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WingingIt

At my wits end with bullies :-(

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Hello,

Desperate cry for help here. Having dreamed of having chickens for years , reading every book and blog post and trying to be prepared, we finally moved to a place with a bigger garden and were able to take on 3 ex batts in a Go up with double extended run. We can't have free range due to daytime foxes (among other factors) - all chickens in the area are penned in as many neighbours have had flocks wiped out.

The first trio of ex batts fatally wounded one of their number during one day when we were at work, after a few weeks of no issues, then the dominant bird turned on the next remaining one in line and we had to separate them - the rescue asked us to bring them back for rehoming in a larger flock and sent us home with a new trio. Then the second trio attacked one of their number a couple of weeks in. We managed to separate in time. The rescue asked us to bring them all back... and we very miserably gave up on making ex batts happy.

Having stared at the empty run for a while, and taken some more independent advice, a few weeks ago we took on 3 POL girls - a bluebelle, speckledy and nera. Having lived in docile harmony for the past month the speckledy (Dotty) has now turned on the bluebelle (Blue). The pecking is relentless and savage - Blue has a bare bleeding back and the violet spray hasnt helped much. I have separated Dotty in a little day run that we sometimes put them in at the weekend, leaving just Blue and the nera (Goldie) in the run, but I am genuinely at my wits end. I am not naive about pets being easy - we are big on animal rescue and have fostered and adopted multiple challenging animals, but I'm new to chickens and have been totally flabbergasted by these levels of bullying. Not to put too fine a point on it I am ready to give up - it is so bloody upsetting and stressful (for the birds and the humans!). We have a 10yo boy who is gutted about the whole thing which is a killer too.

For context the run is full of enrichment and we swap new things in and out all the time. Multiple feeding and water stations, dust bath, spinning CD mirrors, peck toys, fresh and dry food, perches. The pecking today was going on even as they were investigating new things. We had been considering building a bigger run before all this started but we can't afford that this month and to be honest I dont want to invest time and money in this dream structure only to have to tear it down again if it all fails anyway.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I am half thinking of trying to rehome Dotty and just keeping Blue and Goldie, but I'm not sure if that is a good idea for Dotty OR the other two. 

Has this happened to anyone else?? I feel like we and our chickens are cursed! Really hoping someone can help - when I read the forums I hear people being fed up about poo and cleaning out etc but I love all the chicken care stuff! It's just the fighting that's finishing me off :-(

Thank you

Edited by WingingIt

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You haven't said how big the run is, but in my experience if you have less than 6m2 for the three, these problems are inevitable. The fact that this behaviour keeps repeating says to me that the run is far too small and needs enlarging considerably before introducing more hens. You should be aiming for 12m2.

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We followed guidance on the Omlet site, and from ex batt rescue, on space per chicken in a run. Seems we were misled, which is an extra blow. We have space for 2 rather than three by the sounds of it. 

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The more space you can give them the better really. I have 7 now and even though they have loads of space (probably 25-30m2 and 2m tall) I wouldn't want to have more than I do and there are still squabbles including 1 persistent feather plucker. If you can increase the run size a little and perhaps just start with 2 rather than 3 it might be the best way forwards? They are worth the effort and once all is settled it is very enjoyable to sit and watch them doing chickeny things.

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Sorry to hear that you have had such a stressful time of it so far. In terms of Omlet advice regarding space then I can sympathise. The much vaunted Qute (for small furries rather than chickens, admittedly!) doesn't seem to have the RSPCA recommended space for a Syrian  - some of them can be really quite big! - and, on dong further cage research, I was truly shocked at how many cages currently on the market actually do.

We had bantams back in the day as we were not sure about space in our garden so maybe that's something to consider. Do hope that you manage to overcome your problem and go on to enjoy your girls; nature can be cruel, however, and I can totally appreciate that it's tough on you lad.

 

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Thanks everyone. I'm definitely waking up to the fact that I've listened to the wrong advice which was foolish... altho in the short term I don't know where that leaves me!

At the moment I have a clearly p*ssed off Dotty patrolling her own mini run and 2 confused girls in the main one. Options in the immediate future either seem to be to risk the foxes and allow some free ranging when I'm not here to supervise or to try to rehome one of the chickens (which I'm not sure how to do safely)... feels like a bit of a rock and a hard place! If I allow some free ranging then I'm also not sure how to safely handle Dot's interactions with Blue in the coming days as I'm assuming the bullying won't just stop immediately - I was considering a 'bumpa bit' or equivalent but I have no idea if those are a) cruel or b) effective. Anyone know? 

My dog is delighted as for once he is my best behaved pet 😇

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Bumpa bits are not cruel if placed right. Just keep in mind they need deeper feeders and drinkers. They can be very effective and some here have hens permanently fitted with one.

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I agree with the other comments above.

