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Severe Pecking Problem

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by neighborhoodchickens, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. neighborhoodchickens

    neighborhoodchickens Out Of The Brooder

    May 29, 2007
    I think I've made a mistake trying to introduce 2 3 month old girls in with my other 4 hens - 2 gentle older girls and 2 feisty pullets. One of the new girls seems to be holding her own and though she gets pecked on a little she's ok. It's Hazel, the only Araucana, who is taking all the abuse.

    After 2 weeks of minimal contact (and supervised) except for sleeping I left all 6 girls together for 2 hrs one morning. When I came out to put the little girls into the tractor Hazel was cowered in a corner bleeding badly from her neck. All of the skin was completely torn off. I tearfully (and with lots of guilt) brought her into the basement, dressed her wound, and started her on antibiotics. I wasn't sure she'd make it but she's doing well now. The problem is, it's been a month, and other than 'play dates' with Josephine, her little friend, either in or outside in the tractor, Hazel is still isolated from the others.

    I'm thinking about getting her the 'Hen Saver' hen apron and wondering if anyone has had any experience with it. I'm very concerned that Hazel won't be able to survive back with the others and looking for hints on how to really integrate her in, or is it even possible at this point? If I have to get rid of the 2 'alpha' chickens (and the only egg layers..) I would prefer that so Hazel has a chance at life. I am giving up on mixing in new chickens after this...it's just too painful.
  2. Preservation Acres

    Preservation Acres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 31, 2008
    Murfreesboro, TN
    Here's what I'd do. The key is exposure. The more the other flock members see her, the less "odd" she'll seem and the less she'll be seen as an intruder.

    If you can keep her in a separate cage of some sort, but as close as possible to the other flock members, preferably sharing a fence wall, eventually, they will become used to her. I'd keep her that way for about a week, then with your supervision, slowly try integrating her with the rest of the flock.

    BEST OF LUCK!!!!!!!
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
  3. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    What kind of coop and run setup do you have? How much room in both coop and run? (I assume the tractor is for day use?) Is there any way to divide the run, and give the two new girls their own mini-coop and run area? Keeping them visible but separate for 3-4 weeks is how I work my integrations.
  4. loopityloop

    loopityloop Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 11, 2009
    I feel you pain. I'm experiencing the same problem, fairly severe, but not quite as bad as your situation.

    I read on another thread that in this cold cold weather the egg layers might be needing more protein. I'm going to add tuna or hamburger to their diet today actually and pray that this helps.

    At this point I'm not even trying again. I think the other hens have taste for her blood and are out to eat her. horrible week I've had.

    I'm keeping big agressive hens outside during day with some shelter....and the other two hens inside. The two timid hens.

    And at night I'm keeping the injured hen in a cage. which I caught the agressive hens trying to break into last night [​IMG]

    I hope you are more successful than I've been.
  5. neighborhoodchickens

    neighborhoodchickens Out Of The Brooder

    May 29, 2007
    Thanks all for your ideas. I have the 'Playhouse Coop', an 8x4 ft run with a raised inside coop, 2x4' containing a nesting box and roost. The portable tractor is 5x10 ft. When the small girls are in the tractor everyone else hangs outside it (or on top!) so they do get face time together. I can even partition the run with a wire fence and that is what I did for about a week when I first tried to integrate everyone. I think I'm going to order the Hen Saver apron, plus some spray on stuff to deter pecking. Then I'll put the divider back in the run (or tractor if no snow) and try again...

    I also think the point about protein is important. I've had few eggs so had just switched to a high protein layer feed before the little girls went out. But then I had to go back to the low protein (14%) grower food for the group, though I keep oyster shells out and still give lots of kitchen scraps. Short of feeding them tuna and hamburger, is there any other good source of protein? I made oatmeal with some dried cat food yesterday and it disappeared. I don't know why when it's cold out (I'm in MA) that I think they should get hot oatmeal like I do! (-:
  6. cherylcohen

    cherylcohen The Omelet Ranch

    Sep 18, 2009
    SF East Bay CA
    I've introduced new girls on a few different occasions and this is what I finally figured out works for me.

    I keep the new girls in a dog fenced wire area inside the run with food water etc for about 2 weeks. then I let them all have some supervised play and once the bullies start pecking them I put the bullies in the fenced area. We call it SING-SING. They stay in their for a week or two and then I slowely introduce them back into general population.

    Also if you can let them free range at all that takes some of the stress off the situation.

