Need help, nothing seems to be working to help a hen integrate with flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Shdfx1, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. Shdfx1

    Shdfx1 Out Of The Brooder

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    I bought 3 chicks to replenish my flock, which had gotten down to 4 birds. But tragically, one died of an umbilical cord abscess. Then my husband accidentally let his dog out, who killed one and bit the other. I was able to save the last chick, periodically glaring at my husband. She has a slight limp, and is very bonded with people. She follows my 3 year old son around.

    But my flock adamantly will not accept a lone hen. They chase and peck her, and eventually she crouches in a corner with her head down and sits there while they draw blood from the back of her neck. She is a devoted pacifist, and won't even flap her wings at her persecutors. One time they pecked a bad wound on her neck. I've only been able to prevent further bloodshed by keeping an eye on her the whole time she's with them. Once it goes beyond just pecking at her as she runs panicked by, and they have her pinned in a corner, I get her out. At that point she plays dead, and obviously my birds think dead chicken tastes great!

    Here is what I have tried:
    1. Increasing our run size. It now measures 9X16 feet (they still pecked her mercilessly)
    2. Separating her by a mesh temporary fence for a week (pecked her the moment they could get to her)
    3. Putting her in at night when they were asleep (tried to murder her at first light)
    4. Putting her in the coop and letting the hens out in our backyard
    5. Spraying her with Hot Pick
    6. Sitting in there and waving off aggressive hens (tried to murder her as soon as I left)
    7. Letting them all out in the backyard - this is the only method in which they left her alone, shunned her really. But I can't leave them out to free range permanently because we have owls, bobcats, coyotes, and crows that eat birds. They are fine in the backyard but the moment they are in a smaller space, they go for blood
    8. Put them all out in the garden, which is bigger than their run but smaller than the yard and throw out plenty of scratch and other treats - as soon as they're done eating they turn into homicidal maniacs

    What am I missing? Is there chicken chain mail? Barbed wire? My husband refuses to build a second coop/run. I would hate to rehome her because she is the sweetest, most passive, cuddly chicken I've ever met. She keeps trying to get into the house, but we have cats, and my husband is adamantly opposed to a diapered house chicken. She will hop into our laps outside, and takes a dirt bath next to my son playing in the dirt.

    I'm thinking of trying two more things:
    1. Taking out two of the established chickens during the day to even out the odds
    2. Putting a permanent fence down the middle of the run and building a new coop back there, balkanizing my flock

    This has been going on for months. She is now almost full grown.

    If anyone has any advice on what else to try, I would appreciate it. It's not good for her to be alone in the garden all day, and sleep in a box out in the garage every night.
     
  2. alaskanchickens

    alaskanchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would try taking out the dominant hens. After a couple of days, maybe try adding her in with them and if that works, add the whole group back to the flock at one time? The, before dominant hens, will have to reestablish a place in the pecking order and adding 2, 3, or 4 birds is better than 1.
     
  3. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Try putting them one at a time in with her. Waiting a couple of days between adding the second allowing time for the first to bond. One on one can work to a new chickens advantage, because she has only one to deal with at a time. When the second hen is added there is then two to face the pair. With a larger flock you would continue until there is a sufficient number to introduce to the main flock. With your small flock I'd just keep adding one at a time. With her being lame she may always be the bottom bird.
     
  4. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

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    With her limp, its highly possible they think something is wrong with her. In a situation like that, the flock would drive her off her kill her to protect themselves (a sick or injured chicken is a calling card to preds). Have you tried putting her in a cage in the coop so they can see but not get at her?
     
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    First off, it sounds like she was really too young when you started this. When I've tried to introduce even healthy chicks to a flock of mature hens, I've had dead chicks if they're younger than 3 1/2 months old. It's usually advisable to wait until they're roughly the same size as the grown birds, this gives them a fighting chance at least.

    How old is she now? If less than 4 months, I'd just hold off and wait a good few weeks before doing anything.

    Second, accept that if your chicken has a limp, the other birds may never allow her in the flock. Chickens don't do "special needs", they're big into survival of the fittest, and they see an ill or injured bird as a threat to the safety of the entire flock. An older, established bird may get away with sustaining an injury and keeping their place, but a young bird that's compromised doesn't stand much chance.

