Chickeny Capulets and Montagues

I have to admit to being distressed by our chickens. I am pleased to report that although I enjoy their ridiculously pompous feathery strutting and posturing, I am still able to see them as the livestock they are rather than pets. We named this first six and so they’ll be parent hens to our meat broods rather than destined for the plate. However, in fair Hampshire, where we lay our scene, fowl play is afoot. Our four ex-battery rescue hens were the first to arrive at the smallholding and they clearly feel that this is a case of finders, keepers. Ever since we brought home our two posh white hens, the two factions have regarded each other with barely-concealed hostility. All the hen anti-peck spray in the world hasn’t helped them get on and our two poor little whites go about in a pair all the time, being harried and bullied by the mean browns. IMG_3321I’m at a loss as to what to do. They’ve got a massive paddock to free range in, and they do snuggle together on cold nights in the hen house, so I honestly can’t see what could be wrong. But the poor whites are constantly pecked and chased away from the food hopper and occasionally just chased for sport (as far as I can see). I cannot imagine that chickeny peace is liable to settle any time soon (and it’s been months now!). Do any of you have any ideas how we can get them to tolerate each other a little better because I feel so very sorry for the poor white hens. It never occurred to me that chickens would have such a strong social order – I always thought that the pecking order referred to who got the most corn, not to actual physical meanness! Mr Land has suggested that we eat the problem, but given that we’ve named them now, I think I’d struggle with that. This homestead really comes with a steep learning curve. IMG_3315

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

6 thoughts on “Chickeny Capulets and Montagues

  1. We have a white polish hen that we got one year after our other 5 hens. We introduced them properly, but the original 5 are still mean to her. They won’t let her sleep with them so she sleeps by herself on top of their water bucket. They won’t let her eat with them so she waits her turn. I hear her scream out all the time because they’ve tried to peck her fluffy head. It’s very sad, but they never go too far. I’ve heard that a lot of hens pick on polish chickens because of their head feathers. I wish I had an answer for both of us! But, four years later, there’s still a divide. Chickens are bullies.

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  2. Chickens will always peck at and chase away those lower down the pecking order to them, to some extent. If the hens aren’t getting injured, are still managing to get enough food and aren’t stressed off the lay, then they should be ok. If not, something must be done. If you can single out the main one or two bullies and pen them up in a small enclosure within the paddock for a while, that could help. That allows the others to form a tighter flock more easily. If the originals are all being very bad, one group might have to get the chop. Or get a rooster to keep the peace. We can now eat named chickens without squalms, it’s just really hard the first few times. If you’re wanting to get some heavy breeds to go broody and hatch chicks, keep in mind that they are usually more docile and susceptible to being picked on by the brown hybrids or lighter breeds. So if you keep the browns, next time you add hens, add the same amount and keep a fence between them for a week before merging them.

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    1. That’s a very good hint, thank you. I was thinking of getting another chicken house anyway for the new chickens, I shall keep them all apart next time. It really makes me sad, not least because one of our tw newest hens is poorly and I”m worried about the other one should she shuffle off this mortal coil! My husband agrees with you that we should eat the problem, I am heartened by your assurance that it can be done but I think I’d find it very difficult!

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      1. Glad I could be of some use. 🙂 It’s hard having chickens that don’t get along. Culling is not meant to be easy, not to start with anyway. It goes against our animal-nurturing nature, but it is about overcoming your feelings and making the best possible decision for the chicken. Or for the dinner plate. And it’s totally normal to run off to your husband for assistance because you just can’t do it, to cry, to think “Why on earth am I doing this?” and to have a lot of hesitancy and emotional turmoil doing the deed. I still find it emotionally hard in some cases, thinking about it beforehand. But once I’ve made up my mind to do it, I just prepare everything and do it as quickly as possible so I don’t second-guess myself.

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