Reintroducing previously separated hens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by dthomson, Jan 24, 2017.

  1. dthomson

    dthomson New Egg

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    We have a flock of hens that includes two Amber Links, one Golden Laced Wyandotte, and several ISA Browns. A year ago we separated the two Amber Links from the rest because one of them was getting beaten up. The two Amber Links got along famously until a few weeks ago, when one of them started to bleed out of her backside a little bit and was pecked at by the other. We coated her rear end with Blu-Cote but the pecking didn’t stop, so we had to move her into temporary quarters in the garage. This week we gave away the three most aggressive of the six ISA Browns when they drew blood by pecking feathers of one of their coop-mates. So we now have three colonies of hens, two with only one hen each, and the larger one with four that were low in the pecking order. As soon as I try recombining any of them there’s immediately some very aggressive pecking. Should I just let them duke it out and reestablish a new pecking order? Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about the aggressiveness of their initial reintroduction to each other. I don’t want to maintain three separate coops forever, especially since the garage is not ideal for that. Having two coops with a fence separating them (which is what we have) is fine, though. Advice?
     
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not sure of your coop setup, but here are my thoughts..
    Aggressive behavior is sometimes due to coop size. Overcrowding being the major reason. Chicken boredom being another. Chicken pecking that results with blood cant be tolerated, as it will end BAD.
    Create an enviornment where chickens can run and hide if possible.
    You removed the worst aggressors already (good move)
    Reduce chicken boredom by providing them activity choices. A head of cabbage does keep hens busy.
    WISHING YOU BEST, and [​IMG]
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I have found sex links to be more aggressive than other breeds. Lots of space is necessary for chickens to get away from each other, as well as places for birds to hide can help, if you don't have that than things will never work out.

    Sometimes sex links can become aggressive because of a protein deficiency. Feeding them layer with a 16% protein often isn't enough, especially if you feed anything extra. I recommend a higher protein feed, 18-22%, with a separate bowl of oyster shells.

    When you put them together is it under neutral ground like during free ranging or are you putting birds into other birds territory. A good picture or description on your set up can help determine if anything needs to be changed, and what the best way of putting them together would be.
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    What does the run look like? Is is a flat rectangle with little to nothing in it? I often see runs/coops set up like that, and there is no where for birds to get away from each other. Your chickens will be much happier and healthier, if you break that open space up.

    Ideas:
    • pallets leaned against a fence or wall
    • pallet up on saw horses or cement bricks so that birds can get under it in the shade or on top of it
    • a small wall set up in the middle, so that a bird can get behind it and not be seen from the main food bowl, this is a good place to have a second feed bowl
    • a roost in the run, can be a pitchfork handle wedged between the wire, mine love to perch there in the late sun of the dayW
    While this will make your run look cluttered, it will actually increase the space. If you think about it, a wide open run is mostly a two dimensional use of space, and all of the up space is wasted.

    Mrs K
     
  5. dthomson

    dthomson New Egg

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    Jan 24, 2017
    The main chicken coop is an 8x8 shed which used to house 10 birds. This coop has an almost as large outdoor run and an enormous fenced in free range area, but access to those in the winter is very limited, depending on temperature and snow melt. They turned on one of the ISA Browns last winter, and it bled to death. They then turned on one of the Amber Links, so last February we bought and set up a new coop for the two Amber Links, who got along beautifully until one of them started to bleed recently. I’m not sure which happened first, the bleeding from unrelated causes and then the pecking, or visa versa. I added a base to that coop so that they have three floors to roam, and enclosed the open wire with transparent greenhouse paneling for the winter. I also put up a separate ShelterLogic canvas shelter for them to escape to in the winter (all of this enclosed in a larger fenced in run), but like the other coop, access to it depends on temperature and snow melt.

    Last week we gave away the three most aggressive ISA Browns, so are left with four hens in the large coop and two in the smaller one, until I had to move one of those to the garage when the bleeding started. So we now have THREE separate chicken colonies, two with only one hen in them, and the garage is only a temporary situation as we'll need the space back in warmer weather (it's my bike room).

    In both coops I keep a feed block in a cage dangling from a chain to give them something to play with. In the large coop they sometimes get a hanging head of cabbage to play with. I realize that there’s a lot of vertical space in the large coop (shed) that could be utilized, thanks to the comment about breaking the space up. I'll try to build some sort of shelf platforms that they can climb up onto.

    One of the feedback comments talked about reintroducing them to each other on neutral ground. I think that’s important and will give it a try when the weather cooperates. My attempted reintroductions this week were in their own territory.

    I also have to be careful about not attributing human characteristics to them. With the Amber Link that I worked so hard to rescue last winter and has now turned on its mate, it’s easy to think “How could you do this to me after you were the abused one and I spent so much money and time building you your own separate home? You should know better! You and your sister were getting along so beautifully and that made me happy!” Not useful, I know. They are chickens, not humans. ;-)

    Thanks for the feedback so far. All useful.

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  6. dthomson

    dthomson New Egg

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    By the way, it occurred to me in talking about weather and snow that I should give my location. I'm in northern Michigan. You know, just south of the North Pole. ;-)
     
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    When possible I would move the coops next to each other, if possible. Than I would make an area where they all can be together outside of the coops. Snow fencing or woven wire can be had for a reasonable price, together with T fence post can make a quick and easy larger area for your birds to mingle and be outside, I would encircle both coops with it.

    Your run on your big shed is pretty small and probably is contributing to your problems. Do you free range them at all? I am in Wisconsin so I'm also from the North Pole.
     
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Forgot to add, another option is dividing up the coop on a temporary basis, so you can separate out the group's can be another option.

    Adding a rooster can sometimes help too, but it has to be a good rooster. I would introduce him to the smaller group than he should protect them, but things don't always work out like they should.

    Still another option is swapping out coops for a while. Put the more aggressive ones in the smaller coop and let the smaller group have the big coop with perhaps one or two more mellow members from the bigger group stay there if they can behave themselves.

    It will take some time to get them back together, I wouldn't rush it, and I would expect it to take a while.
     
  9. IdyllwildAcres

    IdyllwildAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    I read here where you section off the coop with chicken wire then pour scratch on the fence line between them and that gets them eating together which is a very social behavior.

    I have 0 experience with this or any other method my first flock arrives in April [​IMG]

    Good luck

    Gary
     
  10. dthomson

    dthomson New Egg

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    Yes, there's a MUCH larger run (fenced in area, anyway) around both coops that doesn't show in these photos, and then some wire and a gate separating the two colonies. So they have lots of room to roam when it's not full of snow. It is interesting to see them "hanging out" together on both sides of the gate. They seem to like each other's company through the gate as long as they have something separating them, even though they turn on each other once the gate is opened.
     

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