Sunday, July 21, 2013

Integrating new chickens into an old flock, establishing pecking order, train your chickens

The new chicks are more and more chickeny everyday.  Tomorrow I will be making a small opening in the integration pen so that the new girls can wander out  at their leisure and run screaming back in if they get too picked on.  We have learned over the last few years that this is the best way to do it.  Let them see each other from a safe distance for a week or so.  Then, let them find their pecking order with an escape route . After a week or two  take away the integration pen.  If one of the old birds gets too aggressive with the new ones, isolate her for a day (they hate that  and they know it is punishment  for bad behavior).  The first couple of nights you may have to  do a pen search for the new ones to make sure they all get into the big girl coop.  It helps to  clean and sterilize the old coop (and re-arrange the roosts if that is feasible) before you put the new ones in.  It will de-stabilize the old flock enough that they will accept the new ones.  They love their own smell and will get confused if its not there.  If they all feel like they are in a new environment , they will huddle together for safety.
Had a conversation recently with someone who hates chickens because they are stupid and cannot be trained.  Newsflash.  Chickens can be trained.  You just have to spend time with them like any other domestic animal.  Positive reinforcement,  conditioning..... and, sometimes, a time out for  aggressive behavior and your flock will be easily managed.  It helps to know some basic chicken  psychology.   If you get a hen or rooster that is aggressive toward you, place your hand on their back and gently but firmly press them to the ground.  This puts you  at the top of the  pecking order.  I had to do this in the first twenty minutes with the new rooster  we  just received.  He didn't want me anywhere near his girls.  I don't want to interfere with his job (cuz that's why we got him) But, he needs to know I am the Boss-From-The-Big-House and ultimately... all decisions rest with me. We have been getting along great since then and he even shows off his rooster skills  for me when I go out to hang out with them.  The bright student that raised the chicks was surprised  that it worked on one of the hens that had become so aggressive they thought she was a rooster.  They transported her in a separate box because she was pecking them so hard and just being mean.  When they told me this, I lifted her from the box, set her on the ground and pressed her  back firmly down . I held her there to a slow count of ten and then let her go.  She has been docile ever since.  When  getting new birds for the first time or integrating new birds into your old flock.... remember , the first thing you want to do is  establish yourself firmly at the top of the pecking order.

Cochin pullet
Silkie pullet

Silkie and Wyandotte pullets