New companion for solo hen

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by socialdougal, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. socialdougal

    socialdougal Just Hatched

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    I hope someone can answer a question. We had two laying Isa Browns. They were free range and always together. One just got killed by a feral cat. Now the behaviour of the survivor has changed. (I see more than that, but I'll hold off on details lest I should be considered daft.) It seems we need to get her another companion. Now we wonder if the companion(s) should be an adult bird or chick(s). Which would be most readily accepted? The birds will then be kept in a more secure, enclosed area where they can still scratch around.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Chickens are flock animals and do better in groups......
    ......any change, especially the loss of it's only flock mate, can make them behave differently.

    Even tho she may be 'lonely', any new bird(s) will likely be regarded as an invader to the territory that needs to be defended...and there will be fights, anything from a few pecks to a major, bloodletting rumble.

    Chicks would be especially vulnerable to attack as they are not big enough to defend themselves and could be killed out right. New birds of any size should be housed adjacent to existing birds and separated by wire for 2-3 weeks before being allowed to meet physically, this will lessen the territoriality but not totally remove the chances for a fight or 2.

    Read up on integration.
    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.
    See if any of them, and/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 Article
    Poultry 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.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/adding-to-your-flock
     
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  3. socialdougal

    socialdougal Just Hatched

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    That's helpful, thank you. It has enabled us to decide an adult hen would be best. It is also useful in guiding me on the design of their new, enclosed area.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    If no ordinances against roosters, then consider a gamerooster. They tend to be easy on hens and the eye plus may provide a measure of protection from the cat. They do well in small flocks and might increase your ability to direct hens activities. I always have one small flock in yard because it is more interesting.
     
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  5. socialdougal

    socialdougal Just Hatched

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    I should mention that these are actually not our hens. It just feels like it because I spend more time looking after them than their owner. He thinks they live in the fridge because their eggs keep magically appearing there for him to eat. Anyway, as he wants them for eggs and we won't be here forever, a rooster would not be a good idea, because a) the owner would not want to buy feed for a bird that doesn't lay, and b) I wouldn't want him to be responsible for more birds, especially chicks.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    You are likely in a situation where getting another bird for another person is ill-advised. Owner should be doing the thinking on this or offer to take remaining hen of his hands.
     
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  7. socialdougal

    socialdougal Just Hatched

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    Sage advice. I'll think it through.
     

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