    As far as a chicken coat...I was going to donate some polar fleece jackets and then realized I could make my own coats for them. I used the attached link from another BYC. it really really works. I can provide dimensions etc if you need help with it. i have 6 of my 11 wearing coats now. The bullies are just getting mouthfuls of polyester when they peck [​IMG]

    I also just ordered those pecking peepers things so I'll try to put those on the 2 bullies when they come in!

    coat link, scroll to bottom...I modified mine a bit. https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=167
  7. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 31, 2009
    Hello, sorry that your little girl is having trouble in the playyard. Even if they do become acclimated to each other, at this point she may have that neon "victim" sign blinking on her forehead.

    I might have misunderstood your dimensions but did you say that your hen house is 2'x4'? Do all six birds go in there at one time? Has the weather driven them inside or drastically curtailed their ranging and exercising? Eight square feet is not much for six birds, even if they were banties and if their actions are curtailed due to snow on the ground, they might be bored. Even the run at 4'x8' is a small for standards. The recommended minimum is 4 square foot per bird inside the house and 10 sq ft for the run. You could have it less if your birds get out and roam the yard. The tractor at 50 sq. ft. is better, especially if you just have the two young ones in there but do they spend a substantial amount of time there? Overcrowding can cause infighting.

    Why is your grower food only 14%? I wonder if that's for meat birds because chick starter is at least 20% protein and often 22% which is good. I use Flock Raiser, 20% protein, and it works well. You are doing well to feed hamburger and tuna for extra protein, dry cat food works well but there have been concerns about the salt content in tuna and cat food. It's okay on occasion but probably not on a regular basis. I give mine about a tablespoon of hamburger once or twice a week. You can also raise mealworms or get them or crickets from the pet stores but that gets pricey.

    You might consider a creative venue for their energy. Purina makes a Flock Block that they pick at instead of each other when they get bored. Hanging cabbage, cauliflower and other fun items around for them to jump and peck at works as well.

    Now for a somewhat serious concern: Some chickens are natural targets and despite your best efforts will never be accepted. One way to remedy this is with plenty of room for the victim to escape, more than one feeder and waterer so she can eat and drink and monitored play time. Another option is to rehome the victim, this works sometimes. Chickens generally don't become the Karate Kid and start standing up for themselves. One other possibility is to remove the bully, or bullies, from the flock for a couple of days to take them down a notch. Sometimes there's a ringleader.

    Sorry if I was long-winded. I've been very fortunate to have six birds that all get along so, while I don't have direct experience, I've read and remembered much here on a variety of topics.

    There was a great thread a few months ago called something like "What I've learned about cannibalism" that addressed this very issue.

  8. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Yes like fiberarts said--your coop and run is too small. I don't think you are going to be successful in integrating them in such small areas. The dimensions you have given are exactly the setup I had to start with, except that my upstairs coop was 4' by 4'. It was a tight fit for 3 chickens, and I ended up adding on a separate 6 by 8 run, then moving the whole thing and building a 6 by 12 run (then a new coop, yada, yada, yada,). In your situation I would seriously consider converting the ENTIRE 4 by 8 structure into an enclosed coop, and adding a new run that is at least 60 sq. ft. Until you can enlarge somehow, I would keep the 2 new hens in the tractor, adjacent to the coop, so they can see each other.

    And also as firberarts said--a higher protein food would be good (I use 20% protein feed), especially with the addition of scratch and other foods. Be sure they also have extra calcium available such as oyster shell. Good luck, integration can be fun. [​IMG]
  9. neighborhoodchickens

    neighborhoodchickens Out Of The Brooder

    May 29, 2007
    Thanks again folks...I'm beginning to think I have been selfish in wanting more chickens with the coop I have. This started when I lost 2 of my 4 hens last year. The others had stopped laying at only 2 yrs of age so I wanted to have some younger hens come up through the ranks so maybe I'd have a chance at eggs again. And now I am getting eggs which is nice....but...

    The girls do spend a considerable amount of time free ranging in my yard and except in this really cold weather the girls spend very little time in the actual coop, except to sleep They prefer to be down in the pen. I've thought about how to expand both the coop and the run and if it's not possible then I would use the tractor for daytime use when the girls can't roam. I really don't want to be unreasonable about keeping more hens than I can realistically support so I will certainly consider finding a new home for 2 of them if needed.

    I will give the integration a chance as suggested though I know Hazel may be marked forever as the bottom hen. If so, I'll probably find a home for the 2 middle girls.

    I also really like the apron pattern and if I can adapt it so that it goes up higher on the neck I will try that.

    Thanks so much for all your suggestions - this is a great forum and a wonderful place to get support for something that started as a hobby but has become so much more.
  10. skovats

    skovats Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 21, 2009
    Sorry to hear about your issues I have had the same but no blood just chasing the new hens around who are now 15 weeks old and in the same coop now 9 weeks I have tried all that has been mentioned but best thing you can do is give them alot of space. [​IMG]

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