Older girls banishing younger ones from coop....

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by aliprowl, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. aliprowl

    aliprowl In the Brooder

    Nov 12, 2008
    Northern Westchester
    This is probably typical behavior, but I'm worried because it's going to get really cold. I have a flock of six (5 hens, 1 roo) who have grown up together and will be two years old in April 2011. I have a second "batch" of four; one girl
    who is 5-6 months old, three who are 3-4 months old who are with the flock and have been since they were quite small. Despite being "raised" with the original flock, they very much keep to themselves and are extremely deferential
    to the big girls. They eat last, quickly run away from the older girls if approached, sleep together and not on the roost and generally seem intimidated and respectful of the main flock. Now that it's getting colder, I have a huge problem
    in that the younger ones all race out of the coop and into the run in the morning, and basically stay out there until I let them all out to free range. I "think", but am not sure, that they get up earlier than everyone else and eat/drink before
    the big girls come off the roosts, but then they go out in the run and stay there while the big girls stay in the reasonably warm coop.
    I can put water & feed out in the run for them, and plan to do that asap, and I have hay bales stacked up as a wind break. But it is still bloody cold out there, and it's going to get way colder before it gets warmer. I generally let them
    all out to free range by about 11am.
    Is there anything I can do to "encourage" the two factions to assimilate and get the older ones to be nicer to the younger ones, and the younger ones to be less afraid of the older ones? My coop is big enough for 13 birds (I have 10, and
    2 of those are bantams) in terms of sq. footage and roost space. My run is very large, but they do free range...though I'm not sure it's smart to let them out in very cold weather because then they are out in the elements for sure.
    Does everyone let them out if they are free range hens, no matter the weather?
    Should I keep them all locked up in the coop on bitterly cold & windy days, to insure that the little ones aren't shut out into the arctic, or is that inviting fights and pecking?
    Should I get a dog igloo house thingie to put in the run that they can get into, assuming they will in fact even go into such a thing? (And then, you watch, the older ones will want to get in the igloo.)
    Any help/advice much appreciated! Cold weather is a beast!

  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    That is pretty normal behavior, but mine is reversed. The older ones come out and the younger ones stay in. The younger ones definitely defer to the older. I don't think you can or should do anything to try to force them together. Chicken flock dynamics work toward the most peaceful situation the circumstances will allow. I don't like messing with that any more than I have to.

    I open the pop door no matter the weather. Whether I also open the run gate does not depend on the weather but on what else I am doing that day. Sometimes I don't want the chickens to interfere. I'm guessing that Westchester is somewhere in the northeast, although it could be across the Atlantic or somewhere else entirely. I don't know how relevent my situation is to yours but here is what mine choose to do when it is 8 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is not blowing. They hate the wind much more than the cold.


    I think your plan to provide extra food and water and a wind block is a great plan. The more options you can give them as to where to go the better off they will probably be, so I see no real benefit to altering your regular free range scheme.
  3. aliprowl

    aliprowl In the Brooder

    Nov 12, 2008
    Northern Westchester
    Thanks for your input. Westchester is a county an hour north of New York City. Right now it's in the high 20s. I just tightened up their wind break to make more of an enclosed area, which hay bales on all sides except for a small opening. I stacked them two high and am using the back wall of the coop as one of the sides. Then I just threw down a ton of straw, essentially making a very large nest for them. Plan to go out again in a bit and see if they are actually using it. The only problem with letting them all free range when it's really cold is that then EVERYONE feels compelled to go - even the ones who are molting, or who are just not as hardy. I have one girl who is in the middle of a hard molt and is just not doing that well, but she is so attached to the rooster that she goes where he goes, regardless. Then she ends up huddled against the house, eyes closed, and looking miserable. I actually put a fleece lined hen apron on her, to act as a coat. If I could figure out a hat & mittens, I would! Wish I could figure out a shelter for them up near our house, so that when they free range they have a place to go to warm up. Need a warming hut, like at ski slopes. Has anybody ever used a dog igloo for chickens? Will they go in one?
  4. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    It is pretty normal behavior. I think it's a real good idea for you to put another feeder and waterer out in the run. In the winter, mine are still allowed to go out and free range. I also have a good sized chicken run, and it has a permanent roof on it, and then I cover the sides with tarps during the winter months. I put a heat lamp out in the run, and then I put their water near that, which keeps it from freezing. (Convenient for me, but provides extra lighting for them.)

    If it gets really bitter cold and snowy, I will keep them inside. (They hate that though.....they just want out! LOL)

    As far as putting the igloo in the run, I wouldn't do that. I would make them all go inside the coop nightly during the winter.

  5. aliprowl

    aliprowl In the Brooder

    Nov 12, 2008
    Northern Westchester
    Just clarifying - igloo would only be shelter during day, if they want/need it. No way am I leaving them out in the run at night. (I don't even do that in the summer. I wouldn't be able to sleep!)
    My run is about 1/3 roofed; wish I had extended it farther out. And I covet "snow panels" - have seen them where they are plywood panels that you hang on the sides of your run during the winter,
    and then take them down in spring. That would keep the wind off the run and some of the snow out. Maybe for next winter.
    I'm not at all certain they would go inside an igloo; has anyone had any luck with these?
  6. HorizonSon

    HorizonSon Songster

    Oct 5, 2010
    Pacific NW
    Mine free range all day; even in rain and 65+ mph winds! Even our lil chicks brave the rain, wind and 30 degree weather when I open up the brooder; and have been since 2+ weeks old!

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