unhappy coop

pjellen

Chirping
Mar 26, 2017
18
9
54
I am so frustrated right now with my chicks I just don't know what to do!! I started with four chicks last year. They free ranged for four months until a hawk appeared and killed two of them. The remaining two were then left in the coop unless supervised outside. Of these two, one was the lowest in the pecking order of the original four. She has now become "head" hen. Her name is Myra. So, the other one went broody. I bought fertile eggs for her to sit on. When the chicks started hatching, she pecked the first two to death. I took the remaining six and hatched them under a heating pad for two days in the house. I integrated them as I learned from BYC. Once they were all together, Myra declared she was in charge and began terrorizing the new RIRs. (I should insert the first two are much smaller hens - I don't know their breed.) The RIRs are prob 2x Myra's size, but she is obviously still the head hen. We have culled 3 of the RIRs because they were roosters. So now I have 3 RIRs and 2 smaller hens. The two smaller hens give me 2 eggs almost every day. The RIRs are just about ready to start laying (4 1/2 mos.).

My problem .. Myra keeps the RIRs so afraid of her that if they are in the coop together they won't even stay on the ground. They find a place to sit and watch her while she roams around making sure they don't touch anything that is hers. She doesn't' seem to peck them. She just chases them. They keep their distance from her and seem to constantly be on the lookout in case she walks by.

We built a chicken tractor and have been placing the RIRs in it in the morning and leaving the other two in the coop until they lay their eggs. Then at noon we move the RIRs to the coop and the other two to the tractor. Then for an hour a day they free range under supervision.

This morning I went out and the coop was total silence. I thought they were all dead. But the three RIRs were up on feed boxes as high as they could be and Myra was marching around the coop like she was a general in front of the troops. How can I get these chicks to coexist?

I apologize for the long thread, but I thought you should know the history.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,751
34,229
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Colorado Rockies
The more information, the better, so a long introductory post is very helpful in giving us the big picture. And best of all you broke it up into paragraphs! This is quite wonderful all in itself!

Your problem is that Myra is used to being top gun and the youngsters are cooperating with her by being afraid of her. They're afraid because they haven't yet had enough opportunity to develop their self confidence.

Therefore, I would approach the problem from two different fronts. First, to grow the chicks' self confidence, partition them off during the day from Myra for a minimum of three weeks, allowing them to roost together at night. Second, level the playing field by depriving Myra of her ability to "seek and destroy". Get some pinless peepers and install them on her. This will interfere with her forward vision, giving the chicks an advantage.

During this partitioning, permit all of them to mingle for short periods at first, and increase the intervals as time goes by. This provides the opportunity for the chicks to discover they can deal with Myra on their own terms while giving them respites from the battle which lowers the stress everyone is experiencing.

People assume that chicken behavior is what it is, but it's actually very transient, changing constantly. So, hang in there, it's possible your unhappy coop will someday become a happy coop.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,502
20,761
907
Southeast Louisiana
I my experience immature chickens tend to be very afraid of mature chickens, usually for a good reason. If immature chickens invade their personal space they get pecked. This is with normal chickens. Some hens are more aggressive in this than others, sounds like you might have one of those. Often it's the ones that are meekest that become the worst bullies when given a chance. But do not give up hope.

Until my pullets mature enough to force their way into the pecking order they normally form a separate flock as much as they can. The question about space is important, the more the better. I have a lot of outside space. If my adults are in one place the pullets are in another. That might be 40' away in the run. That might be in the coop when the adults are outside. If they are locked in the coop together the immature ones will be on the roosts away from the adults on the floor. some broods intermingle more than others but in general they avoid the adults as much as possible.

My pullets normally mature enough to join the main flock about the time they start to lay. This might be a couple of days before they start or a few weeks after, but in that time frame. What you are describing sounds pretty normal. It's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say you need additional room for integration. Also you often read about size being important in this. As you can see size is not very critical, it's about maturity and the spirit of the individual chickens.

So what can you do? Pretty much as you are doing, it sounds like your space is pretty tight. If you I thought you had more space I might make other suggestions. Eventually the pullets will mature and force their way into the pecking order. Usually that process isn't all that bad but some hens are just brutes and bullies. I don't allow those in my flock. You may need to make a decision as to which chickens to keep in your flock for the benefit of your overall flock.
 

pjellen

Chirping
Mar 26, 2017
18
9
54
Thank each of you for your insight and suggestions. I think I will continue with the separate chicken tractor/coop for the next few weeks. And also separate them at night. This should work until the RIRs are a little older and will be able to deal with each other in their own chicken way. I hadn't considered the mature vs. immature chicken suggestion. It does make sense to me.
 

pjellen

Chirping
Mar 26, 2017
18
9
54
First question is about coop and run space.

How big is the coop in feet by feet?
Same question about the run.

The coop is16' x 13' with a hen house on stilts inside. There is open space under the hen house for bathing or scratching. There are 2 roosts for sitting. The floor space is fairly open.
First question is about coop and run space.

How big is the coop in feet by feet?
Same question about the run.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
96,406
129,784
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
The coop is16' x 13' with a hen house on stilts inside.
So the run is 13 x 16, which is great for 4 birds....
....but how big is the coop(hen house) where they sleep at night?
Pics of your setup might help.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.



And best of all you broke it up into paragraphs! This is quite wonderful all in itself!
YES!! Huge kudos for that!
 

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