One roosting alone-and it's really cold!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by deacons, Dec 31, 2014.

  1. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One of my hens, an 18 month old Golden Laced Wyandotte, has recently started roosting alone. She is generally skittish and is the 2nd lowest girl in a flock of 8. My coop is set up so there is one primary 2x4 as the roosting bar, with a small old closet pole running perpendicular to the main bar. The girls tend to roost in one group of three and one group of four on the main roost, and then this girl is off by herself on the pole. If you can picture the set-up, it sort of looks like this:

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    She finished up a molt about a month ago- during the molt, she was always tucked in carefully between the 4 on the right side. After the molt, she seemed to want to be by herself. Her new preferred spot puts her right underneath a (shuttered but screened in) window and right against the uninsulated front wall of the coop.

    Now that it's getting closer to 0*F overnight, I'm a little worried about her being off by herself. I don't heat my coop in the winter, but always take comfort that they are snuggled up together keeping each other warm. Is she going to be ok off by herself like this?

    I don't usually meddle with their flock dynamics, but I could pretty easily "force" her to snuggle up with the others by just taking down that extra pole. The rest of them don't really ever seem to use it- I put it there thinking it would allow them to spread out a little in the summer when it was stuffy, but they never did this past year. Or do I just let her do her thing, and if she's cold, she'll move?
     
  2. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    I would remove the pole, mostly because I would worry that the smaller diameter roosting pole might lead to her feet being too cold, and that might = frostbite.

    Maybe a lower down perch, that is wide, is needed?

    But, I would worry that maybe something is wrong with her. Maybe she has gotten a little run down, and isn't keeping her weight up with the cold.

    I would pick her up and feel her over, see if she feels thinner than the rest of the flock, and I would also see if the rest of the flock are letting her eat and drink.
     
  3. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, this is what I was worried about. Her feet so far look fine, but colder nights are coming.
    Quote: I did check her out last week, since she was finally fully re-feathered after her molt and I felt like I could pick her up without it hurting pin feathers. She felt ok to me, and her new set of feathers look great and very healthy. I also had a fecal sample from her run at the vet earlier this week, and she came back fine.

    Quote: They definitely do make it hard for her to eat, though her extreme submissiveness doesn't help her cause. If another hen even looks her way while she's eating, she'll immediately run off the food. When she does eat, she eats rapid-fire, like she's hungry and can't get enough. I always have multiple feeders out for them, and all the rest of them have at least 2-3 others that they will happily eat next to, even if the "head girl" always gets her pick of where to eat. But with this one, if any other chickens come up next to her while she's eating, she'll leave the food and sort of circle around nervously until the feeder is free again. I'm not sure how to help her with this. If I stand next to a feeder to "guard" her when she's finally eating, that actually runs her off too, because she's pretty skittish around me.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Is this a new bird to the flock?
     
  5. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can move her by the others after it's dark in the coop. Normally they settle down then.

    I have one hen that roosts by herself at the top of a doorway. I don't want her jumping down in the morning 6 feet, so I get her down every morning. Outside temps have been down to 10 degrees F here and she has been okay. She is at the end of her molt also.

    Your hen probably just is being picked on too much and wants her own space.
     
  6. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nope, this group has all been together for ~18 months. Six came together as chicks, joining two others from my original flock that I started about a year before. So everyone knows each other well and pecking order is clear.
     
  7. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, @JanetMarie-I may try moving her over a couple of nights in a row and see if she'll rejoin them on her own. Otherwise I will just take the other pole down.
     
  8. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    I would worry a bit about the bullying around the feed issue.... But since you already have three feed stations, I am not sure what else you can do about it. [​IMG]

    Maybe move the different feed area further apart from each other, so it is harder for her to be bullied off?
     
  9. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So I moved her to the main roost last night, and she stayed there. I expect to repeat tonight.

    Yesterday afternoon when I was doing chores, I spent some time just watching her. She definitely is hanging off on her own-I wonder if maybe she's getting ready to lay again after her molt and is just acting weird?

    I did do a little experiment though. Four hens were hanging around the garage with me while I was doing chores (the others went off scratching in the woods), so I put out 5 little bowls of food with some mealworms/sunflower seeds in them too. With horses, we call this "putting out more piles than horses"-ie, always having one more hay pile than you have horses, so the low guy always has somewhere else to go if he setting picked on. This worked like a charm! My nervous hen always had an open bowl to eat from, and she got plenty to eat and seemed much less nervous. Now, realistically I can't put out 9 bowls of food every day, but I think I can work on locating the food better and adding another option or two.
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Excellent experiment!! I love experiments, Good Job!.

    If you could do this repeatedly, it may help her settle down.......gain a little confidence with just a few other birds around.
     

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