Replacing hens

by Heath Teutsch
(Haughton LA )

Question

Replacing hens: I have chance to buy 2 month old hens of the same breed I already have. Are they old enough to put in with the older chickens and a rooster?

Answer
Probably not. I make it a rule not to mix ages of chickens, unless the young are being introduced with a hen originally from the flock or until full size.

It's natural for a hen to go off by herself, where space allows, to incubate a clutch of eggs, and return to the main flock with her brood and be accepted.

But new young chickens introduced to a flock of adults, without a mother hen, may be seen as intruders.

Due to being smaller, younger, weaker and inexperienced in living with this flock, they will be bullied to establish pecking order or possibly to drive them away.

In a closed environment bullying can lead to the injury, stressing and death of young chickens.

At this point in their lives they should be putting all energies into growing and maturing, not running and hiding, trying to get enough food, defending themselves, growing replacement feathers that have been plucked out, and healing.

Another issue here is quarantine. It's always a good idea to keep new flock members separately and away from the existing flock for a few weeks, to make sure you don't introduce disease/parasites to your main flock and housing.

I like to wait until pullets are near adult size, and can easily handle being bred by an adult rooster, as the guideline, before introducing them to a mature flock in a large area.

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Pecking Order

by Jared de la O
(Pleasant Hill, CA)

Question:
Pecking Order: How can I tell who is the "boss" in my group of eight chickens? I have 3 who are two weeks older then the others so I'm guessing it is one of these.

There is only one that is the "meanie" and went after the youngsters (none of my chickens are adults yet).

However the another chicken seems to be the ruler as she eats first and buts into the other chickens business. She picked a new chicken once but the other one actually attacked the the new chicken. Which chicken runs this gang?

Answer:
Generally the biggest, but not always. Whenever you mix ages and sizes you are putting the smaller/weaker at a huge disadvantage.

This can lead to harassment, malnutrition, illness and death. Chickens aren't mean, though some are more aggressive than others, and some breeds are more prone to high levels of aggressiveness.

All a chicken wants to do is survive. They make the best of what we offer them, but their territorial instincts can often lead to bullying, especially when new chickens come into their territory.

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Chicken traumatized

by Stephanie Piver
(US)

Question
Chicken traumatized: We had a Rhode Island Red and a silver lacy in a coop. They were both free roam and at night would faithfully put themselves away.

We also have an Americana that lives separately due to other two chicks being mean. Anyways, one night the gate of the two girls was left open and a predator got our silver lacy.

Ever since then our red refuses to put herself up and has been perching on our deck instead. She also has been laying her eggs in our Americana's coop.

Was she traumatized and is afraid it go to her coop? Not sure what we should do, obviously she can't sleep outside by herself.

I wouldn't mind if she stayed with the Americana however she is always pecking her. Which I know is normal but last time she about pecked a whole right through her.

Some advice on why she is acting like this and what we should do to make her go in a coop at night.

Answer
It's unclear which or if all are chicks. Yes, the RIR has learned that her coop is unsafe at night. To get the RIR back to roosting where you want her, just catch her and keep her there for a few days.

She will realize that it's safe and you must keep it locked up at night. (I've lost more chickens to night predators, than any other problem.)Chickens are individuals and often just don't like another chicken.

It could be age or size difference, sometimes it's just the difference in breeds or not being raised together. In a normal flock there would be at least one rooster.

His attentions to the hens and his dominance in the flock, often keep the girls from getting
too upset with each other.

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