to insert here that I will confess we watch "Chicken TV" at night - sitting in a chair in the corral and watch the interaction and watch them put themselves to bed, etc... I know it's crazy but I feel comfortable making this confession in front of all of you - lol)

    ... for the last two nights we've seen some real "rooster" behavior from Speckles. She watches out for the bigger flock, she pursues and pecks the little ones intentionally, she runs after a latecomer from the bigger flock, and rounds them up to bring them back in to the coop, etc...

    The last two nights, she will go in the coop, and I can hear some pecking and complaining from the littles. There has been no blood, no missing feathers, etc... The last two nights, she also comes out, and roosts above the door, makes sure that everyone is inside, and then goes in.

    Last night, she was very aggravated, the older girls roosted first, and each little girl who came to the coop was pecked right back out by Speckles. After about 30 minutes of this, a few were allowed inside, and the rest were too scared to go in, so they ended up roosting right at the door.

    Sadly, at 8:30, the solar powered door shut firmly, and ended up catching Little Miss Lucy (ironically also our only other Campine) in the door. She was found limp, breathing heavily and clearly in shock. I was pretty certain she had broken her neck, but we settled her in safely next to the flock for the night. (To my incredible surprise this morning, she made a complete recovery but that's another story)

    The real question: What to do with Speckles The Bully. I know that if i allow the littles to roost first and keep the bigs out of the coop until the littles have roosted that there is less trouble, but I can't really be out there every night policing.

    Honestly, I'm leaning toward the crock pot. My second idea is to take Speckles and put her back into the little coop for a day or two (with full eating and drinking priveleges, of course) - chicken jail.

    PLEASE HELP - these Golden Campines are so beautiful, and I can't stand to lose her, but she is crazy.
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Shazam Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    There's always gonna be a top bird, you can remove it and another one will take its place. What people call a bully, is just the expression of the pecking order, there's no malice to it, it's just the way a flock keeps order.

    Your chicks are too young to reliably go inside every night, especially with two groups that are both so young. I would disconnect the door for a few months and manually close it. I would actually still be separating the group's at night so the older ones don't hurt the younger ones for a few months. I never rush integrations.

    I watch my chickens all the time, they are complex creatures with interesting behaviors. It's one of my favorite hobbies.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Chicken TV is a good thing to do, no one here will call you crazy for will learn much from such observation time.

    I agree that disconnecting the auto door might be a very good idea...8:00 is too early here anyway.

    Your integration setup sounds pretty good, but once you let them all get together there can still be problems that can take awhile to work out.
    They do well ranging because they have lots of room for the littles to get away....the coop is a whole nother story, especially when one can guard the door.

    Wish I could see your coop, inside and out. Size of coop and roosts might be an issue.
    I think I would be grabbing Speckles and holding or crating her until the littles get inside for a few nights, see if that helps.
    She needs taking down a notch, if only temporarily.

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