VERY timid Gold-Laced Buff Brahma hen...how do I integrate?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by sarahandbray, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 12, 2014
    I have 38 of my own chickens (29 hens, 9 roosters...we're slowly whittling down our terrible odds from a straight-run order in August--they're 20-weeks) and just bought three new ones right around the same age from a lovely woman who kept a total of 5 birds in a suburban backyard.
    A Welsummer (laying), a Cream Legbar (not laying yet) and a Gold-Laced Buff Brahma.
    Day one, I had them all out in our 15,000sf pasture together (they were assuredly healthy), and the Welsummer and Cream Legbar held their own, but the Brahma was getting chased and tormented mercilessly!
    Finally, I put the new three in my small coop w/attached run that is still within the inside of the pasture. All the chickens can see and smell and hear each other now.

    What's my next step? It's been a week tomorrow. Am I just going to have to keep these two coops going all winter or do you have any tips for introducing a meek, mild, and BIG hen to the flock? She must have a bullseye on her b/c they ALL went after her! Even my sweetest, kindest hens!
    Here she is--I'll post a pic.
     
  2. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    They hate her because of her stellar beauty. Just kidding. She is a gorgeous girl!

    Brahmas can be timid by nature. If she has low self confidence, it is the same as her having a sign on her saying, "I invite you all to please bully me!" They can sense her fear, and it just eggs them on.

    Were the other two hens you got at the same time raised with her? It would help if she had the companionship of former brooder mates to help her through this integration period.

    If not, if she's a loner, it's possible to create a BFF for her by crating her up with another hen that appears to have no bullying intentions. Several days of being isolated with this hen may create the closeness required to encourage them to be close companions. It could help her gain more self confidence. Or not. There are no guarantees.

    If you don't have the time to meddle in the pecking order, you can just leave things be. She'll probably work through this in time. But someone is always going to be lowest in the social order, and you can go nuts trying to fix things.
     
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  4. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Since I posted, I think I've figured out she's a standard size Gold Laced Cochin, not Brahma, due to her single comb, not pea comb.
    She is currently isolated with her two littermates who get along with her fine. I have a very small, timid Buff Orpington I may put in there too to see what happens.

    She won't be re-released into the general population until I feel they can at least not torture her! Pecking order is one thing and has been fine--but this girl is a different story!
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Her Cochin-ness should impart a certain amount of self-confidence in her, if that's what she is. I have a Cochin who doesn't give a @#$% about anything or anyone. Completely above it all, defying all norms. She's a loner, too. Go figure.

    I had to create a sub-flock for four Sussex bullies that were riding rough-shod over everyone toward end of summer. They are happy as can be now in their own run and coop, and don't even mingle much when everyone goes out to free-range.

    Sometimes, if you have the space, that's the best thing you can do, pull out the bullies and put them somewhere else.

    Is there any way to determine who the bullies are?
     
  6. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I know what you mean. I've only added to my flock one other time and the chickens I added were the bullies! My chickens were all 12-weeks-old and I added four White Leghorns and 6 Golden Comets. The Comets were HUGE bullies to all of my chicks. Moved right in and took over. We have three ten-foot roosts and they would strategically place themselves on each roost so it was only them and the Leghorns who could get up there. This went on for a few days of misery until I gave up and put those six hens in the "naughty coop" I currently have the shy hens in. Within two weeks or so of being separated except for about four or five free-range hours in the evening, the Comets had settled in better. They are still a posse and probably would bully if they got the chance, but they don't block feeders and roosts anymore, so they got mainstreamed.
    I'm thinking the new Wellie would be fine in the general pop, but I don't want to leave just two in a 16sf coop in cold weather.
    I may try to add two of my most sweet and timid hens in with them and see what happens. Maybe they can form their own bottom-of-the-pecking-order clique.
    Like me, with the band-geeks in the high school cafeteria ;)
    Sarah
     
  7. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    (For the new girl's sake, I just wish she wasn't so BIG and slow!!! The Wellie and Cream Legbar and small and fast, so they can fly and evade well. This poor Cochin is like a big, lumbering target!!!)
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Maybe she'll find out that all those fluffy feathers are pretty decent armor against bully aggression.

    I would really consider what you've thought of doing - select a few of the more mellow flock and put them in with the new ones to form a new unit. Leave them in peace for a couple weeks until they've formed unit cohesion. This is one of the most critical factors in the pecking order. The social order in a flock is a product of "numbers". You have a flock consisting of all of these sub-groups. If the sub-group has more than three (four being the minimum I've observed to be effective) the better chance they have to derive self-confidence from their unit.

    Just as with people, if a chicken has self confidence, they're less likely to be bullied. Like kids in junior high, the more friends they have, the more self confidence.
     
  9. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, the small coop is 4'X4', so the max number I feel comfortable with in there is about 5 chickens. I have the original 3, that all get along well, so I'll add my sweet and tiny Buff Orp hen and my sweetest red-sex link. Do you think by pulling these two out of the main flock it will ostracize them from the flock when I reintroduce them?
    I actually feel a little better today. My husband and I had some extra time this afternoon, so we let the three new ones out in the pasture. (15,000sf enclosed with electric PoultryNet fencing)

    As predicted, Welsummer just got down to business and started looking for the scratch we had put down as a treat. Cream Legbar hopped up on a table and stayed there most of the time. Ate from our hands up there and didn't seem stressed out.
    We had to pull the big Cochin out of the coop and walked around with her a while. When I put her down, my Barred Rock hen went right for her. My Muck Boot put an end to that little dispute with a good push.
    She seemed better today. Not great, but better. Gave me hope. If she can't integrate successfully, I'm not sure I want the hassle, even though I think she's really pretty. The smaller coop and attached run is already earmarked as my breeding pen for this spring and I don't want to keep these three in it indefinitely.
    Here's hoping!!
     
  10. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    No, I don't think it would be a huge problem when you put the five back with the flock again. There will be five of them. Strength in numbers. It's much different than returning a single individual to the flock after a time-out.

    Perhaps they can all free-ranch together occasionally during this interim. That would keep them all used to each other.

    Chances are the pecking order could have sorted itself out without all of this 'engineering', but I think it's got good potential to strengthen the timid individuals so they will be better at standing up to bullies in the future.
     

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