Need advice/reassurance for traumatized pullets

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Arboribabe, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. Arboribabe

    Arboribabe In the Brooder

    Jul 13, 2019
    Lemmon Valley, Nevada
    I have a friend who recently tried to integrate two lavender Orphington pullets into her flock of RIR's. Unfortunately, these two youngsters were harassed mercilessly and one was injured in an attack. My friend knows that I have a mixed flock of gentle breeds and asked if I would take her to 16 week old pullets.

    These two birds are absolutely traumatized by their experience and are having a very difficult time. They cower and hide in a corner and try to escape through the fence. Sometimes they huddle in a nesting box. There has been only mild pecking order activity by my other hens, but none of them pursue or harass the newbies -- just a quick, "out of my way, Newbie" kind of behavior. This, of course, sends them into utter terror and panic because of their previous experience

    I'm taking measures to make sure that they have access to food and water, but they don't seem to want to eat much because they are so fearful. I let them out into the yard for the better part of the day so that they can relax and forage, but there are days that I simply can't let them out when I'm away from home.

    My question is, has anyone dealt with this level of emotional trauma? Will they eventually be able to relax and just be chickens who aren't chicken all of the time? Is there anything else I can do to help them further? They are very thin and I don't want them to get sick because of the stress.
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Songster

    Apr 30, 2015
    You should not have put these birds directly into your flock. They should have been separated for a while so the two groups could see each other but not make contact. For at least a week. RIR are very aggressive and the others probably would have been killed as it sounds like the other party just put them in as well. You need to get them into an area by themselves, away from the others completely so they can learn to relax and see the other birds but not make contact. Especially after being attacked by the others, even one of your birds "Get out of my way" is going to be seen as an attack.
  3. Arboribabe

    Arboribabe In the Brooder

    Jul 13, 2019
    Lemmon Valley, Nevada
    Thank you. My friend was desperate to get hers away from the RIR's so I took them in. One of them had been attacked so badly that it was wounded. I don't have a second run or coop. I guess I could evict my new pullets from a large dog crate early (ages 14 and 16 weeks) and integrate them with the rest of my flock so the Orphingtons could be in the crate. (It's in view of the run where everyone can see each other.)
    I do let the Orphingtons out to free range in the morning and then my mature hens join them in the afternoon. They aren't getting chased or harassed, so I hope they will start feeling safer. I just want to know that their emotional trauma isn't going to be a permanent issue.
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    You might just keep the new ones in the run/coop with the old ones locked out free ranging. This would allow them to explore the coop/run without the stress of other birds.
  5. And they could be given extra food to get their weight up. They should have crumble and water and maybe some egg and other proteins like fish. They will probably do better when they have better nutrition.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Here's some tips and links about.....
    Integration Basics:

    It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
    Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
    Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

    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.

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

    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 copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, 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'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.

    This used to be a better search, new format has reduced it's efficacy, but still:
    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading, BUT some info is outdated IMO:
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    What you are describing isn't that unusual, though it may a be a bit more extreme than normal. Until they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order immature birds are often pecked if they invade a more mature chicken's personal space. Typically they quickly learn to avoid the older birds to avoid getting pecked. That's normal behavior in the chicken world.

    I don't know what happened at your friend's place. It's possible there was a chicken, probably a hen, that is a bully and an absolute brute. Occasionally you get a hen that will seek out to destroy a new, weaker chicken. It doesn't happen that often but it can possibly happen. Or if space was tight, the new pullets did not have enough room to run away from the others or avoid them. If they can't get away the older chicken doesn't realize she won so she keeps attacking. It might have been something else but those are my top guesses. So those two pullets learned that older hens are dangerous and really want to avoid them. They are not dumb.

    I don't know what your facilities look like, how much room you have or how things are arranged. I don't know how you manage them, your flock make-up, or the personalities of your chickens. It's hard to make specific recommendations. You can follow Aart's generic suggestions, they tend to help a lot. You might be able to integrate them in a week or two, especially if you have a lot of room outside, in the coop, and on the roosts. They should still avoid the others but that is typical behavior for immature pullets but maybe they can get along, just staying apart. My definition of a successful integration is that no one gets hurt. Or you can house them across wire until the pullets start to lay. That's typically when my pullets mature enough to force their way into the flock.

    Those pullets are not that unique. This kind of stuff often happens in the chicken world in our backyard flocks since we keep them confined and mix them. If they are raised by a broody hen with the flock and have unlimited room you almost never see these things. But that's not the world we live in so we see these things. If you are patient and give them time they will work it out. Don't force them but give them time.

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