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Totally Stressed flock and what I'm trying so far? pinless peepers may be last hope! long long read

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Rhoise, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. Rhoise

    Rhoise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 8 pullets, raised from day old's together, a mix of hatchery stock layer breeds that are 22 and 23 weeks old...(2golden SL, 2Amber SL, 3production RIR'S, and 1 BR). A few weeks ago when they began to lay eggs I started to notice some nasty pecking behavior( mostly towards one immature white pullet, chasing and an occasional peck or feather pull), a bit more than usual but still not too bad. Mostly it occurred in the mornings when they were confined to the coop(training to lay in nest boxes not yard) and at night(seemed like normal squabbles over prime roosting spots).
    Up until two weeks ago when the kids started back to school all was going ok, now the behavior has escalated. There are three hens in particular that are ruthless! the BR chases the little immature hen constantly. She guards the feeder, and only allows the other two RIR(dominate girls) to eat. Her chasing in the coop and run is relentless and it escalated to her seeking out and terrorizing the little pullet. The RIR's gang up too they stare into the other chicks eyes and they freeze and submit. The one RIR guards the nest boxes. If anyone goes into lay she stands over them and picks there combs and heads and sometimes is so mean they bail and run(no eggs). The two RIR's have become horrible on roost at dusk too. They peck the feet and heads of the hens next to them until they bail. They climb down off of prime spot just to unroost other girls and go back to prime spot etc etc....you get the picture....I've just noticed everyone stressed and afraid of these three, the coop is turned upside down from the chase game, and the little white pullet started to try hiding/sleeping in nest box face first or the others are afraid to go into coop or near feed to avoid confrontation.
    This is what I have done in hopes of helping the situation
    1. turned off extra lighting(read it can cause stress and agitation)
    2. added extra feeders and waterers so they all can find a spot(inside one each food and water, two each outside)
    3.bought a small cheap coop on craigs list to isolate bad girls
    4.increased feed to 20% from 16% protien
    5.drilled holes in Gatorade bottles and filled with scratch for distraction while in coop and run.

    With all these attempts the change in behavior was minimal. I isolated the BR and one of the RIR's and she freaked and rubbed her beak bloody on the hardware cloth in the new pen(wouldn't lay eggs) trashed cage and was going to hurt herself trying to get to back to others. The RIR layed eggs didn't seem to mind, but started attacking the BR. When free ranging mind you, they all seem to get along ok,( i even kept them all penned together at night in the safer big coop and used the ISO pen only during the day) or are just able to get enough space to not have the escalated type confrontations like in the coop and run.
    Today I got desperate, (these chickens are stressing me out!) I called National Band Co last Wed and ordered pinless peepers. I was not wanting to resort to this, have never tried them, and saw them on other threads as a possible solution to bully hens.
    So DH and I decided to apply them to the three "bad girls" this morning so we could watch and make sure it was safe and it didn't make things worse. Well......it wasn't to hard to get them on..... the BR pullet shook her head a few time took a couple steps and for the most part was eating drinking and acting ok. The RIR's were very disoriented stepping sideways having trouble eating and drinking and pecking(i sprinkled crack on ground to keep them occupied so others wouldn't peck them and they would focus on crack not new weird eye blockers but couldn't figure out how to eat it).They're combs are alot bigger and are a bit folded under peepers no gaps(the BR has a small comb and can see a tiny bit forward or is just smarter and has more coordination) the other two were really disoriented.

    As the day progressed I noticed a calm in the flock, well the peeper chicks were struggling but everyone else was calmer. I was getting worried about the peeper girls and if they were getting food and water ok. They kept trying, figured out the water, but the feeder is still a challenge. They seem to be able to get to the feed in open pails(xtras I added) but kept trying their regular feeder. There was one fight between the BR and the other peeperd RIR head honcho late this afternoon. It was more escalated than usual(RIRjumped on her back with feet out first like rooster), but it only lasted a few seconds! the drama on the roost tonight was almost zip!! little picked on pullet is on the head honcho roost!! in between the mean two RIR peepers!! I let them out quite a bit today and am nervous about leaving them penned tomorrow, but with no one home, my fears of letting them free range alone, out weigh the fear of stress in the pen. We got four eggs today( only 5 layers so far for sure), one soft one, not sure who layed that one, a stressed hen or a new beginner pullet, at least they were all in the nest boxes.
    Hope tomorrow goes better, i am concerned about the peeper girls functioning. The other pullets can beat them to the treats and scratch cause they can't see(somehow the peepered BR gets some, she is fat and loves her food!).
    If any one has any more ideas or suggestions, I'd be open for any experience with these things. I am trying to avoid the ultimate isolation(oven) and wished I had purchased all golden and amber SL they are so docile and hardly pick each other at all. I never remember our RIR's years ago being this aggressive, and went on that in making the decision to have a few(never again). These three are good layers(almost daily), and are very beautiful chickens! makes it hard to cull them.

