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Successful reform of a bully chick

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by rreed14, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. No - it was rehomed or put down

    0 vote(s)
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  2. Yes - it now is a happy member of the flock

    2 vote(s)
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  1. rreed14

    rreed14 New Egg

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    Apr 20, 2016
    Hello,

    I just wanted to share our success story of reforming a bully chick, as we consulted this forum many times to address this issue. We read a lot of posts asking for help but sadly don't see a lot of follow-up. I always assume the worst in those cases!

    We received 10 chicks in the mail, it was a quick overnight shipment. 5 buckeyes and 5 new hampshire reds. When putting them in the brood box, we noticed some pecking but figured it was due to the stress of the trip. We have a nice big box, red heat lamp, two sources of food and water, etc. etc.

    The next morning, we woke to a buckeye chick peeping extremely loudly - it had been pecked in the vent to the point of grievous injury and we had to put it down. We watched the chicks and realized there was one "bully chick," another buckeye, that was incessantly and aggressively pecking, pulling and wrenching at the others. We have raised chicks before, but have never had this problem.

    This is when we went to Backyard Chickens for suggestions. We tried giving her "mother hen taps" on the back but that just seemed to create more chaos in the box. We tried adding details to their environment - marbles, a CD, a mirror and drawn "bugs" on the walls. But the bully chick just kept harassing the others.

    So, we isolated her by placing a metal screen inside the brood box to create her own little "run" along the length of the box. She had a mirror and her own food and water. She was not happy. She spent a lot of time pacing, peeping, pecking at the screen, and wasn't eating much. When the others slept, she peeped very loudly.

    Twice a day, we held her for at least a half hour. She mostly slept and I tried to channel "compassion" rather than frustration or anger. Once a day, we put her back in with the other chicks. The first day, she immediately started pecking viciously and was removed. The next day, she gave one little peck and then just ate an insane amount of feed before resuming her mean pecking. The day after, she made it almost 15 minutes before getting mean. At this point, we did have the conversation about putting her down if she didn't shape up. We had already lost one chick and didn't want to lose a second - but what if she injured others? We decided to give it a few more days. By the third and fourth night of isolation she had calmed down quite a bit, she wasn't peeping so loudly and was eating better alone.

    We kept this up for 5 nights. By this time, she was calmly and quietly going about her routine in her little area. We put her back in with the other chicks and while she did give the occasional peck, it wasn't as aggressive as before. We kept a close eye on her and over the course of the day, she started pecking the others less and less. She spent her first night back with the flock without incident. Now, she is just a normal chickie and not causing any problems at all - instead she is getting bossed around by the biggest of the new hampshire reds.

    I hope this story might be helpful to others in this situation - I know how stressful it can be to really have a "bad egg," how hard it is to see the chickies suffer and be under stress, but how rewarding it is to have a good outcome and a reformed mean chickie. Thanks to everyone on this forum for the valuable posts and information they share!

    Best,
    Renae
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I'm pleased to hear of your success story. Bully chicks are frustrating and make you want to just throw up your hands in defeat sometimes.

    A thought just occurred to me as I finished reading your account. Maybe some old timers who've been breeding and incubating chicks for years could offer an opinion.

    Is it possible these extreme cases of aggression in brand new baby chicks could be caused by abnormal levels of male hormones? We've heard about baby chicks crowing and mounting other chicks as early as the first few weeks. I had one myself that crowed at six weeks, and another that was mounting a brooder mate at nine weeks.

    The reason I suspect this is because in almost all cases of aggressive chicks, the aggression seems to disappear on average by the second week as it appears the chick reaches a normal level of hormones by then.

    It certainly argues for having patience and not culling a demon chick right away.
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Interesting thought process, Azygous. Now, I'll add an other morsel to your hypothesis. If this aggression is caused by male hormones. I wonder if providing a diet rich in soy might alter the behavior. Soy is said to be a source of plant estrogens. Perhaps give the bully chick some tofu. An other thought: recently read study regarding color of LED light and it's affect on poultry. Blue LED reduces aggression. Wonder if simply putting a blue LED in the brooder might have a positive outcome.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    you have much more patience than I do. I applaud you [​IMG]
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Well, gall-darnit, let's try it! I'm recommending these steps from now on when I dish out advice on dealing with aggressive baby chicks! I think I'll edit my article on aggressive chicks to include these steps. Thanks for the valuable input! Maybe we can whip this problem with some tofu and colored light!
     
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Great story! Get back with another follow- up report next spring, when she's and adult. Mary
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    If you add these to your article, I recommend that you add them as a "try this" suggestion, with instruction to report back to you on results.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I edited my article and included a link to this thread. I'll add the "report your results". Thanks again for the great input!
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    YVW.
     
  10. OnnieMae

    OnnieMae Out Of The Brooder

    The blue LED light seems inline with what I was told when I was picking up my babies. I was told that if the chicks seem aggravated to change the lamp from the red heat lamp to a white light and they should "chill out" and still stay warm. What do you think?

    -The Newbie
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017

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