Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Separating and Reintroducing Chickens Within Your Flock

When raising chickens, there may be times where they need to be separated from each other.  Whether it be due to illness, injury, bullying, etc.  Back in the fall, we had two hens (Libby Mae and Bork) that could not grow feathers on their back.  We thought that they were just molting, but couldn't figure out why their feathers weren't filling in.  Then, one day, when I went out to see the chickens I noticed little drops of blood on Libby Mae's back feather shafts.  Then, I figured it out.  As I was standing there, Pancake went right up to Libby Mae and pecked at her back.  She couldn't grow any feathers because every time a feather started coming in, it was pecked out by another hen.

I tried both Blu Kote and Pick no More, but it was too late, neither of them worked..  After a little research, we realized we were going to have to separate the two getting picked on. 

So, Jason moved our Mobile Chicken Shelter into the garage, built a roosting bar out of a couple large logs and a piece of wood, and, for the next two weeks, we moved them into there every night to roost.  


He created an area right outside the backdoor of our garage for them to roam/scratch/dig in during the day.  This kept them far away from the rest of the flock, gave them time to heal, but also gave them the outdoor time that they need and deserve.  Oliver, of course, was happy to keep an eye on them.

It was amazing how fast their feathers began to grow back!  Libby Mae's back was almost completely covered after just 7 days.  This is how her back looked when we first separated her:

And then, just one week later:

After two weeks of isolation, her feathers had completely grown back!  So I figured, what the hell - let's put them all together.

Bad. Idea.

Within 30 seconds of putting the two chickens in with the rest, Libby Mae was attacked and pinned to the ground by Fork.  Yikes!  I watched, hoping they just needed to get it out of their system, but others joined in too so we took Bork and Libby Mae back out to a safe spot.

It was obvious that Fork was the issue here.  So, once we were comfortable with Libby Mae and Bork being with the other hens, we separated Fork.  First, we kept Fork in the garage like the other two - completely separate from the rest of the flock.  After a few days, we took advantage of our chicken run and kept Fork separated from the flock, but where she could see the other chickens and they could see her.  After keeping her away from the other chickens for about five days, we decided it was time to get the girls all together again.  So, one evening we let all of the chickens except for Fork into the coop to roost.  We waited until they were all comfy cozy and then we let Fork in to roost with them.

Bad. Idea. Again.
(This is a learning experience, y'all!)

Fork got into the coop and went right for Libby Mae.  Great. (insert eye roll emoji).

At this point, we were starting to get nervous.  We were leaving in a week for to go out of town and we really needed these damn chickens to get along!  Fork's future wasn't looking too bright at this point.

Fast forward a few nights later and we try the opposite.  We let Fork into the coop to roost.  We gave her about 15-20 minutes to get good and sleepy and then we let the rest of the chickens in the coop.  Jason and I shut the door and stood outside, with our ears to the door.  Silent.  Listening.

We heard nothing.  Nothing.

It seemed as though this method worked!  As soon as the sun was coming up, Jason went out to open the coop - no one was hurt and they all seemed to be getting along.  We kept a close eye on the flock for the next couple of days to make sure all was well.  They all behaved themselves.  Thank goodness!

What a learning experience this was for us!  We've talked about it since and if we'd do anything different.  One thing that we would do again, even if it wasn't necessary, is having two chickens separated.  After Bork and Libby Mae spent two weeks alone together, they became buddies.  For awhile after they were back with the flock they were inseparable.  We feel that this helped ease them back into the flock - they weren't completely alone.

Thankfully, all has been well and the chickens have been behaving well and getting along.  Now we just wait for our next chicken adventure!

~ Sara :)

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