New chickens aggressive behavior

Cachickmama

Hatching
Nov 23, 2020
5
3
8
SF Bay area
Hi all, we are absolutely newbies to chickens and need some help understanding our 4 chickens.

We bought home 16 week Speckled sussex and a New Hampshire red home on Saturday from a family run farm.
The Sussex was just very very docile and didnt seem interested in eating much, however the NH red was curious and eat a good amount. He was also pretty friendly to touch but when we tried to pick him up would try to flap away. They were in the coop overnight and the NH was sitting on the feeder the whole time and seemed a bit territorial. However it wasnt troubling the SS or anything.

On sunday(the next day) we added 30 week old Buff orpington's, which were from a friendly family that hand raised them. One of them is slightly bigger than the other. The bigger one was pretty friendly but the other one a little flighty as if it doesn't like to be held.

The NH chicken which was calm until then was just running scared the moment we put the BO's in the chicken run.
He was running away from them and hiding in a corner whereas the BO's were just minding their business and were pecking away at the food. This behavior continued until afternoon and then the NH and SS both retired into the coop leaving the BO's to the chicken run. A little while later in the evening when the NH came into the chicken run and went to the feeder, the smaller of the BO's chased him and tried to peck at him.He also pecked at my sandals a couple of times in the evening.

I am pretty shocked to see this aggressive behavior from the BO, given the reason for getting this breed is so we have 'friendly' lap chickens..i am wondering if the aggressive behavior might be due to stress from the move and being in a new place? Is there anything we need to do so all the chickens are friendly to each other??

TIA,
Rama.
 

BDutch

Crowing
May 19, 2015
2,125
7,007
427
the Netherlands
My Coop
Hello Rama. :welcome

Well, lets start to say that all chickens have individual character’s and individual behaviour. Some breeds tend to be more docile, friendly and easier to handle and other breeds tend to be more flighty or aggressive. How a chicken reacts is probably a combination of genes and life experiences. (As with humans).

Bringing new chickens together is always stressful for them. They need to establish who is the boss and gets is the first to eat and gets the best place to roost. Who is second ... This is called pecking order. No doubt the bossy types in you’re case are the Orpingtons.

The Orpingtons may have come from a situation where they ‘learned’ to be aggressive to get enough food and a good place to roost as where the Sussex and the NHampshire didn’t need to? :idunno

The best remedy is in general:
  • providfeed and water in different places ,
  • provide more space in the coop and run with hiding places ,
  • make a second roost /roost area to avoid too much quarrelling.
But they also need time to establish a new pecking order before things calm down.

How big is you’re setup? If you post a fee pictures and give some sizes there are lots of people here who can give you advice how to improve. There are also articles in the learning centre that wil show you the way.

Keep in mind the shops tend to sell coops that are way too small to house the number of chickens they claim to be fit for. And most coops have not enough ventilation gaps and natural light inside.
 

B-Goock

Songster
Jun 8, 2013
629
1,154
236
Somerset, Kentucky
Integration is always an issue with chickens. The two older ones came from an established flock and established pecking order so they likely co sider themselves "the flock". Almost entirely on age they will be the dominate birds and will bully the younger ones.

Lots of techniques for integration.
See but no touch. Separate pens but they can see and slowly get used to each other.

Night integration. Placing new birds on the roost in the dark. When it gets light they sometimes just assume they are members of the flock.

SPACE. Ample space they can get away from each other including different feed & water stations

Distractions. A jack o lantern in the run. Head of cabbage. Piles of leaves or flakes of hay or straw. Keep the bullies concerned with finding goodies focusing their attention away.

Barriers/hiding spots. Very useful when integrating younger with older. Like a box with doors small enough old ones can't get in but young ones can.

Break line of sight. Can be as simple as a board leaned against the run cage or coop wall. Or even chicken glasses on the worst bully offenders.

Outnumbered. The more you have of established or older flock members or the fewer new members the bullying will be worse. The more new/younger will spread the bullying out. They can't beat everybody up.

Then some issues like breed compatibility can't be fixed with anything other than separation.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 27, 2012
90,148
111,917
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
i am wondering if the aggressive behavior might be due to stress from the move and being in a new place? Is there anything we need to do so all the chickens are friendly to each other??
It's all about territory....and they can be brutal.

Here's my tips 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.
Good ideas for hiding places:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/


Oh, and....Welcome to BYC! @Cachickmama
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, and then it's always there!
1606169861923.png
 

Cachickmama

Hatching
Nov 23, 2020
5
3
8
SF Bay area
Hello Rama. :welcome

Well, lets start to say that all chickens have individual character’s and individual behaviour. Some breeds tend to be more docile, friendly and easier to handle and other breeds tend to be more flighty or aggressive. How a chicken reacts is probably a combination of genes and life experiences. (As with humans).

