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What to do when you've got a hen who beats up on the new chicks?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Alexandra33, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Just a week ago, we put the 24 6-8 week old babies outside, and everything seems to be going well except for one small problem: our beautiful Black Ameraucana hen is ruthlessly attacking the little ones. [​IMG] We have them in a large dog cage to keep them safe from their much bigger flockmates, but we still have to let them out to get fresh air outside. The moment they're out, Boo (the Ameraucana) makes a beeline and attacks the nearest one. My poor babies are scared to death! I'm very well aware that there's undoubtedly going to be some picking since I've done this whole transition thing several times before, but what's going on in this particular situation is more severe than what I've so far witnessed. There's no way we're going to be able to rehome Boo, seeing as she's 1) a favorite of the family 2) expensive, and 3) gives us stunning blue eggs. Any suggestions on what I could possibly do to keep the peace? Thank you so much in advance! [​IMG]

    ~Alex
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
  2. azygous

    azygous Overrun With Chickens

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    Is this bully hen very young? Barely past pullet stage even? If so, this is entirely normal behavior. The youngest flock members who were only just recently the target of bullying themselves for being new and at the bottom of the pecking order now find themselves in the position of being able to be higher in the pecking order. So they take full advantage and create a sport out of chasing the new kids around.

    This is what happened last summer in my own flock when I got a second batch of chicks three months after the previous group. Two of the pullets delighted in chasing and pecking the three new chicks as soon as they were permitted to mingle with the rest of the flock.

    What really helps is to have a "panic room" when you are integrating new chicks. It's any sort of safe refuge with entrances where only the chicks fit, not the big chickens. I made my portals 4 1/2 inches wide by 7 inches high. This accommodates the chicks until they're nearly three months old. Food and water are inside so they don't get harassed at the feeders and water, and it enables the chicks to relax after a hard day fighting the pecking order.

    In my second article linked below under "Articles" I have photos of this safe pen and the portals. It's an article on brooding outdoors in my run, but I describe in detail how I handle integration.

    On edit, I forgot to mention that this bullying is temporary. At least it was in my flock. After the new chicks reached five or six months, the bullying and chasing has all but stopped.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
  3. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    As usual, your answer is perfect! [​IMG] I merely called Boo a hen just so people didn't assume she was a chick herself, when in actuality she's an older pullet (about 10 months of age) like you suspected. She's rather low on the pecking order.

    That's basically the function of our dog kennel-a place that the chicks can easily come and go from without allowing the larger birds in. [​IMG] One thing that concerns me a little is that most of these birds are bantams, so they won't grow as big as the rest. I'm wondering if eventually Boo's bullying will subside, or at least tone down a little so that we'll be able to keep both sizes of chickens together. If not, we're going to have to come up with another arrangement for my banties. [​IMG]

    Thank you so much for the response, Azygous!

    ~Alex
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Overrun With Chickens

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    It just occurred to me that perhaps the solution to keeping bantams in a standard flock would be to have a partitioned run, but to treat the bantam side as a "panic room" with it own bantam size access. That way the bantam flock has full use of the entire run, but still has their safe refuge where a standard size bully can't get to them.

    But you're correct in suspecting that your bantams may require special adjustments to your run in order for peace to prevail in years to come.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Curious about your dog kennel set up...can you post some pics?
    Does it open up to a run or free range?
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

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    You can always pull Boo out of the coop for a week or so while the littles find their place, then try putting her back in slowly.
     
  7. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks guys! [​IMG] I'm happy to report that Boo has asserted her dominance over the babies, and now feels no need to constantly pick. Everything is working beautifully in "coopdom." The little ones have been given full independence to come in and out of their cage as they please because they're no longer persecuted. [​IMG] Smart little boogers have already taught themselves to use a bucket waterer!

    @aart , I haven't forgotten that you wanted to see our setup. [​IMG] It doesn't open up to an enclosure because the way our coop is designed, that would be impossible. So, we make do by just propping the door open and allowing them to piddle around in the coop before running outside. Sorry if it doesn't look that great! [​IMG] I guess 100-year-old milkhouses won't appear perfect, right?
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    ~Alex
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  8. penny1960

    penny1960 Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    sorry to barge in but I did something similar I used a kids
    plastic pool with whole drilled along the top edge for wire[​IMG]

    the wire is held up with trim board held by a larger piece using another closer
    smaller wire to keep pullets in as all my chicken wire is 2 inch openings.
    I have a large geodesic coop 17 feet in diameter so I can put the pool in there.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  9. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Good idea, @penny1960 ! [​IMG] Looks very nice!

    ~Alex
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Oh, heck, if you've got room in the coop that's the way to go for sure!
    That's great setup! Love the tray on top.
     

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