Newbie with behavior questions.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Jeffross1968, May 14, 2011.

  1. Jeffross1968

    Jeffross1968 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2011
    Smoky Mountains
    Firstly, I'd like to introduce myself and say Hi! My wife and I, and our 3 boys live in western NC. Lots of backyard chicken owners here and we decided to finally take the plunge. I built an on the ground coop and run, part of which is enclosed under the stairs on the side of our home. Inside, I placed a long nesting box separated into 3 sections, 15x15, slightly raised off the ground. There is a perch in front of it, maybe 8 inches off the ground and a few feet long, and another smaller perch in the run. Today, we went to a local small livestock auction and purchased our first chickens. Unfortunately, with all the reading I did do, I never read until afterward that I should have tried to keep them all the same age, and, when the auction began, anything I had learned seemed to go out the window as I turned into a moron suddenly not knowing what to do [​IMG]

    So, what we ended up with, was 4 youngin's, frankly, only relatively sure they are hens, one adult hen of a different breed, and a youngish rooster. Brought them home and showed them their new home. Within an hour, the rooster was mating the adult, and seemed to be bullying the smaller hens, giving them little pecks from time to time and chasing them away. We went out for dinner, and when we came back, the rooster and older hen were on the perch in the run (getting along fabulously apparently), and the 4 others were huddled together in one of the laying boxes. I opened the gate, reached in and grabbed each of the younger hens, and placed them on the long perch. After a couple of minutes, all had returned to the nesting box.

    Now, it's the first night, but there are questions...

    1) This behavior from the rooster...normal? Should I be watching very closely to see if he's bullying the young ones? What might have happened while I was gone that left those 4 huddled together in a nesting box?

    2) Sleeping in the nesting box. This isn't good I read earlier. Advice?

    3) Golfballs in the nesting box...should I place one, two, three....in each box until I see them getting used for eggs, and then remove them? Or keep them in there?

    It's all new to me, but we're very excited. Hopefully the age range between the older hen and the rest won't cause problems, but I guess time will tell.

    Thanks for any advice you might have!
     
  2. mamaKate

    mamaKate Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2008
    SE MO
    First off ,[​IMG]
    Now about the birds---How much smaller are the younger ones? You might separate the younger ones(maybe with just a wire partition) until the size evens up a bit. You can try just watching them but the risk is real. In a confined space things can get ugly pretty fast.
     
  3. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    SW Arkansas
    Quote:Hi and [​IMG] I am from WNC myself, the area around Asheville to be exact; although I've also lived in eastern NC.

    I've tried to help you best I can by answering your questions above. Others will be along to add their 2 cents I'm sure. Good luck to you. [​IMG]
     
  4. Jeffross1968

    Jeffross1968 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2011
    Smoky Mountains
    Truthfully, the rooster is probably within a month of the younger hens. The large hen, is large. Big fat one. Age unknown.

    I also forgot to mention that we plan on free ranging them once they are settled. We live on one acre on the side of a mountain, surrounded by other acre sized lots, most of which have not been built on. How long should I keep them caged until I can start letting them out to roam during the day, and how should I go about training them to stick close, and come when it gets late and I call?
     
  5. Jeffross1968

    Jeffross1968 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2011
    Smoky Mountains
    Hiya Gristar, and thanks! We live in Sylva, so not too far away from you!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    First, welcome.

    Behavior normal. Young roosters, although sexually mature, have no reason to tolerate young birds. They will compete for food with him and any hens he wants to get producing his offspring. Older roosters of some breeds tend to be more tolerant, especially of chicks potentially their own offspring.

    Sleeping nest box can limit aggression and conserve body heat. Latter very important in growing young birds.

    The egg dummy stuff may or may not be needed.
     
  7. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Quote:I should have made my post clearer, but I'm tired tonight sorry. I grew up around Asheville. Raised my family there. My daughter graduated from Enka HS. I now live in SW Arkansas. [​IMG]
     
  8. Jeffross1968

    Jeffross1968 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2011
    Smoky Mountains
    Ok, so I'll keep an eye on them and see how their relationship progresses for now. This morning when I walked out there to feed them, the older hen and the rooster were out in the open in the run, and the other 4 were "out of the way" back by the laying boxes. Once feeding began, I noticed the rooster chasing the 4 young hens around with little pecks. Is this just competition for food?

    How long should I consider getting them used to their new home before I test the waters letting them out to roam a bit?
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Quote:A week should be adequate for birds to imprint on location. During first free-range episodes, I would schedule to be around. Even very light predator pressure before birds get acclimated can result in losses because birds either run too far away to find way home or they fail to use available refuges.

    Could you post pictures of "young" hens? Might be informative as to why rooster intolerant and what duration of intolerance to expect.
     
  10. BANTAMWYANDOTTE

    BANTAMWYANDOTTE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kentucky
    Welcome, here are the best answers I have to your question.....


    Question 1.) I have to say that this is typical young rooster behavior from my own experiences. I would have to say that hew is about a year old but no more than 2. When the males reach sexual maturity, they are very driven to mate. They are more likely to over-breed (mate to the point it causes health issues with the hen) during the first two years of maturity. He will mate several times a day and will be forceful. "No" is not an answer he will accept from a hen.
    The best way to prevent over-breeding is to either provide more than one adult hen for him or to separate him from her when she shows signs of over breeding. The vent (picky opening) will be bright red, her head will turn pink (instead of red), she may cough or wheeze, and she'll stop laying eggs. If so, remove him for a while, until the other hens are old enough for him to breed. If you want to keep fertile egss to hatch, then each day put him in with her for an hour so he can fertilize the eggs.

    Question 2.) They may be afraid of the rooster, and avoiding him. If that is the case, place them on the roost with the older hen between them and the rooster. You may have to do this for a few nights. The other option is providing a roost for them away from the roosters reach and placing them there each night. They will fly off the roost if he is mean to them, if you put him in another pen (for over-breeding) then they will likely roost on their own. Try to stop this behavior before they start laying because it will cause problems with egg-laying patterns and may cause the hens to not lay in the box at all.

    Question 3.) One golf ball should be fine to encourage egg-laying. The best way to do this is to learn as much as possible about egg laying and why they stop. This link is to a thread of mine about how to encourage them to lay eggs, https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=501018

    Hope
    this helps. It is obvious that you care about them because you are trying to educate yourself about their care. That shows me that you care about them.



    Timothy in KY
     

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