Have you recently added new hens to your coop and noticed that they are not well accepted by the existing hens? Don’t worry, this is a problem that many breeders experience, but solutions can be implemented to avoid it.
Why do chickens peck at each other?
When you put new hens or poultry of other species inside a poultry house, the other birds inside will defend their territory by natural instinct. In fact, within the facility it is not uncommon for older hens to establish a hierarchy.
Another problem related to hen violence is the space available. If new specimens are placed in a space that is too narrow for the number of animals it contains, there are no effective remedies and pecking will be inevitable. Therefore, it is very important to understand if you have enough space to insert new animals before purchasing them.
Here are 7 Tricks for adding new members to your existing chicken coop
1. Respect the proportions
It is important to consider the number of new birds to be added in relation to the number of birds already in the coop. A disproportionate number of animals should be avoided, as the largest group will have an advantage in case of pecking, chasing and violent fights. Inserting the right amount of animals is also important to ensure an optimal distribution of food. In fact, according to the hierarchical principle, the latest arrivals will have the right to feed only after the “older” ones have obtained sufficient food.
2. Wait for the right moment
Once the new animals have been purchased, it is advisable to wait for a certain period of time before placing them in the new poultry house to ensure that no sick animals or animals carrying pathogens are introduced. Once the quarantine period is over, the new birds will be ready to be placed in the permanent facility.
During the day, there are moments when it is more appropriate to add new members: during the night or when the hens are out of the house (if they have an outdoor space). In these moments, in fact, the new hens will have time to acclimatize and the old ones will not notice the new intruders. This technique is not always effective, so it is important to monitor the behavior of the two groups using a webcam or by monitoring the farm in person.
3. Insert a net inside the chicken coop
Dividing the space where chickens live into two distinct parts, divided by a mesh net, will allow the two groups to get to know each other and live together without coming into direct contact with each other. This will avoid violent attacks that could injure the animal. Once an adequate period has elapsed (it is always advisable to monitor each other’s behavior) you can remove the physical barrier. If there is still some rivalry between the different groups of poultry, insert elements such as wooden boxes or other barriers to interrupt the view between individuals. In the event of an attack, the chickens will instinctively take refuge behind these barriers and protect themselves until the situation has stabilized.
4. Add troughs and feeders
As mentioned earlier, the hierarchy of these animals will mean that the last to arrive will have to wait before feeding. In case the feeders and troughs are not large enough to ensure an optimal distribution of food, the newcomers will risk not having enough nutrients. It is best to place the new positions away from the troughs and feeders where the older birds are accustomed to feeding.
5. Watch out for the rooster!
Besides being an extremely territorial animal, the chicken is also polygamous. It is therefore necessary to pay particular attention in case of insertion of a rooster in a poultry house with a male individual already present. Each rooster in the group manages an average of 6 to 12 hens (depending on the breed). Inserting a new male into the flock is therefore possible if there are sufficient female individuals available. The best solution would be to insert a young cockerel, not yet sexually mature. In this way the coexistence with the other rooster will be more peaceful.
6. Spray vinegar on chickens
Another method, which is not always effective, is to spray vinegar (of any kind) on all individuals, new and old. This will ensure that the poultry population smells evenly, confusing the chickens already present. However, poultry have developed eyesight, so they are likely to notice new individuals anyway.
7. Don't put hens under stress
Inserting new members into a coop where the hens are already showing clear signs of stress can only prove to be a bad move. Before considering a new addition, it is therefore a good idea to make sure that your chickens are not nervous and do not exhibit cannibalistic behaviors. In addition to making sure there is enough space and food, it is important to ensure an adequate climate depending on the season and optimal cleanliness to avoid the spread of injuries. In fact, the sight of the blood of injured or pecked animals stimulates the curiosity of other animals, which degenerates into actual cannibalism.
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