My flock is scared of a wild rabbit.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by shanadienne, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All it does is hop around nibbling at things (and pooping), as rabbits do, and my chickens are safe inside the pen, but they start squawking when they see it and if it moves suddenly they explode and scatter as if a hawk just dive-bombed their enclosure.

    My mom loves seeing wild rabbits so I don't want to make it leave. How do I condition my flock not to fear rabbits? Would sticking a fake rabbit in the pen teach them it's okay?
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    They should become acclimated to seeing the rabbit after a while and not get so reactive. How old are they?
     
  3. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

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  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Oh goodness. Do they just see it on the one side of the run? You could block their view with plywood or pallets so they can't see the bunny.
     
  5. Chickassan

    Chickassan Overrun With Chickens

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    They seem curious until it runs, I think its the fast movement more than the bunny itself or are they like that when its just chilling out?
     
  6. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Usually it's just on the far side, but I see its poop in front of the pen, too.

    When it's just sitting there or moving slowly, they stand there with stretched-tall necks and fanned tails doing a typical repetitive warning squawk, crowding on whatever side of the pen is closest. When it runs, well, you saw the video.

    Honestly this probably is related to a problem that's been going on for a lot longer. I thought it was getting better but maybe it's just shifted.
    Here goes:
    -Months ago, my mom (who is scared of chickens) had a container of kitchen scraps to feed them. She opened the door of the pen just enough to toss the stuff out of the container (probably one of those blue plastic things mushrooms come in at the store) and that freaked out the chickens. They panicked and ran to the other end of the pen and squawked for a while. (And ate the treats immediately after they calmed down.)
    -I learned soon after that ANYONE who throws/drops food into the pen from the doorway can cause a flock-wide panic. If you close the door behind you and throw from there, they freak out. The closer to the door you were standing, the more upset they'd get.
    -My mom hasn't done it since, but the flock has only gotten more sensitive over time. If I was too sudden throwing layer pellets on the ground with the food pail, they would panic even though they know it's the food bucket and they're hungry. This was no matter where I was standing.
    -It has gotten to the point that they might all be eating as peacefully as chickens can, a hen shakes off for one reason or another, and every chicken around her is scared. (The hen in question also runs since everyone else did.) I've seen it happen more than once.
    -I think it's gotten better but I try very hard not make sudden movements inside (or in view of) the pen. It was happening one to three times a day, whether or not anyone was outside, but at this point I might not notice.

    So, yeah, I guess the rabbit-phobia is probably related to that, which is the weirder problem. It's like they've developed a mass anxiety disorder or get mass hysteria.
     
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I throw things all the time, my chickens get used to it, yours seem over reactive. I wonder if you are having other visitors to your coop at night which is making them more nervous. I see you have a rooster which should make them more secure feeling. I still would try to block some of their view, chickens need things to run to or hide behind, or things to go up on or under to feel safer.
     
  8. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Haha, that rooster is one of the worst ones when it comes to panicking over nothing. He's a bantam to their standard size so maybe they don't have confidence in the little guy.

    In my experience, too, chickens usually get accustomed to things. It's just that my flock used to be fine with things being thrown (hell, even now you could throw a fist-sized rock at them and they'd assume it's food) but now they're not.

    My brother-in-law and I are planning some improvements/additions to our chicken housing, so we'll prioritize shelter in the pen. Do you think it should be low, like for them to sort of crouch under (I imagine that would feel more secure for them), or higher?
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Outside mine like going under, inside they like going higher. Could be they can't trust their rooster and have to be brave themselves. You would know by a drop in egg production or if you see lots of shell less eggs that it's too much stress on them. Who knows maybe they enjoy being scared too like people do.
     
  10. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I do have a few hens who sometimes choose to fly between ten and fifty feet for no reason and scream the whole time, like people on roller coasters...

    Thank you for the suggestions!
     

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