Pecking order

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by eastbaychicks, Nov 5, 2009.

  1. eastbaychicks

    eastbaychicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 19, 2009
    Livermore
    What is it with the pecking order.

    I have two birds that snap at all the others... two older birds that will not stop being mean to the younger birds... no matter how many different ways I try to integrate my flock they beat up on the younger girls (8 months v 4.5 months). One of my baby birdies just doesn't care and keeps getting injured (course she's the biggest one as well... what's up with that).

    One of the birds is so afraid of all the others that she thinks she's my best friend.... and jumps in my arms every time I'm around. It's just crazy goings on here. Help... info and really some insight would be helpful. I'm getting sick of watching birds rip feathers out of each other, knocking others off the roost to steal their place and well just down right mean pecking going on. What is up.

    I free range my birds, and used to do it with the older and younger ones until I discovered the two older birds would corner the seven younger so they could take turns pecking at them. Now it is done in shifts. After my maran just about lost her comb (it was half way torn off), that was my signal that things had gone too far.

    Am I the only one that has all prima donnas hanging out in her backyard?
     
  2. cicene mete

    cicene mete Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 19, 2008
    I can tell you what we have done around here, but of course, as with all things chickens, there are no guarantees. First, we put a large cage inside the pen where we keep the chickens, and we put the younger ones in there. I covered the cage with deer netting, so that no pecking could take place. After about a month like this, so that everyone could get used everyone else, I made an opening in the cage that was small enough to keep the big ones out, but large enough for the small ones to step in and out (I learned about this method from another member here). The big ones tended to chase the little ones back into the cage, but because they couldn't follow them, there were no serious injuries.

    I should also mention that the first time we let them out together, we removed some of the chickens at the lower end of the pecking order and introduced the new members to the dominant hens. In my limited experience, the most dominant hens do not have to worry about a bunch of newcomers, and they leave them alone. The ones at the bottom are afraid of losing their spots and also see someone they can dominate, and so they tend to be the most aggressive. We also monitor the situation closely, and chased away anyone who got too close to the little ones. After several periods of monitored interaction, we simply left the small opening in the cage and hoped that the little ones would always feel to find their way in.

    After about two more weeks, I began putting the little ones on the roost at night, when it was pitch dark, so they would all week up together. Usually, by the time I got in there, the little ones have found their way back into the cage, but everyone seemed calmer. I did this for a week, and then I closed the cage. The younger chickens can run behind the cage or can jump on top of it if they're being chased, but they can no longer go into it. There is still some chasing and some minor packing, but knock on wood, no serious bullying or sustained attacks. It doesn't hurt that our most dominant hen is very calm and doesn't like it when there is drama. The little ones have learned to stay close to her, because if there's a lot of squawking and chasing, she will go after the offending birds. Let's just say she walks softly and carries a big stick.

    This method has worked for us, and I think it has worked for some others. As I said, I adapted it from various strategies I read about on this board. It's a lot of work, but I'm on my second group of younger chickens, and it seems to be going well. The first group is entirely integrated.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2009
  3. eastbaychicks

    eastbaychicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 19, 2009
    Livermore
    I haven't seen this on the boards... I'm going to try it. So how large of an opening would you suggest.

    I have a chicken coop with two access doors and a separated outdoor run on each one (one on the east side and the other on the west). Both openings are the same size right now, but it seems that I could easily make one access door smaller for the smaller birds. My only fear is that when they want to go to bed at night they'll just stay outside in the run. It sounds like what you did was move them after dark? Is that correct. It isn't really that cold here, but I feel much better if they have some protection from the elements when it gets down into the 40's and even the high 30's (most nights it's upper 40 to low 50's). Ok... I'm going to give it a try again.

    The lower hen pecking is SOOO what I have going on. Sadly my dominant hen, is a 'big stick and going to use it' kind of girl, and neither of my laying hens are putting out these days, a couple of weeks ago I almost had to buy eggs! Oh the shame. I am ready to toss her into a pot! Ahhh, and her cohort would probably be the same way. Sad. Anyway thanks for taking the time to explain. Appreciate it a lot.

    Emotional creatures. This is fun. Thanks again!
     

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