    I'm very stressed, don't want to cull my birds, just wanted a few mellow laying hens for eggs!! I guess "few" may be the key word if the peepers fail!! Wondering if I made the mistake of letting them out most of the summer, and now they have to be penned and can't handle the confinement. OT's bear with me, yes another inexperienced backyard wonder, with i'm sure an age old issue. I just hate to see the birds pick each other bloody and bald and have terror strike my other hens.
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Relax - it appears as if you have done the right thing for improved flock dynamics. As far as feeling 'bad' for the 'peepered' hens, they earned the pinless peepers with their behavior. Better this than culling them or allowing escalating discord in your flock.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    I agree. I use peepers quite a bit. It's a lot better than cutting off the end of the beak as they do in large poultry houses. They'll get used to it, and you can't let them terrorize the other hens.

    I once had an emergency and had to put two flocks together with no time to let them get to know each other. The next morning, one little hen had had her back pecked so badly you could see her spine.

    The hens will learn to eat just fine with the peepers. Heck, mine free-range and catch bugs with no problem with peepers on.
     
  4. ChickieMonkey

    ChickieMonkey New Egg

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    Wow, you are tough! I gave up trying to introduce a new group to my existing flock because of the brutality! Gave the younger group to a more experienced person. It left me in tears. Good luck!! I only have six hens (one died from heat this summer) and they STILL will get into it. One of the barred rocks has always been at the bottom of the totem pole....hardly has any feathers on her poor little head! I LOVE chickens, but HATE that pecking-order thing they have going!!
     
  5. Rhoise

    Rhoise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks folks, I really appreciate your support!!, it was just a little unerving to see the dominate beautiful bullys stumbling around like drunken sailors! I'm worried the things will pinch preasure and hurt the offenders, but will watch close and be sure they're eating and functioning( they seemed much better by yesterday evening, and still a little off this am but better). The combs on the RIR's are very large and I'm worried they may get pinched under the nose piece( but actually the RIR's seem less agitated by peepers and more confused on the sight issues where as the BR seems more coordinated but hesitates like the peepers are a bit sensative?)Does function improve as time goes on? Are they all kind of in shock and shake and scratch their heads at first because of the strangeness? Again thank you for responding!!
     
  6. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    I have used peepers on RIR, Barred Rocks, and white Leghorns, and those girls have giant combs. They did fold the comb down a little bit, but it was totally OK when I took the peepers off a month or so later. I can tell it's worrying you--take a photo and post it. We'll check that they're on right.

    Edited to add--also, can you have a rooster? A good rooster will stop the hens from beating up on each other so much. Mine charges into the middle of hen fights and separates them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  7. Rhoise

    Rhoise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here are some of the best pics I could get of the girls, sorry it's like herding cats, maybe worse!! LOL!! They seemed fine today eating better way way less drama!! picked them up, combs seem good, getting blood no blue cut off circulation. I think they're doing good? Gertie and Rhody are moving normal, Kingston is still a bit wobbley on a fast straight run through the yard but short distances seems ok. All eating and drinking better! Still missing out on treats, coordination is way off, unfair advantage for other girls(well I guess they deserve it after being terrorized for three weeks!!) Got 5 hard shelled eggs today, and somebody dropped a softy in the grass while i wasn't looking so this means i have 6 laying now instead of 5 before today yay!!
    [​IMG]I think it's working!!! I know I feel better knowing snow is happier and roosting with the gang instead of hiding in a nest box in terror! so much less stress today for me and the girls!!


    oh and no I can't have any roosters, I live in city limits, only allowed 6 urban hens, my yard is a quarter acre, I'm tempted though, I hear roos crowing around the neighborhood but don't want to push it with the neighbors, so far so good at 7:00am on Saturdays when the girls are telling the whole world they just layed an egg (yikes!!)

    RIR "Kingston"
    [​IMG]

    Amber White "Snow" picked on girl
    [​IMG]


    RIR "RHODY"
    [​IMG]

    'Kingston"again
    [​IMG]

    RIR"Rhody" and"Gertie" BR
    [​IMG]


    "Gertie" again
    [​IMG]

    "Rhody" again
    [​IMG]


    "Gertie" with mud on the nose piece from missing scratch treats
    in the fury and fuss to get some!

    [​IMG]

    "Rhody" still again!
    [​IMG]

     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  8. mychoock

    mychoock Out Of The Brooder

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    I happened to read this thread because it looked interesting. I hope everything is working out fine for your girls now. I have never heard of pinless peepers before. Learn something new every day.
    But I just have to ask, Rhoise, what is that thing in the background of the picture of Gertie? I mean the gray background with the odd figure on it, sixth picture in the set.
    Hope I am not being too nosy but I am curious.
     
  9. Rhoise

    Rhoise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Boise, Idaho
    IT IS A NIKE TSHIRT ON MY TEENAGE SON SOME KIND OF SOCCER FREAK EMBLEM???
     
  10. Nsampsel

    Nsampsel Chillin' With My Peeps

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