Why are my hens so boring?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Captain Carrot, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. Captain Carrot

    Captain Carrot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok boring isn't the right word to use, I'll explain.

    In January this year I got two new hens and a cockerel. I added them to my existing birds without any major problems. The hens got pecked and chased by the older hens, but this was expected. They've settled down now and have accepted the hens into the flock and sorted out the pecking order.

    The thing is that the new hens spend most of the day indoors, and hardly ever run with the other birds. They're housed in a large shed that's about 30 square meters so they have plenty of space. All the birds go out together in the mornings to eat and drink, and the new ones stay out for about 30 minutes before coming back inside and roosting on a 2 meter high fence that I have to divide the shed.

    I thought that it was perhaps because of the poor weather I've had recently, lots of snow and really cold, but the last couple of weeks have been beautiful and really warm for March, but they still spend the days indoors.
    They're friendly birds, and haven't lost any weight. They always have full crops in the evening so they're eating, they're droppings look normal and they seam to be really healthy, but just really boring.

    The run they have is huge, and they're also allowed to TOTALLY free range when I'm around, the other birds are always off in my forest exploring or bug hunting in my meddow. It's not as though there is nothing interesting for them outside.

    I just don't get it, has anyone got any idea how I can entice them outside?

    Thanks [​IMG]
     
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Really tastie treats are the best way to lure them out. Of course in your case, maybe they'd just eat the tastie treats and then head back indoors??? Is the roo who came with them going out with the main flock or staying indoors with the new girls? Maybe it's like people, and dogs, etc.; Some just prefer the comfort of the indoors??? You're pretty sure they're not being run off by the older girls??? Or could they be avoiding a randy rooster who is trying to mate them???
     
  3. Captain Carrot

    Captain Carrot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Out of the four older hens, one of them chases them away from the feeder or fountain she's using. I have four feeders and two fountains, and there is plenty of space to get away from her. The rooster that came with them is outside all day, and yeah he is randy but he spreads his love around. They should be used to him anyways.

    I've tried the treats too, I've hung cabbages up outside, cracked corn, crickets and meal worms. They eat and go inside.

    I'm not worried about their health, I just wish I could enjoy seeing them run about a bit more. They're still pretty young, one of them started laying today.
     
  4. BooBear

    BooBear Chicken Cuddler

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    Are they Silkies? My Silkies refuse to venture out of the safe coop. If I want them out on the grass in sunshine then I have to carry them to the play pen. The play pen is for the younger birds to play in and forage that are too small to hang with the flock.
    The Silkies don't mind getting put in thete with the young ones and do forage and mingle. However, given their own choice they prefer to stay indoors.
     
  5. Kaitie09

    Kaitie09 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Have you ever just locked them out for a day? Sometimes just not being able to go in will make them have to get used to the outside. We had that happen to 12 of ours when they were younger. We ended up locking them out all day, and only letting them in at night.
     
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    They've settled who is who in the pecking order but they're not integrated, not really accepted by the flock. I'd close the coop, too, maybe late morning if most of them lay in the morning. Or just hunt eggs for a few days.
     
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well I'll put my money on the randy rooster as the issue. It doesn't matter that they knew him already (if he's the one they arrived with). An overly hormonal rooster trying to plant his flag on every conquest available, especially if he's not gentle and considerate, can stress some hens/pullets out. I had an overly amorous/hormonal rooster over a year ago, and my EE began staying inside a LOT. She'd even run to me and jump up into my hands if he was nearby. She was plain out afraid of his/stressed by him. The other girls did okay with him. As soon as she'd try to leave the coop, he'd be at her. Take them out, sit down, and just watch your flock for a while this weekend. Maybe something behaviorally will jump out at you...
     
  8. Captain Carrot

    Captain Carrot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I spend about 30 minutes in the mornings watching them and haven't noticed anything untoward going on, but I'll have a sit down in the field with a coffee and watch them for a while.

    I'll also lock them outside for the weekend, see what happens. I have a few hens laying a bit later in the day, if I'm around I'll let them inside when they want to lay.


    They're not Silkies, they're an Austrian breed called Altsteirer.

    Thanks for the replies, I'll post again on Sunday with an update.
     
  9. Captain Carrot

    Captain Carrot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So it looks like the problem took care of itself.

    I waited until 9am before letting them out today, thinking that most would have laid already before locking them up. I gave them food and cleaned and filled the fountains. A couple of hens where hanging around in the shed near the nest boxes so I thought I'd wait a little before locking them out. It turned out that I didn't have to lock them out at all.

    I grabbed a chair and sat in the run with a coffee. One of the "agoraphobic" hens was in a nest box by then, so I watched the flock with the other one. I didn't see anything worrying going on. Gravy is definitely at the lower end of the pecking order, but she was not attacked or pecked by the rest of the flock. She was halfheartedly chased when she wanted to share a food bowl with another hen, but the chase was over in less than three feet.

    When Sausage came out after laying her first egg, again I didn't see anything worrying. Carrot the cockerel mounted all 6 hens in the space of 20 minutes, but he was gentle with them.

    Anyway the two hens, Sausage and Gravy have been outside all day long. So I think they're going to behave live normal chickens and be alright with the rest of the flock. It will be interesting to see whether or not they go back inside and roost with the flock or decide to roost on the fence inside the shed as normal.

    Do you think this change in behavior is due to the fact that they both started laying this week, that the rest of the flock have accepted them as real chickens and not "rent dodgers"?

    I'm very happy this evening to see them running around outside and enjoying themselves.
     
  10. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    [​IMG] Good for them. Maybe they were staying close to the nest boxes as they were feeling those urges???
     

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