Increase the space available and make sure that you have enough feeders and drinkers

Raise feeders and drinkers a bit so that they need to reach up to them, thereby avoiding exposing bottoms to pecking. 

Fit bumpa bits to the lot to prevent this escalating to cannibalism

Videos here on bullying and fitting bumpa bits

If you live anywhere near north Oxfordshire, south Northants and south Warks, I am happy to fit bumpa bits for you

 

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Also agree with above comments. And would say that if you are unable to increase the space, you would be better off with 3 bantam ladies.

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Bantams :dance: We had three in an Eglu (the smallest, rounded house - memory lapse there :oops:) and they were able to FR round the garden when we were home and I didn't have any probs with bullying at all. Mind you, most of the time it looked as though we'd had a herd of nellifants traipsing round the garden - for small things they were both destructive and messy, but sweet and affectionate with it! 

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Thanks everyone for the tips! As mentioned they can't be fully free range here - too many dangers including my lurcher and foxes. I appreciate the suggestions on smaller hens, but given that I've already got the girls I've got, that's what I'm having to work with 😕 Maybe the next generation can be bantams!

I've put chicken peepers on Dotty (have ordered bumper bits but needed something for the short term until they are delivered and that's all I could get locally). She was cross for a min or two but now seems totally relaxed and the pecking has stopped. Thanks for the offer of help Dogmother! Unfortunately we're over near Cambridge.

Today we've fenced off a large area around the run with temporary garden fencing - not fox resistant but they seem happier and we will just have to try to manage the risks as best we can until we can afford a more permanent solution 😬 my neighbours cats are hunters too but I've no clue if a cat would go for my girls? They are quite stout ladies so I hope they will not be seen as cat-prey... 🤞

For now it's nice to have the situation vaguely in hand, chilled girls, and to be able to walk among them 💓 we really love these fluffy monsters so I'm hoping we can make it work...

 

PS excuse Blue's violet rump - she is a multi coloured lady at the min for her own good!

20190907_130120.jpg

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I've just scrolled through the posts and can't see which Omlet housing you have - can you enlighten me? A run extension or 2 might be the answer. Omlet is notorious for over-recommending on the number of birds able to fit in any of their runs. I got quite grumpy about it with them once when we had loads of newbies on here with over-stocked runs.

I'm afraid that black hybrids are inclined to be grumpier and more pecky than others - no idea why, but this has always been my experience.

I would bumpa bit all of them, in the absence of an obvious pecker - that way all of them will be safe. 

Extend the run if possible

Add an extra each of food and water stations, pop some Vit Boost poultry tonic in their water - it contains B vits which are good for calming birds down and treating stress.

I am sure that the small boy with the glorious hair would enjoy watching the girls and shooting a water pistol/super soaker and any which pecks. Do it immediately and they soon catch on - the chicken that is, not the boy.

The cats won't be a problem - all the felines in our neighbourhood keep well clear of my bantams, including my hunting cat.

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The run is a Go Up with 2 additional 1m run extensions on the fitted Go Up run - I sent pics and measurements to the ex batt rescue and the place I got these girls and they were all very blast about me putting 3 hens in... I naively believed them! 

We have temporarily extended the space as you can see but we will save up for a more permanent solution - maybe just a better outer fence!! They already have x2 water and x2 feeding stations already but I will look into the tonic! Thanks for the tip 😊

20190907_135415.jpg

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I know youve said you cant afford it this month, but I reckon if you can give over the amount of space you’ve currently got fenced off to the chickens in the form of a secure run (Omlet walk in run or similar) that’ll be plenty of room for at least 3 girls to live with no bullying.

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'Blast' earlier was supposed to say blasé!

Unfortunately there's still a bit of pecking going on from Dotty to Blue (Goldie just stays out of it) but it's less intense and hopefully the bumpa bits will arrive soon 🤞

There's no way we can stretch financially to the Omlet walk in run, particularly at that size (and having seen rats merrily skip through the Go Up wiring I would rather have something tighter wired!!) but we will think of something! It's nice to see them with so much room :-)

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These look ok as long as you upgrade to weldmesh - they’re still not cheap but better than the Omlet ones 

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The Go models have MUCH smaller runs than the original Omlet housing.. another reason why I don't like them (sorry folks)

I would be tempted to get a walk in run and then put the housing inside it - take the run off the Go (stash it for the future). Something like this run, but without the wooden housing:

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Hi WingingIt

So sorry to hear about your troubles but hopefully the girls will settle and things will get better soon. 

I have loved having my girls but am at the end of my chicken keeping years now, and I’m selling quite a few bits and pieces including my beautiful walk in run, made by my husband a couple of years ago. If this is something you may be interested in and could help you, I will shortly be listing it on the sales forum or you can message me. 

Good luck with your girls, there is always an abundance of brilliant advice on this forum which I have used myself over the years and lots of friendly people who can offer support and guidance.

Dolly

xx

 

 

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