We have all heard of the phrase “the pecking order”. Chickens establish a hierarchial order in their flock. This is thought to have evolved over many thousands of years in the jungle fowl of South East Asia. The pecking order allowed the flock to eat in turn and peacefully when food was available. If they were fighting at these times, they would be wasting their opportunity to eat and attracting attention to themselves from predators.
The pecking order is still well and truly with the hens of today and hens can be incredibly cruel to newcomers. If you are mixing hens that aren’t used to one another, you should make sure you are around to keep an eye open for trouble. The following points may help:
- Place newcomers behind a fence or in a small run for a week so that they can get used to their new surroundings and get used to one another.
- Introduce a new hen at night to the coop when it is dark. Place her amongst the other hens. They will not fight in the dark and it will give the others a chance to get used to the new smell.
- If pecking takes place, leave them to get on with it as much as you can. They have to establish the new pecking order but…
- If blood is drawn at any point, remove the hen and try again when the injury has healed. Chickens are attracted to red and will peck blood very quickly.
- You may want to try removing the hen that is fighting with the newcomer to the flock for a little while until the new hen has settled into the flock, then put the trouble maker back in.
If you are still having difficulty with the hens getting along, you can try an Anti-peck spray and if you have real problems, ‘bumpa bits‘ can be fitted to the beak for a while. These stop the end of the beak closing completely so prevent her from causing damage to other hens but she is still able to eat and drink normally.