Questions about hens getting along and what is "normal" pecking

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by cbrodsky, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 22, 2008
    Hi -

    We just built a coop which I will post pictures of soon, and started with (4) 8-week old rhode island reds. About two weeks after, we added two silkies that are about 4 months old. We were hoping that they were young enough and equal enough in size in a newly organized flock that they could sort things out and get used to each other - most of what I read on here suggested the bantams won't get beaten up if you raise them from smaller ages together.

    Our black silkie immediately started going after the RIRs, but not the buff silkie, so we thought we would try seperating the black one until she could get used to the others. It started with her pecking the back of their necks, but then they all started staying away from her. Sometimes she'll flap feathers a lot to scare them, and I was concerned that she may be interfereing in them doing anything at all, so I set her up in a seperate pen in the coop where they can see each other.

    Over the week, the RIRs are now picking on our buff silkie, so I'm starting to feel less sorry for them and thinking that we should just open everyone up and let them sort it out. As soon as I did this, the black once again went after the 4 RIRs and chased them out of their dust bath, pecking at the back of their necks and/or backs. They ran in the coop and then immediately chased the buff silkie outside, who the black one seems to tolerate just fine - and they seem to understand where they stand relative to each other.

    Once in a while, a couple of the RIRs will flap their wings and go at the black silkie together, but generally all 4 stay away and are scared.

    My questions are is there anything we should be doing to help facilitate them getting along, or just let them sort it out? And how long should we expect this to persist? I give it a few more weeks before the tables will turn on size, and am curious how this is going to turn out long-term.

    Also, I know to watch for blood, but I haven't seen anything like that yet, or any obviously plucked features. I did notice one of the RIRs cheek a little behind her eyes seemed a bit more exposed than I remember it being when she first came, in that I can see a small bit of skin, but nothing that looks like a feather was pulled out. I have a photo but not sure how to attach it. Not sure if this is normal development or because of pecking - basically we are OK letting things run on their own as long as we know what is too much harrassing/pecking and what we should watch out for - at what point should we intervene?

    Thanks,
    Colin
     
  2. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 22, 2008
    Here is the picture of what I mentioned regarding exposed spot on hen's cheek (please feel free to tell me the correct terms!)

    [​IMG]
     
  3. vfem

    vfem Yoga...The Chicken Pose

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    Aug 4, 2008
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    Quote:Thats a wattle coming out I do believe or her ear?! Someone my correct me.

    I have silkies and so far there has not been any aggression like you described, but I don't mix them with any other breed. I am getting ready to add 2 new black silkies to my buff and white... thanks for giving me an idea of how they may react!?
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2008
  4. cluckychick

    cluckychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 29, 2008
    South of KCMO
    My silkies run with my standard flock and I have no issues other than my black roo who likes do the rooster dance and only seems to want to mate with your shoes and chase our feet (he's a funny little fellow) [​IMG]
     
  5. pkeeler

    pkeeler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Shamong
    I think you are projecting human emotions onto the chickens. If they are not drawing blood, they are being chickens. I would put them all together in the same roosting area, at night, and let them wake up together. There will always be pecking. Are you sure there are no males?

    As for the second picture, that looks like a developing earlobe.

    6 chickens at 10 weeks old should have 20-30 sf of space. If you have the room, provide at least two waterers and feeders to prevent any dominant chicken from keeping lower ranking chickens from eating or drinking.
     
  6. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Could be that they need a 2nd waterer/feeder, just to give them room to establish "theres and mine", place a screen between them to see if they can grow to ignore each other. Good luck and isn't that a ear lobe, not a wattle...wattles are under the chin (thumb shaped), combs are on the top of the head, rose, straight, and whatever else they have. Some ear lobes are white, red, purplish etc. If they are picking one or two birds, someone had suggested bag balm, vasiline or a like product and when they pick at it, its a bag texture and taste in their mouth. Might be worth a try.
    ~Kel
     
  7. gotchooks?

    gotchooks? Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 17, 2008
    Southeast Michigan
    I know it's hard to watch all the pecking and harassing that goes on when we integrate. I am guilty of always wanting to rush in and break it up. IMO, this usually prolongs the process of establishing a pecking order and as you said you only have, maybe, two weeks before the tables are turned in size. Check your hens for serious injury and only interfere if you really have to. For example, if a chicken is not trying to or unsucessful in getting away or defending itself, and is in danger of becoming seriously injured...you'll know. It's a tough call, and I always like to distract them with treats...bring enough for everyone and then some. They don't seem too keen on being fiesty with a full crop [​IMG]. Your black Silkie seems to be doing a good job protecting the buff, so I say know that this is a hopefully short bit of unpleasantness, which will be better for your flock in the long run. They gotta work it out. If they don't (which is highly unlikely as they're young yet) you may end up with 2 separate flocks...[​IMG] Good luck and hang in there.
     
  8. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 22, 2008
    Thanks - all these replies make me feel a lot better about letting them all run together to see if they can work things out, and glad to hear that the spot identified is normal.

    I will try the idea of seperate feeding/water areas as well. We also have a huge garden and I generate a ton of vegetable scraps for them that they love, along with weeds, etc. I have read on here that keeping them occupied w/good food and things to work on can help. Oddly, the silkies seem much less interested in the veggies.

    The funniest scene with them has been at night. The RIRs have all determined one corner of the coop was the spot to be at night, and they all climb and push over each other to get to be most inside the corner. Then when we introduced the silkies, they also entered the fray, and for 5 minutes, it's the most ridiculous scene with them climbing all over each other, pushing under the pile and popping up on the inside, etc.. and an occasional peck - but nobody backs off. Eventually they seem to settle OK in a giant pile. But in the past couple days, they seem to be starting to roost up higher, and I have to admit I'll miss watching that scene.

    I am hopeful that the flock is new enough and young enough that they'll sort things out - will update later with some pictures!

    Thanks for all the great answers,

    Colin
     
  9. Dar

    Dar Overrun With Chickens

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    Jul 31, 2008
    Quote:Thats a wattle coming out I do believe or her ear?! Someone my correct me.

    I have silkies and so far there has not been any aggression like you described, but I don't mix them with any other breed. I am getting ready to add 2 new black silkies to my buff and white... thanks for giving me an idea of how they may react!?

    I do believe you are right its the ear...there is a few great "maps" of chicken anatomy on here even I can follow them...(i failed science...lol)
     
  10. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 22, 2008
    The black silkie's parole is going well so far. I'm not sure if it helped to have her seperated for a few days, but there is much less pecking and posturing today.
     

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