older chicken run-away

RaulandJeanette

In the Brooder
May 29, 2020
16
21
36
Virginia
Hello all. So we are new to chicken ownership, got our girls just over 2 weeks ago. We acquired 2 hens (1 Plymouth Rock and 1 Cuckoo Maran) from our neighbor next door. Our other 4 hen (1 Australorp, 1 Plymouth Rock, 1 Speckled Sussex, and 1 Rhode Island Red/Leghorn mix) came from another neighbor across the street. The Speckled Sussex is the oldest of the bunch however I'm not sure how much older. Some of the one neighbors 4 hens were the same age (actually came from the same farm at the same time) as the other neighbors 2 hens. We introduced the 2 flocks and all went pretty well considering. The Rhode Island Red was a little bossy initially for few days establishing her dominance. She mainly pushed around the Maran, however, she has calmed down and rarely picks at anyone, although when does it is still the Maran taking heat. For the last week, the Maran has been picking at the Australorp, the Plymouth Rock who was not her coop mate, and the Speckled Sussex. These bottom 3 move away from her at times probably in an effort to not get pecked at. The pecking is pretty minor, no blood drawn, just an occasional neck feather plucked. It appears to me that she is making it known she is number 2 in pecking order. Last night for the first time we decided to let the girls stretch their legs and free range for a short time. I have been saying here chick chick and giving treats in their run since we got them to teach them to come when called. 5 of the 6 always come for treats. The Speckled Sussex does not. We had issues with her getting on roost at night, she kept trying to sleep in nesting box. We removed her and placed her on perch first few nights. Eventually tried blocking boxes off which worked however then she began to roost on the board that leads into boxes. I made her a shorter perch thinking perhaps due to age she couldn't get up on perch with the others. She did sleep on it for a few nights and once I moved it real close to other perch she started using it as a step up onto higher one with other girls. Yay victory. Now that you have background back to my question. After chickens had been out for a bit last night I called them back into their run. Some were slower than others but 5 out of 6 came. Madea (Speckled Sussex) did not come. She was almost to the road. She is somewhat of a loaner but she literally ran other direction when called. I tried to corral her back to run and she hid from me. I eventually cornered her and placed her back in run with the others. Tonight we tried again however we let them out closer to their bedtime with the hopes they would all come in on their own without calling or treats. 5 out of 6 no problem. Madea spent most of her free range time alone. She didn't forage or scratch much. She literally kept trying to run to the front of property towards the road. I had to keep standing in her path to get her to turn back. The others stayed close to coop, she could care less. Several times she would see me and lay down and hide. I ended up having to corner her and carry her back to run again as she was literally running away from flock and safety of the coop. What is the deal? Does she have a death wish? Being alone here in the country is a bad idea. Why will she not come when called? When I bring treats to the run for girls she shows no interest, may pick at leftovers much later. Is she not handling being occasionally picked on? Could she be sick? Is she going senile in her older age? I literally have no idea why she kept trying to run opposite direction of other birds and coop. She was so persistent and determined to get by me. Any thoughts?
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
6,275
12,037
596
USA
Our other 4 hen (1 Australorp, 1 Plymouth Rock, 1 Speckled Sussex, and 1 Rhode Island Red/Leghorn mix) came from another neighbor across the street.

She literally kept trying to run to the front of property towards the road. I had to keep standing in her path to get her to turn back.

Was she going in the direction of her old home?
 

iwltfum

Songster
Sep 10, 2018
591
1,059
231
Maine
If she's trying to go back "home" to your neighbors yard, then you need to keep her locked in the coop/run area for a longer period of time. Ideally, you would not let any of the chickens out of their coop for a couple days off the bat to make sure they know where home is. It might have to be longer is she is within sight or sound of her old home.

If you're hen isn't just trying to get back to your neighbors yard then what I've written below might apply.

Take this with a grain of salt or two. It's been a long day and I've also chased plenty of chickens around in my day trying to get them to go where I wanted them to go.

Chickens will be chickens. They won't necessarily come when called and might not go up to roost until it's quite dark. Letting them out at all if you're not comfortable with them being out by themselves might be your issue. It might sound harsh but, I like to let my chickens do their thing, if they get eaten by a predator then so be it. If they want to be stubborn and walk away from their protection, then I don't see it as worth the trouble. I free range my chickens but I do put electric netting along the road during the summer (we get alot of tourists during the summer here). They will wander far sometimes. Like all the way across my 800 ft wide pasture sometimes. If they want to go in the road or to the neighbors yard, I just let them. I don't have time to spend chasing chickens around. They always come back to the coop by night unless they get got.
 

RaulandJeanette

In the Brooder
May 29, 2020
16
21
36
Virginia
If she's trying to go back "home" to your neighbors yard, then you need to keep her locked in the coop/run area for a longer period of time. Ideally, you would not let any of the chickens out of their coop for a couple days off the bat to make sure they know where home is. It might have to be longer is she is within sight or sound of her old home.

If you're hen isn't just trying to get back to your neighbors yard then what I've written below might apply.

Take this with a grain of salt or two. It's been a long day and I've also chased plenty of chickens around in my day trying to get them to go where I wanted them to go.

Chickens will be chickens. They won't necessarily come when called and might not go up to roost until it's quite dark. Letting them out at all if you're not comfortable with them being out by themselves might be your issue. It might sound harsh but, I like to let my chickens do their thing, if they get eaten by a predator then so be it. If they want to be stubborn and walk away from their protection, then I don't see it as worth the trouble. I free range my chickens but I do put electric netting along the road during the summer (we get alot of tourists during the summer here). They will wander far sometimes. Like all the way across my 800 ft wide pasture sometimes. If they want to go in the road or to the neighbors yard, I just let them. I don't have time to spend chasing chickens around. They always come back to the coop by night unless they get got.

Thank you for your response. I am probably scared of the free range thing at this point because I don't want her to get eaten. But yes she is headed back to neighbor's home. Not sure how she knows but she knows. I will keep her in run for a while and maybe try again later.
 

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