Serious bullying from a gang

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by drjulian, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. drjulian

    drjulian Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 23, 2014
    Quack Shack
    I have 4 NH reds hens that are 2 years old. I recently "received" a Buff Orpington that is 6 months old and just starting to lay. The Orpington is larger then all of the other birds already.
    Faced with challenge of integrating the new girl into the flock, I decided to put her in a small coop within the run. Here she is protected from the others, yet they see each other all day long.
    It has been 9 days now and I decided it was time to see if they were ready for the assimilation.

    I released the Orpington into the run and within seconds all 4 of the reds where on her. Literally, jumping on her back to try and hold her down while they pecked. They all attacked together. No blood was drawn as I broke it up before it could get that far, but a lot of feathers where pulled out.

    I am looking for advice on what to do next. She has to join the group as some point, and most of what I read tells me a week of "see but no touch" is the recommended approach, but obviously, all this did was to cause the older girls to think "just wait till you get out". I have read that the first introduction can be vicious but the thought of all 4 attacking relentlessly seems beyond what I would be expected even when teaching her the pecking order.

    The Orpington seems much more even tempered then the reds and seems surprised that anyone would go after her.

    Please help!
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    The time frame of a week is usually for young chicks, once they get older than 2-3 months in age it becomes months. It is harder when you are integrating an older bird. You have to wait until they forget the new one doesn't belong.
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Coincidental that you're trying to integrate a Buff Orpington. I recently introduced a two-year old Buff hen to my own flock. If it's advice you seek, you might read through the article I wrote, linked below this post, and maybe you can get some ideas.

    What your flock is doing to your new pullet is brutal, but normal. What I did was to let my new girl remain in a safe pen in the run, but just let her mingle with the others for short periods, so her self confidence wouldn't get seriously damaged, not to mention her own body. From the second night on, I took her into the coop each night to roost with the others without any problems. In the morning, I would take her out of the coop and put her in her safe pen. It's also crucial that you feed your new girl separately or she may not get enough to eat.

    It requires time and eventually the new girl learns who to trust and who to avoid, and the rest of the flock will eventually stop seeing her as an intruder. It took my flock about three weeks to accept my new hen. She's still at the bottom of the pecking order, but she functions just fine. In time, so will yours.
  4. drjulian

    drjulian Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 23, 2014
    Quack Shack

    Thank you for the info.
  5. drjulian

    drjulian Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 23, 2014
    Quack Shack
    Good advice. In her private coop she has her own food and water, so that is covered, The idea of a short mingle daily makes perfect sense. What I found the most interesting is the current low girl, the one who the others bullied back in the day, has become the lead attacker. I guess she does not remember how bad it felt to be abused...or she has finally found a way to get payback.

    Nevertheless, I feel more confident that this will pass after reading your thoughts. Thanks!
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Something else you can try is bringing one of the reds in with the newbie one at a time. I don't know if this is feasible with your set up, but breaking up the current flock might help smooth things. Mob mentality and all that. You also need to be sure you have enough space for everyone. The new bird will need hiding places for quite a while most likely.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Exactly shitrollsdownhill...she's is enjoying her new elevated status.

    You've gotten lots of good advice and ideas to flexible and observant....Chicken Juggling is a mix of art and science.
  8. Sutremaine

    Sutremaine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2014
    Maybe she does remember, and doesn't want to be in that bottom spot again.

    They might remember or they might not, but either way they'll still beat the pecking order into newbies. Donrae's suggestion seems good -- try each chicken in turn, and see which one is calmest when isolated with the Orpington. If you liked the flock dynamics as they stood just before introducing the Orpington, maybe leave the head hen in with the other NHs.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by