    You can try removing some of the older hens, things like that, but you might also have to come to terms with rehoming her. It's hard, I know, but you need to consider what's best for her. There are folks out there who would absolutely love a tame pet chicken. I have a hen in a similar situation, she's just too submissive for the roosters and always looks beat up. I'm not going to get rid of my roosters, and all my other hens look great, this one hen just won't stick up for herself. I've got her separate to grow her feathers back in, then I'll be selling her to a flock that's rooster free, and preferably with more docile breeds of hens. She's not a pet, like your bird, but she's a great layer and I hate to lose her, but my flock is not a good fit for her and it's best for her to go to a different home.
     
  6. Shdfx1

    Shdfx1 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi:

    She was about 4 months old when I started trying to integrate her.

    I think you might be right that it's not only the fact that I'm trying to introduce one hen (instead of a group of new ones), but that she has a limp, too. Her weakness seems to make them want to pick on her. Plus the fact that she acts so panicky around the other chickens makes it worse.

    Right now, I have her out in the garden with a single hen. She pecked at her a bit at first, but then seems to have left her alone. But I suspect that I'll never be able to trust the flock around her unattended in the run, which is smaller than the garden.

    I'm going to try introducing one hen at a time, but if that doesn't work, I think you're right. I have to either divide the coop permanently with a fence, or re-home her. She really does have a lovely personality. My son can play right next to her, and she remains calmly interested. She's identified the humans as her flock. When I let her out in the backyard, she keeps a vigil at the patio door where she can watch us inside.
     
  7. Shdfx1

    Shdfx1 Out Of The Brooder

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    I have tried putting them all out in the garden, with her enclosed in a wire mesh temporary fence. I've also tried putting her out in the garden alone, where they can see her in the run a few feet away. I've also tried putting her in the empty run, and letting all the hens out in the yard.

    I'm really worried that the combination of her being the only newbie, her limp, and her extremely passive nature means the flock will always be savage to her.

    What we're going to do this weekend is install a fence right down the middle of the run, and keep her on one side and the flock on the other.

    Right now I have her in the garden with only one of the other hens. She got picked on a bit at first, but after that the other bird left her alone.

    It's frustrating, because she is the sweetest hen I've ever owned, and she's especially bonded with my little boy. I just hope I can find some way to make this work permanently.

    Thanks for the advice.
     
  8. Shdfx1

    Shdfx1 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks! I tried that today. I put her out in the garden with only one other hen, who pecked at her at first, and then left her alone.

    I wouldn't mind if she was low hen on the totem pole, as long as they don't eat or maim her!
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'd leave her with that one other hen for a week or so, then try to get them all back together.
     
  10. Rodster

    Rodster Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi there.
    chicken social behavior is sometimes tuff to figure out. I think a seperate run is a great idea myself. last year, i got 2 americanas to add to my flock as i wanted multi colored eggs. At the farm after about 5 minutes of looking at a HUGE amount of birds, this one golden one inparticular caught my eye and was my first pick, named her penney. soon after i found another that seemed pretty submissive. named her patty. Well, within a week, i found patty was quite ill and i was still pretty new to birds. after another 4 days, patty expired. (story in my history) that left penney as the sole newcommer to a flock of 6 and it was a lot like your scenerio, but less... violent. whenever i went into the run, penny made a run straight at me and would jump into my arms to get away from everyone else. a few weeks later i went back to the farm for another hen hoping to give penney a comrade and well, i ended up with 2 outcasts that didn't care for each other very much. After about 6 months or so, they settled into their pecking order and are doing fine. Now, i have another rooster that was born here and got pretty big. i mean HUGE. when he came into puberty he was terrible with the hens, especially penny. for about 5 months she had a completely bare back and would hide all the time. i decided then to let the big rooster free range in the yard and keep the rest of the flock in their run. the big rooster sleeps in the garage alone (which is good because he is LOUD) and only has contact with whichever hen wants to "escape" the run and play with him, which is fine with me. Penny is very happy with the arrangement and the others don't seem to mind either. i DO have a much smaller roo in with them and he is top roo, even for being over half the size of the other. he can't mount any of the hens, but it sure is fun watching him try now and again. If i decide i wish to fertile the eggs, i'll swap penny with the big rooster for a few weeks, maybe seting up a smaller run for her, but at this point my flock is large enough. If you love your hen, keep her. she sounds like she is a great fit with you and your son. altho penny is very (too) submissive to the big roo, she now gets along fine with all the other hens and i wouldn't get rid of her for anything. good luck to you.
     

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