Pecking problems in the flock

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by dileas, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. dileas

    dileas New Egg

    Apr 13, 2013
    I've posted about this before (approx 6 months ago), but I have a slightly different question to ask now, so hope it's ok to post a whole new thread?

    We got some chooks very cheaply from a neighbour a couple of years ago. They were a mess when we got them - clearly there were stress and pecking problems in the flock. We thought we could cure it with a nice happy life, and they certainly got *heaps* better, but there have always been clear underdogs who always look scraggly and a bit stressed.

    Around feeding time, the older ones will nip at them to get the food - there's *plenty* of food and we put it in different places so there's no competition, but the bossy ones will run from food lot to food lot to try to stop the underdogs getting it. It's not severe, but it's unpleasant iykwim. I think there might also be some pecking issues in the mornings before we let them out of their shed (even though it's huge).

    We didn't know what we could do about this before as there were 15 chooks and we couldn't really get rid of the whole flock, but we lost a whole lot to foxes and there are only 5 hens and 1 rooster now. We think we're going to give the rooster away as he tried to really badly attack me and I'm scared of him now, which is taking all the joy out of keeping chickens. One of the 5 hens is a younger one who isn't from the original flock and she's definitely the bottom of the pecking order - she's a mess.

    Now I'm trying to decide what to do because we were given 3 lovely new chooks (who are separate right now) and they're really sweet and fantastic layers - they seem like a fresh start. I know if we put them in with the other chooks they'll pick up the pecking behviours and we'll have a bigger flock with these problems all over again.

    I'm trying to decide what to do... should we give the old chooks away and start afresh with the new 3? If we go ahead and do that, then do you think we could keep the one younger hen who is bottom of the pecking order, or do you think she'd pass on the aggressive behaviours into the new flock?

    I'd really appreciate some advice as we need to make a quick decision (we have the new chooks in a small coop, but we need to move them out of there as soon as possible).
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
  2. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Your instincts are good. Listen to them. People do what you're thinking of doing all the time. There's no shame in it.

    You might try introducing the young hen to the new crew to see how she does. But you're right, she might be infected with the old flock behavior. But you won't know until you try it. It just might work out better than you think!

    By the way, I had an extensive and comprehensive thread on this forum about finding a cure for feather picking behavior. Many people believe feather picking may have a nutritional basis. I've been searching for a way to get rid of this awful behavior for three long years. I believe I've discovered it. Since I've been feeding my flock fermented feed, they haven't resorted to this bad behavior at all, and it's been over two months now.

    I think they're now getting all the nutrition they were lacking before. They seem lots healthier and happier, and they all look beautiful and glossy and no one is missing even a single feather!

    You might want to look into that.
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    I don't know what your set up is with the new birds. Are they a fair distance away from the old flock? The recommendation is to quarantine new birds for a month, which means a good distance, as well as wearing different foot wear, and not carrying equipment from one flock to the other. If you can manage a month quarantine, that would be great, then it sounds like you might want to integrate the bottom of the pecking order hen with the new girls. Good luck. You've given the first flock a good opportunity, and the aggression continues. As PP stated, perhaps try FF, otherwise bear no guilt about starting over!

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