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    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 8th, 2008 1:52pm (May 8th 2008) edited
     
    Hello
    I am brand new to the site so please forgive me if this introductory piece is rather long. I started keeping hens at the end of last summer. Had been thinking about it for some time and then wondered why I was waiting. So off to Perfect Poultry in Surrey, UK and bought four pure breed - Light Sussex, Wellsummer, Exchequer Leghorn and Cuckoo Maran. I had thought they would live in their run but soon discovered that the lure of the great outdoors may have been music to them but was cacophony to the neighbours. Even girls can kick up a din when they don't like something. So they became free rangers within a couple of days. All was well until Blanche, the Light Sussex, got too adventuours and hopped over the fence into the field beyond. Lesson we learned was to make sure they are all in by dusk because on that fateful day the fox was waiting in the shadows - and that was the end of our lovely Blanche who had just started to produce eggs. Within three weeks we lost Florence, the elegant black and white Italian Leghorn to Maraks disease. My husband very bravely dispatched her to save her from further distress.

    Down to two girls, I bought three more. This time one hybrid (Brenda), a petite Cream Legbar and a fabulous gold-laced Wyandotte. I expected some problems introducing the new girls and indeed poor Gloria (the Wyandotte) received a daily admonishment from the old hens whenever she tried to get to the food hoppa before they had taken their fill. It settled down within a couple of weeks though.

    So now to my problem. I suppose I've gone a bit soft about chickens since I started keeping them and I agreed to take two Brahmas from a friend of a friend who had started breeding and whose flock needed thinning out. I was a bit taken aback at first sight of the birds who looked more like turkeys than hens. They had bare necks and one of them was red raw and bald on the top of its head. I naively enquired whether this was a moult (I haven't experienced this yet with my other girls) and was told that no, they had been pecked by the other hens with whom they had shared the run. By the time I got there all 15 other hens had gone, and I imagine the previous purchasers had decided to reject the two rather ugly weaklings. Having had them home for five days I think they were savaged by the others.

    The run they inhabited was far too small for 17 hens to live comfortably. I am confident the feathers will grow back but my problem is they are so nervous that they won't leave the confines of underneath the hen house and nor will they voluntarily go up the ramp to bed at night. I've had to push them through the pop hole. Of course they are pecked by my other hens at every opportunity which isn't helping. I'm keeping them apart first thing in the morning so I know 'the turkeys' are getting fed, but how do I coax them out of their terror and get them into the garden? i don't know much about the personality development of hens; will they overcome their fear and integrate with the others eventually?

    Incidentally, all my hens hate pellets. I now mix pellets with a small amount of corn and sunflower seeds which they adore. They also love melon, porridge and rice.

    Hope to hear from other amateur hen mates...

    Penny
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 8th, 2008 3:56pm (May 8th 2008) edited
     

    Keeper of the hens

    Hi Penny :)

    Sounds like you have a quickly expanding flock! I'm really sorry to hear about Blanche, Milly is a light sussex and i have a soft spot for the breed, they're such lovely chickens :(

    Overcrowding does result in feather picking, which is probably why your two 'turkeys' have bald necks if they were cramped in their last run - that was really kind of you to take them on though! If it's possible, seperating your girls from the two newcomers for a week or so might be a good idea - preferable with some sort of wire fencing so that they can still see and 'talk' to each other - this is what we did with Eva, she even shared a water bowl with our other three chickens but there was no way they could peck at her. This helps improve confidence and gives them a while to build up strength before they meet.

    If that's not possible, spend as much time with your chickens as you can. Offer 'the turkeys' lots of treats and make friends with them; sit with them, hold treats in your hand, put treats on your legs so they will hope onto you lap - it might take a while depending on how friendly they are to begin with, but this way when they're being picked on they can run to you and escape the other chickens. It's nice for them to have somewhere to go where they feel safe and secure.

