Old Chook, new flock?

Melbourne Chickens

In the Brooder
Oct 13, 2018
Hi there,

Apologies for the long post but I've had some terrible luck lately. For the last 2.5 years I've had three very big, very happy chickens. Barnevelders and Wyandottes. I live in the inner city and have our chickens in the yard. We have their coop, then a moderate run area and a larger garden space for them to roam in.

About 2 months ago I lost 2 of those chickens. The mother hen and then the second in command. The first chicken died when a dog broke its leash and jumped our gate (which I have now raised) and the second died in a freak way. She caught its head in a bit of fencing in the garden and must have struggled and broke her neck.

We got 3 new chickens during this time. First we got 2 chickens and then 3 weeks later we got another baby chicken. We were told this would be okay and that would get used to each other.

The 3 newer chickens all did get used to each other. A week or so of light pecks and then they were all happy together.

Our biggest issue has been our older chicken. We knew she would become the head of the pecking order but she's been really difficult to manage. Not letting the little chickens into the coop at night, chasing them around when there's food. It's been over 5 weeks and she still does it. More aggressively than we've experienced with other chickens in the past, no blood but definitely some brutal bullying.

And last night my housemates and I made a terrible mistake. We miscommunicated and thought each other were going to close the gate before we went out for dinner. Two of our young chickens (15-24 weeks) must have been sleeping on the roof of the coop because a fox got to them. This is the first time we've had an issue with a fox and we are absolutely devastated.

The chickens that were in the coop were okay, but the rest are gone. We found one of them in the park down the road, head removed. We have absolutely no sign of the baby chicken though! No blood or anything. I've searched and searched but I have to assume she is dead too.

My question is, what should I do now? Obviously I need to be more careful in the future and be more vigilant in the future. But I still love having chickens and I still feel that even a few months with us is better than a lifetime in a warehouse so I want to get more chickens.

I don't really understand how to deal with this older grumpy chicken. She's almost 3 years old, a Wyandotte and I feel like she won't ever deal with other chickens. The other remaining chicken is younger and more friendly, hasn't even started laying yet, so I feel like if we got more chickens she would be okay?

Is there a solution here that doesn't involve killing our Wyandotte? We're in Australia and we're getting into summer, so I don't want to lock the chickens in the coop for days to get them all used to each other, I'm also not sure how their water/food would last in there as they would just knock it all over when they fight.

My instincts tell me I should put the older chicken down and then get 3 more chickens around 15-16 weeks old. That way I'm hoping that our single chicken would be okay because it's still older than the others?

Any advice would be great. I have really hated these last few months dealing with these young chickens and worrying about how they'd cope with the older chicken.
I'm going away in 2 weeks, for 3 weeks and I'm bringing my chickens and their coop with me. I did this last year and it was a lot of fun, basically just going to my folks place over Christmas and the chickens liked having a different place to explore (my little cousins loved it too!). I'm not too sure how the new chickens would cope but I'd really like to sort this out asap so they have a few weeks to get used to their coop and etc.

I realise none of this is ideal at all!
How big is your coop and run?
Do you provide plenty of places for the pullets to get away from the hen?
Do you have extra feeders and waterers?
I am thinking things will settle down as the pullets grow bigger and are more her size but extra feeders and waterers and placed to get away would help right now.
Hah! About the only uneventful way to have a flock is to get baby chicks, raise them, and never add another chicken. Any time you add a chicken, it upsets the flock order. No way to avoid it.

It's not so much the age of the new chickens you wish to add, but their strangeness. Chickens don't cotton to strange new adult chickens. It requires a gradual introduction.

I've added and subtracted chickens in every conceivable fashion, and there are always challenges. Understanding chicken psychology and behavior helps to navigate the perils of expanding your flock.

The easiest way to expand any flock is by adding baby chicks since they're non-threatening due to their tiny size. I brood them in proximity to the adult chickens from day one. This way the chicks and the adults all understand they are a flock from the very beginning, and by the time the chicks are ready to mingle with the adults, there are no problems, usually.

For a stubborn bully that delights in chasing and terrorizing younger chickens, I use a fly swatter. The first time, the bully gets swatted on the butt when she goes for the youngsters. After than, just brandishing the swatter in front of her is enough, as a rule, to get her to change her mind. It comes under the heading of aversion therapy. Chickens are quick studies.

Of course, I don't recommend getting new chicks until you're ready to stay at home during the brooding period. You will also need to predator proof your run and coop. I brood in my run because the chicks get maximum exposure to the adult flock since they aren't inside the coop during the day, and success of this method depends on maximum exposure. This will give you an idea of what ths method involves. https://www.backyardchickens.com/ar...and-start-raising-your-chicks-outdoors.71995/

If you choose to get adult chickens instead of new chicks, this is my method of introducing new chickens to my flock. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/introducing-a-single-hen-to-an-existing-flock.71997/

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