Bringing new chickens together is always stressful for them. They need to establish who is the boss and gets is the first to eat and gets the best place to roost. Who is second ... This is called pecking order. No doubt the bossy types in you’re case are the Orpingtons.

The Orpingtons may have come from a situation where they ‘learned’ to be aggressive to get enough food and a good place to roost as where the Sussex and the NHampshire didn’t need to? :idunno

The best remedy is in general:
  • providfeed and water in different places ,
  • provide more space in the coop and run with hiding places ,
  • make a second roost /roost area to avoid too much quarrelling.
But they also need time to establish a new pecking order before things calm down.

How big is you’re setup? If you post a fee pictures and give some sizes there are lots of people here who can give you advice how to improve. There are also articles in the learning centre that wil show you the way.

Keep in mind the shops tend to sell coops that are way too small to house the number of chickens they claim to be fit for. And most coops have not enough ventilation gaps and natural light inside.
Thank you BDutch, B-goock and aart...we are painfully realizing that Buff Orpington's are not so friendly after all :(...However they are not fighting to draw blood, mostly chasing the NH and SS, so i guess thats good news. Ideally having a second coop would be nice, but i dont think its a possibility for us so will just have to watch and wait...btw, how long would the bullying last at an average??

Also the NH red tried to fly onto me and kinda got me scared, its mostly my 2 younger kids that go to feed/play with them and i am worried she might harm them..maybe its learning the aggressive behavior from the BO's and showing it on us?? I was watching it today and the whole time its peering to the ceiling and looking around as if it wants to escape.(the BO's went into the coop by this time and she is all alone, so there is no one pecking her at that time.)

Our coop is not too big, just a 4X3 and chicken run is 10X6 as we intend to only have 4 chickens. We live in California suburbs and dont want to cause too much trouble with our friendly neighbors.

Attached is our work in progress coop my husband built.
 

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BDutch

Crowing
May 19, 2015
2,125
7,007
427
the Netherlands
My Coop
I suppose you're coop and run are big enough in theory and if you had bought 4 chickens from the same hatch / nest their probably wouldn’t have been an issue. But you need more space /hiding places , adding other ages or other breeds to you're flock of 2.
Adding hiding space outside the run and in connection (like a children's playhouse) probably can solve you're issues. Another possibility could be to return one BO to the previous owner. What certainly would work is to return both of them.
 

B-Goock

Songster
Jun 8, 2013
629
1,154
236
Somerset, Kentucky
If you have a dog kennel you could put one of the orps in that for a little jail time so the single orp is outnumbered. Sometimes removing the most dominant or aggressive bird allows time for the newbies to get in the pecking order and establish themselves. Also breaks the dominant birds position at least temporarily.

I have probably 50 birds or so but my largest group is my layer pen. 26 or so and within that group subgroups have formed. Then again i have 2 roosters in that group that keep the peace. Even with just 4 in your group its likely that even if they learn to get along you'll notice them split off into the two groups you have now.

A rooster is a solution as well but sounds like your in the burbs.
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
13,312
25,027
842
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
we are painfully realizing that Buff Orpington's are not so friendly after all :(...However they are not fighting to draw blood, mostly chasing the NH and SS, so i guess thats good news.

Also the NH red tried to fly onto me and kinda got me scared, its mostly my 2 younger kids that go to feed/play with them and i am worried she might harm them..maybe its learning the aggressive behavior from the BO's and showing it on us??
Even "friendly" breeds will want to rise in pecking order and want to chase away birds they're not familiar with. Since 2 of the birds are much younger, it's expected that the older 2 that are familiar with one another will want to "keep them down." Once all the birds are old enough to lay you'll probably see a lot more peace in the flock.

My guess with the NH Red is her reaction was due to fear, not aggression. If she can get up high (i.e. land on top of you) it provides her with protection against the BOs. If she does it again just calmly and gently knock her off, so she doesn't start learning it as acceptable behavior - I do not let my birds perch on me without my invitation to do so. Might want to explain that to the kids as well.

Adding hiding spaces to the run area would really help to give the younger birds relief - plus it gives the birds stuff to do to keep them busy. It's not a large run so it might be tricky, so keep in mind scale of items you're adding. Aart already linked it, but: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

Cachickmama

Hatching
Nov 23, 2020
5
3
8
SF Bay area
Thank you all for the advice..I really appreciate it.. we are letting the BO's free range to give the other two hens some time to eat and relax. Hopefully they will outgrow the behavior soon.(finger cross)
 

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