My old hens don't want any new upstarts

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by hamstermom, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. hamstermom

    hamstermom New Egg

    Oct 10, 2015
    Santa Cruz California
    We have 2, approx 6 year old hens and decided to get a couple young ones. The 6 years olds are still laying but have cut back significantly. I put the 2 (6 week old) pullets in a large cage and put the cage in the coop for a month so they could see each other. Then I took out the cage and put them in the coop. My New Hampshire Red went nuts and charged and attacked the newcomers! She was very aggressive and I worried about leaving them in there so I took them out. I didn't see blood but didn't want to chance it and didn't have time to chickensit. I bought a small temporary coop and put it next to the original coop and left them next to each other for another month. I let all of them out to free range and the NHR did it again and charged and pecked them very hard.

    We are considering making our coop much larger and see if that helps, but part of me wants to find a retirement home for the old hens. My husband is against this and wants to keep them until their natural deaths, but I am the one who takes care of them, and we can't afford to do major remodeling on the coop right now. The old hens are our first backyard chickens.

    Any suggestions?

    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Do you mean vicious as in drawing blood? Chicken interactions can appear a bit over the top sometimes, but its simply the way they are wired. There are lots of threads on introducing new chickens to a flock so i would advise you trawl through them, but what you may consider doing is to put another feeding / watering station out of eyesight of the one you already use to reduce competition and bullying when it comes to food.

  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    You might want to try putting the aggressor in the cage for a couple hours,
    See how the other one treats the newcomers,
    then see if a time out changes the meanies tune.

    A 'natural' death can be a not so pleasant thing for bird and keeper, might be better to make them stew.

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.......
    ......take what applies or might help and ignore the rest.
    See if any of them, or the links provided at the bottom, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens into flock.

    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine ArticlePoultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders.

    If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.

    The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best of mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

    Another option, if possible, is to put all birds in a new coop and run, this takes the territoriality issues away.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
    1 person likes this.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Diane, how old are those pullets? That could be really significant. Another important factor is room. I’m not talking ab out square feet per chicken. One way chickens have learned to live together is when there is a conflict the weaker runs away. They also need room to avoid a bully. They need room and a configuration to run away and avoid if they need to. But you said it happened when they were out ranging. Space is not the problem.

    Chicken society can be extremely complex. You are dealing with living animals and each is an individual. We can tell you what would normally happen but then there is reality. Sociologists can tell you how 100,000 people will react to something but they can’t tell you how one individual in that 100,000 will react. There can be a lot of variety. Aart’s comments cover most people most of the time. That’s the same type of comments I usually give.

    Many of us integrate new chickens all the time and hardly ever have a problem. But sometimes there are problems. Chickens can be bullies and can be pretty brutal. That’s just the way they are, some more so than others. While I hardly ever have a problem with an older hen going after a younger more immature chicken, it does happen. A lot of these times the younger invaded the personal space of the mature hen and she enforced her pecking order rights and chased it away. There might be some chasing and running away involved but it’s usually over pretty quickly. But if there is not room to run away it can get bad. And some hens are bigger bullies than others.

    Then there is the thing that Ken mentioned. To someone not used to seeing normal chicken interaction in a mixed age flock it can look really brutal. Sometimes it is dangerously brutal. It’s hard to draw the line. If the hen is protecting her personal space, that’s one thing. If she is going out of her way to attack the other, that’s a little more reason to watch it.

    Mature chickens always outrank immature chickens. That’s why you generally see younger chickens forming their own sub-flock. They are simply avoiding the others. But once the younger mature enough to make their way into the pecking order they become one flock, though you will still sometimes see them hanging in the old groups. Generally, not always but generally, my pullets mature enough to force their way into the pecking order about the time they start to lay. That’s why I thought their age might be important.

    My suggestions for your specific situation. You’ve already tried my first suggestion which would have been letting them free range together and it did not work. Usually with that much space they form their sub-flocks and get along.

    Aart’s idea of removing the bully and seeing how the others get along has a lot of potential. It could easily work.

    If they have not started to lay, house them separately until they do. Then try the free ranging together thing. Don’t immediately force them to sleep together. Maybe allow them out to range on alternate days. Once the younger are old enough it may work out, or you may be stuck with this type of split housing until the end of their days. Maybe giving two of them a fenced run instead of alternating days ranging.

    I wish you luck with this. It can be challenging.
    1 person likes this.
  5. shell shocked

    shell shocked Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 21, 2015
    liverpool england
    took your problem to my pal he has been breeding and selling hens for a good many years
    he tells me the new birds are much to young your old hens will attack them in the wild they would just
    drive them off with hens of that age he would not sell you any girls under 16 weeks and you should
    make sure they have some where to run and hide put them on the perch at night and try and try and let
    them out as early as you can it should take a week or so to sort out but putting in 16 to 17 week old
    new stock gives them a fighting chance
    hope this has been of help
    good luck [​IMG]
  6. hamstermom

    hamstermom New Egg

    Oct 10, 2015
    Santa Cruz California
    Thanks. The newbies are now 19 weeks old, so I gather from your friend that if I give them more space and more time they should sort it out. That gives me some hope, thanks for the advice.
  7. hamstermom

    hamstermom New Egg

    Oct 10, 2015
    Santa Cruz California
    The pullets are now 19 weeks old. Thanks for the advice. I guess I will keep them separate until they start laying.

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