Please help! I am completely overwhelmed.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by andie01, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. andie01

    andie01 Hatching

    Jul 17, 2011
    I hope I'm posting this in the correct forum. If not, I apologize. I am in desperate need of advice.

    We acquired a chicken coop in April and decided to start raising chickens. We got 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 Americaunas, and 4 Orpingtons (black and white) on April 4th. Everything was going fine with them until 10 days ago. We came home two Sundays ago and saw that one of the Americaunas had been pecked pretty badly and was left with just one tail feather. We separated her immediately. I went into town and got a product that our local co-op recommended to put on her bloody quills. By the time I got home, another of the Americaunas was in the same condition. We set up a temporary pen for them for during the day and a temporary coop for them in the garage for the evening. Two days later, I had to add a third Americauna to the recovery pen/coop. On Saturday night, once the other 9 chickens (I think one is a rooster) went in to their coop to roost for the evening, I snuck the three Americaunas back in.

    The next morning, I separated the last Americauna (that one had been doing the pecking) so that the other three would be OK back in the main run. Two days later, I noticed that the one Americauna had been pecked very badly again. One of the black and white chickens (Orpington??) had turned into a pecker as well. I put the one Americauna back in with the main flock and removed the three that had originally been pecked and put them back in the temporary run/coop.

    I spoke to my husband last night and we have come to the conclusion that we need to build a bigger coop for the chickens. The one that we got is 8' x 4' and I have come to the conclusion that it's not set up very well and it's probably on the smaller side. There are three perches for the chickens to roost on at night. Each one is 4' long - they are centered in the coop and run from the front to the back. There is one that is at a higher height than the other two. There isn't a poop board underneath (no wonder I was having to clean out the coop every 2 to 3 days) and the chickens all tend to try to get up on the highest perch.

    What suggestions do you have for a chicken coop? How large should it be for 12 chickens? Any ideas on what we can do to curb the chickens that are pecking the others? I went out today and now one of the Buff Orpingtons has bloody quills. I tried separating the three chickens that I saw pecking her, but they're hopping the divider. We were really excited with the idea of raising chickens and having fresh eggs in the morning, but I am feeling completely overwhelmed. I am at a complete loss with what to do. We have been told that we shouldn't have mixed breeds of chickens - our local co-op didn't tell us that when we were buying them. My husband has made the comment tonight about getting rid of all the chickens, but I don't have the heart to do that. I consider them as much a part of our family as I do our cat. Any advice for coop design, what should be included in the coop, why they may be misbehaving, ..... would be greatly appreciated. I was so excited about this initially, but I'm not sure where to go from here.

    Thank you!
  2. mommissan

    mommissan Songster

    Jul 4, 2011
    I have 14 chickens in a smaller coop, but they have a large run. They don't peck each other. I have read that they need more protein in their diet to prevent cannibalism? I do give them meat scraps as a treat. I'd like to see what anyone else suggests should this happen to my flock.
  3. ninabeast

    ninabeast Songster

    Apr 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
    I read 2-4 square feet per chicken in the coop, so your coop is on the small side going by that. Do they have run space as well? Do they get any foraging time? I have 12 adolescents, too, just two weeks younger than yours, and we haven't had any incidents (knocks wood). They have 64 sq ft of coop and 120 square feet of run, plus they forage for several hours a day.

    A thought...might it be sexual maturity coming on that is causing issues? It's about the right age, I think, and you have a roo, yes?
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    It is usually recommended 4sf per chicken in the coop, and 10sf per bird in the run. You can get by with less if you free range. So it does sound like you are a little small. If you rebuild bigger is always better.
    You can try a flock block, either buy or make one; or try hanging a cabbage or suet cage stuffed with goodies to distract them. Also if there is room, some barriers to give some cover when they squabble.
    Mixing those breeds should not be a problem.
    Any lights in the coop? Some people think that red light decreases pecking.
    Never used them, but there are pinless peepers that are supposed to help.

    Good luck

  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Crowing

    I would definitely get them into a larger coop if there's any way you can, or keep fewer birds. I know what people say about minimum space required per bird but in my experience you are just begging for trouble with tightly packed birds. You didn't mention how much run space they have? Even with a large enough run however they'll still fight over roost space trying to get into the coop at night.

    That said, since you have a pecking problem started it may be hard to get over with this particular bunch. Sometimes once they get it into their head to do that it's pretty hard to stop. You may have to permanently separate them. If there's one or more birds that you know are doing the pecking pull them out and see how the rest do. If you can get it down to a flock that co-exists then you may have to get rid of the trouble makers. Or keep them separately.

    And as far as the trouble being caused because they are different breeds? I have not had that experience. I have always had a rainbow of breeds in my pens. I could see it happening in the case of a silkie or polish in with regular chickens since they do look a lot different.

    Good luck, hope your able to work it out.
  6. andie01

    andie01 Hatching

    Jul 17, 2011
    Sorry, their outdoor pen/run is 16' x 8'.

    We don't let them out of their pen since we're on an extremely busy corner. We also have a home based business, so we have large delivery trucks coming almost daily to deliver to our shop.
  7. SC-ChickMom

    SC-ChickMom Chirping

    Jul 21, 2011
    A friend recommended hanging a cabbage in the coop. The chickens will peck that instead of others. Don't know if that will work for you. Good luck.
  8. Mattemma

    Mattemma Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    I started letting my hens roam due to the pecking.I have mine in an 8x6 metal shed and things got bad during winter lock up.The cabbage is good. I would put BOSS in the pine shavings .Put straw in for them to root around it. Maybe for the outside run add some levels/perches they can climb on.Mine like to sit on tables,chairs,boxes.
  9. carrlr

    carrlr Songster

    Mar 31, 2010
    Southern Illinois
    Your coop and run are roughly the same size as mine and we've successfully have had that number of chickens with no problems. We only let them free range when we can observe because they generally head for the neighbors gardens. Chickens will establish a "pecking order", but when it comes to lots of missing feathers or blood then there's a problem. I'm thinking you're problem might be diet. What do you feed them?
  10. stcroixusvi

    stcroixusvi Songster

    May 5, 2011
    Western NC
    My Coop
    You might also put places where the lower order chickens can hide out. We have some bushes that they get under, and two roosts in the run so they can fly up. It's more challenging to peck when you are trying to balance on a tree branch!

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