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New chicken owner, questions about laying/pecking behaviors

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by amama, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. amama

    amama Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    I've been trying to research and watch videos on chicken behavior but am not finding my exact answers, so any help would be appreciated. We've never had chickens before and we have 15 hens that are 5 months old, we've had them a week so I know they are still settling in.

    The first question is about pecking behavior, I know chickens have a hierarchy, and will peck each other, but when is it too much? There are a few of the bigger ones, about three, that are mean. They always bother hens that try to sit down, they come stand on them/scratch them/peck them, etc. There are also two that get into scuffles quite often, I thought maybe they were roosters since they were prancing around and fluffing up at each other and everyone, but I'm still pretty sure they are hens, just acting more like roosters.

    They definitely make it harder for the less developed hens. None of them are losing feathers that I can tell, just lots of pecking/squawking.

    Is all of that okay, just leave them to settle things on their own?


    We have gotten 5 random eggs while they were in the chicken tractor, and I was trying to figure out which one was laying, and noticed some sitting/scratching and wondered if they were laying, but maybe they were just trying to dustbathe? I didn't know if they were trying to lay because the meaner ones make them move and then sniff around/scratch where they were laying? If some were trying to lay out in the grass I wanted to pick them up and put them in the nesting boxes (which they haven't used yet).

    Do you all provide sand/dust for dust bathing? They haven't scratched all the ground up yet in their run so maybe I should add sand?


    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. chickenherder10

    chickenherder10 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2016
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    How much room do they have but they could be moulting
     
  3. chickenherder10

    chickenherder10 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2016
    Illinois
    Sorry I accidentally submitted that
     
  4. amama

    amama Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    The coop has 64 sq ft of floor space, their pen has about 3x that much and then they have a tractor that eventually will have 140q ft, right now it has 70sq. ft.

    I didn't think 5 month old hens would molt in the spring?
     
  5. newwestchick

    newwestchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    That's a pretty tight space for that many hens - I would get on building the additional room for them to lessen their intensity toward one another.
    As long as no one is bleeding don't worry too much about their pecking etc. it looks worse than it is, and all chickens do this to some extent. The key is having a few areas where the picked on ones can get away from the bullies, and two or more feeding stations and at least 4 nest boxes (for your size flock).
    If you had a rooster he would keep them in line, but if you're like me and don't keep one you can expect one or more hens to act like one.
    Best wishes!
     
  6. amama

    amama Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    I thought from everything I read hens need 4 sq ft of floor space each, so if we have 15 hens they need 60, and we have 64q ft total? Our coop is way bigger than any you can buy for 15 hens, although I think those are too small, but I thought we were fine with that space? How big are you saying it needs to be when you say get building an additional space?

    I also read a lot of posts saying too many next boxes isn't a good idea either, we have 3 right now since only a couple hens are starting to lay, but we do have two feeders going.

    Thanks
     
  7. newwestchick

    newwestchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    I kind of feel like those guidelines are for commercial stuff - just my opinion. If you're having bullying and pecking issues most of the time too little space is the problem :)
    I fluctuate between 8-30 chickens and I have about 1000 square feet of run and my coop which they're only confined in overnight is 12x16. Probably overkill but I give them as much space as I can afford to.
     
  8. amama

    amama Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    I forgot to mention that I would think some of their behavior comes from their original home probably, the woman had over 90 hens/chickens plus roosters in their backyard in the city, and I know the day I picked them up she had 24 hens caught and caged, so 12 in each cage and they weren't large. So hopefully they will enjoy our house more, we have 50 acres but WAY too many predators to let them free range unfortunately:(

    After we reconstructed the nesting box area, there were two eggs laid in there yesterday, much nicer than going into the tractor between all the hens to gather eggs!
    [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    Your coop space is 'OK'.....more would be better.
    Especially in this situation, where older birds(as opposed to chicks growing together in that space)
    are thrown together who maybe haven't lived in such a confined space before.

    The 4/10 foot rule is minimum, IMO.
    Can depend on how it's set up and what your climate is.
    Adding your location to your profile can help folks give better answers/suggestions.
    Pics of your coop/roosts/run(pen) might help us give some advice.

    A week isn't long.....as long as no one is bleeding profusely or is being pinned down/trapped and beaten upon, let them work it out.
    You should probably leave them in their pen and coop(I assume the pen is attached to the coop?)
    and put some fake eggs/golf balls in the nests to 'show' them where to lay.
    Not sure how you're using the tractor.
     
  10. amama

    amama Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    Well, we'd like more chickens eventually and wishing I had gotten some of these ladies' chicks from the owner too, so we'll just work on expanding/doubling the coop.

    I'll add to my profile, we are in Missouri, hot humid summers and cold wet/snowy winters.

    My camera/internet isn't working well but I'll get pics when I can.

    The pecking seems to be slowing down a bit, we also have been picking up/petting a couple of the really bossy ones and it seems to be lessening their aggressiveness.

    The tractor is because I want them to "free range" as much as possible for their sake and so they can help eat tics/bugs on our property (we have woods, so lots of bugs). So I'm trying to make them a large run/pen, but also be able to move them around to new areas for new grass/fertilize places for us without getting eaten by the predators.


     

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