Help needed...settling hens and getting new ones after dog attack(9 Posts)
One of my beautiful girls was killed yesterday in the garden by a dog that had escaped from a neighbour's garden. She was the smallest, and our favourite, who loved to be picked up by our dc and followed me around everywhere :-(
I managed to find the other two hens who were hiding in different parts of the garden, terrified. I've kept them in their coop and enclosed run since then, but they have barely come out of the coop. I've put apple cider vinegar in their drinking water as I'd heard it helped to settle them after a trauma. I've been scattering a bit of corn in the run every few hours to encourage them to come out. Is there anything else I can do to help them?
Ironically we had just ordered a new, bigger coop with a huge enclosed run. I'd like to get two more hens to go in with my girls. Any suggestions for breeds that might live happily with a pair of speckled Sussex?
Also...I've been looking at how to integrate new hens. The new coop will be going in a different place in the garden, so I could theoretically use both for a while until they're used to each other. Is this a good idea, or should I just time it so I can put them all in the new coop together, hoping that no one can be territorial over it then?
Ours got spooked by a dog on the first day they arrived! They had got over it within three days....I left them alone aside from sorting food etc. I didn't open the door much and on day three, they just seemed more lively so I opened the door and they came out.
when I say "spooked" this dog chased them around and pulled the tail feathers from one and they all hid down the side of the shed.
With intergrating, we found it best to keep them separated by chicken wire but so they could see one another. They were fine when we eventually let them out together.
Thanks for your reply. My other two seem a bit perkier today, I sat in the garden and let them out, it took a while and they were very jumpy, but had a peck round and ate some grass etc.
There. They will be fine in a day or two. Bless them...I always feel so sorry for them when they're upset.
Hi OP. Your hens should settle back after a while. Poultry Spice is also a good thing to include with their food or with a warm mash if they are going through a moult or time of stress, or introducing new hens. I'm sure they will recover from the trauma of the dogs.
What I was going to say though was about introducing the new hens you get. If you haven't ever done it before you need to be really careful. If you've been reading up on it then you will be getting an idea that it won't be necessarily straight forward.
I've had hens for nearly 8 years and in that time I built up from 2 old hens my neighbour gave me (which didn't lay regularly) to up to 16. Although I've currently only got 13 girls. I've introduced new hens to the flock every couple of years to ensure I've got good egg supply, so I've got very mixed ages, and have gone through introduction quite a few times.
Some people swear on putting new hens in the coop after dark so that they wake up with the new hens in with the old birds. I've never found that to help. I was told when I was new to hen keeping to introduce half of the existing flock (which didn't help me, I just had 2 traumatised and terrified new hens). In your case that would be 1 hen which is definitely not a good idea. You need it to be at least 2 new ones, and don't think 'Oh its not working, maybe I'll get a few extras to see if that helps.' It won't. I did that and went from 2 terrified new hens to 6 living in terror of my neighbour's donated hens who totally dominated them. It was a very long summer and at the time I had all eight free ranging in my garden with plenty of space to get away from each other. The original 2 were established pair and terrorised the others!
The only successful and stress-free way I've been able to do Introduction is to have 2 separate hen houses and you need either 2 enclosures or divide a large enclosure in half. Keep the birds separate, but put all their food and water next to the boundary so that they come and eat and drink next to each other over a week. Likewise any corn feed each flock at the same time on either side of the boundary. Try hanging any goodies like cabbages on the boundary so they get used to sharing up close. Then when you've done that for a number of days, introduce 1 of your hens (the least dominant the better) in with the new girls under supervision. There will be some argy bargy but if you are there you can stop it if it gets really nasty. Also if there's serious ongoing pecking try Anti pecking spray and Battles poultry coal tar on affected areas especially if any bad wounds.
Even if I'm introducing 4 or 6 new hens I only put one of the established flock in. It might be for very limited time and it might be you have to do this a number of times over a few days before you leave the older bird in there to spend the night. I then tend to add another one of the flock in and let that settle before adding a number of the others in gradually. Last September I was given 4 new hens by someone who couldn't cope with them and did the usual process. However I also had a temporary Omlet fence around the lawn which they hadn't had access to for a while and opened the gates to the 2 enclosures (you might not be able to do that with the Bird Flu restrictions) and they had limited daily access to that before being given corn to get them back in enclosures. The lawn area meant there was alot of space to avoid each other and the existing flock was distracted by grass and digging in flowerbeds. Within a couple of weeks of doing that they were mainly all in the one enclosure at night and then very soon in the one coop.
Don't know if that helps OP, but hope it goes ok.
Thank you for such a detailed reply, I appreciate it. I'm glad I'll have both coops for a little while to help transition them in together. I can see how they are going to become addictive, I started with 3, was going to get 2 to replace the one I've just lost, but I'm wondering whether to get another 3 instead now!! Good news is we've had one egg today, so looks like most of the dog upset is settled. Still looks weird only seeing 2 of them pottering around, but at least there's more space for them in the small run they're currently in.
Last time I introduced new hens I kept the incumbent hens in a cardboard box overnight so that the newbies could sleep in the coop undisturbed. I only had to do this for two nights
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