roosting time for new comers, it it stressful for them?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by aldarita, Oct 24, 2014.

  1. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

    578
    89
    151
    Aug 2, 2012
    Brenham TX
    Hi everybody!

    I just added 2 new pullets to my flock few weeks ago. I did the integration by letting them free range with the rest of the flock for more than a week (they had their own coop where they slept every night). I wanted them to be part of my flock so after 2 weeks of free ranging with them I closed the coop door where they were sleeping at night and let them chose which coop to sleep at night (I have 2 more coops with hens in each one). They have to fight their way in every night to get situated in the roosting board every night. I was hoping that this would stop (or get better) after the other hens would get used to them. It pains me to see them getting pecked every night by the others hens. My other integrations (2 total) have been more peaceful but to be honest I have added more birds at a time. This one is only 2.
    I am concerned about the stress this is causing, because being the new ones in the flock, they also get pecked during the day. It is not bad, no blood just mild pecking but since my chickens are pets to me, I am worried abut them. Is this just the chicken way of living and they are tougher than I think and I am worrying too much?
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    63,889
    9,680
    766
    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Chicken society is frequently cruel - it sounds as if your new birds are doing OK and will be assimilated into the flock. As long as no physical damage is being done, just let them work things out.
     
  3. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

    578
    89
    151
    Aug 2, 2012
    Brenham TX
    Thanks for your response, I know chickens can be brutal and it will take me time to get a grip on their behavior. I am working on it.
    I will watch them and hopefully they will get settled some time soon.
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,946
    2,927
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    You've pointed out to yourself what the problem is, only you haven't realized the significance yet. Two birds this time, and you're seeing more trouble integrating.

    Over the years, I've paid close attention to the numbers in the batches of chicks I've raised and how well the groups with more chicks do as compared with the ones with very few. Without exception, the groups of four or more do very well integrating, while the groups of less than four do poorly, and this carries on into adulthood.

    I've concluded that chickens derive self-confidence from their group, or unit, as I call them. Those who are part of a unit with only one or two others in it, lack the numbers to be able to stand up to the adult flock, even after they've been integrated.

    These tiny units, such as your two, simply lack the numbers that make it possible for new birds to overcome their fears, and they usually won't stand up to being bullied and will always be at the bottom of the pecking order, even after new birds are introduced later, especially if they are larger units.

    I'm seeing this in my flock right now. The two hens who are at the bottom of the pecking order are currently being bullied by the youngest five that came into the flock a year ago. These two are four years old and were a unit of three, but a hawk killed one of them when they were a year old, leaving these two to face life in the pecking order even more handicapped than they were. They both have self confidence issues and are constantly bullied by almost all the other members of the flock. They don't even try to eat until all the rest of the flock have had their fill and have vacated the feeders. They both get extremely upset if they find themselves cornered by this youngest group, and often they'll simply go into a squat and accept a beating instead of trying to fight back or even run away.

    The solution to this problem is to avoid introducing new chickens into the flock that are less than four in number, that seeming to be the magic number, at least in my experience with my own flock.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

    578
    89
    151
    Aug 2, 2012
    Brenham TX
    I absolutely agree with you, everything you wrote is happening and I knew this will become a problem for them. I never integrate small groups but this time I was in a situation that forced me to do it. I got the 2 chicks as companions for an injured hen that I had. She injured her wing and was separated from the rest of the flock, she was never going to be back to the big chicken yard so we built a coop and a small yard for her, then I got the two chicks to join her. I had them in a separate room (my hospital) on two different cages. My hen had to have her wing amputated and died after the surgery. So I ended up with the 2 chicks that had to be integrated. I moved them to the coop we were building for the injured hen and they stayed there until they were the same size as the rest of the flock. I plan to use the new coop as a growing pen and as I see things, never again will I integrate less than 4 chicks to my flock. I did not know that the magic number is 4 so thanks for relaying that to me. I have a flock of 18 hens right now, plenty of room for more but don't plan to get too many in the future.
    At this point, all I can do is treat my 2 new comers very special, just like I do my EE that was at the bottom of the pecking order. She has learnt to come to me after I give treats, we move away from the others while they are eating and then she gets her treat.
    Thanks for your input, it is appreciated.
     
  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,946
    2,927
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Well, thank you for validating my theory, which I'm sure some folks will see as "crackpot". But never mind. The "four" being the magic number is based on four Sussex chicks I picked up at the feed store on a whim, darn that chicken math, in the fall around three years ago. They were as different as a group as they could possibly be from the unit of three that preceded them.

    Even in the brooder, long before they faced integration into the flock, they were showing signs of being much bolder and more fearless. For example, they all loved to try new things, as opposed to being afraid. The timid three were even afraid to try worms as a treat when I offered them. Not so the fearless four. When it came time to integrate into the flock, these four kicked @## and took names! They still are.

    Then to confirm my theory, this past summer when I integrated the latest unit of five, they also had absolutely no trouble standing up to the adults.

    There is a way, from past experience helping a few BYCers with this problem, to create a unit out of chickens who previously don't know each other. It's intensive, but it doesn't take very long to accomplish. If you're inclined to try this, let me know and I'll get into it with you.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by