    You might want to add a few more food bowls and water dishes as well, as sometimes chickens will try and 'starve out' those at the bottom of the pecking order by pecking them away from the food / water bowls. If there are more food bowls then the bullied chickens will be able to run from one to the other.

    They will become 'part of the flock' eventually, but it will take a while longer because they are so scared of the other chickens. If you see any blood, seperate them immediately as blood only makes things worse - chickens go crazy for the colour red, blood especially!

    Hope this helps! Good look with the two new ones, and WELCOME to the forum! :bigsmile:
    • CommentAuthorollie in UK
    • CommentTimeMay 8th, 2008 5:15pm (May 8th 2008)
     
    Cor Blimey Penny!
    You have come with a load of trouble!
    However I am sure the goodly gang of Hencammers will pour comfort and ideas over you until some solutions are found.
    Welcome to our happy club.
    By the way, where are you please?

    Please note:- discussions are rather disorganised and you may find answers to your mails appear on other thread. Hencammers are so relaxed and laid back they don't bother to read the titles!
    •  
      CommentAuthorchief chicken
    • CommentTimeMay 8th, 2008 5:36pm (May 8th 2008) edited
     
    And we're stupid. Don't forget stupid...;)
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 8th, 2008 8:04pm (May 8th 2008)
     
    ... and insane!

    Welcome Penny - I loved reading your story and Red's response. She is a very wise head when it comes to hens and their care. I hope her suggestions are practical for you and will have a positive outcome. Will you keep us updated please? Have the 2 Brahmas got names?
    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 1:22pm (May 9th 2008)
     
    Thanks all for your welcome notes.
    In answer to the two questions, I am in a village 4 miles outside Oxford.
    The two new girls are Gert and Daisy and when their feathers have grown back I don't know how I'll know one from the other, so I think I will just refer to each hen as Gert or Daisy!

    Last night they both made their own way up the ramp into the house which was great. Mind you my husband had blocked off the under-house retreat with a bale of straw to stop them hiding away all day and trying to stay there at night. I wasn't sure that was a kind thing to do but it probably helped to persuade them to go into the house once the light was fading. Neither are roosting yet but I suppose that will come with time.

    Red: thanks so much for your helpful advice. I do use three feeding bowls. I have a 10ft x 3ft run attached to the house and recently invested in an 18' x 9ft pen which has been put alongside with an adjoining door. To ensure Gert and Daisy get food first thing in the morning I put two bowls in the pen and the food hopper with separate water bowl in the run. When I let the hens out at 6am, the 'old' girls race into the pen and Gert and Diasy meekly bring up the rear which is perfect because I shut the door behind the old girls, leaving G&D in peace in the run. Then I let everybody out an hour later.
    It's a bit of a procedure, particularly when I have to leave for work by 8am and between that I am making breakfast for the two Pointers and packed lunch for me.

    Does anybody else put additives in water bowls and feed? I bought some apple cider vinegar but not sure how much I should add as there are no directions on the bottle - which is huge.

    Looking forward to being part of your community

    Penny
    •  
      CommentAuthorchief chicken
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 6:27pm (May 9th 2008)
     
    4 miles from Oxford? That means that Wazza and Kate and I are close enough to come and inspect!
    What would cider vinegar do to the chicks? I suppose you could put a teaspoonful in the water...
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 6:48pm (May 9th 2008)
     
    We're getting our own little community here!!!
    •  
      CommentAuthorchief chicken
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 7:24pm (May 9th 2008)
     
    Well, everyone else seems to be Oop North except us...
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 8:09pm (May 9th 2008)
     

    Keeper of the hens

    I've heard of adding apple cider vinegar but don't know how much, sorry...

    Garlic is supposed to be very beneficial, we've chopped a clove of garlic and put that in the girl's water before :)
    •  
      CommentAuthorchief chicken
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 8:46pm (May 9th 2008)
     
    Did they still drink it? That said, Livia and Onion had garlic sausage leftovers today and soon scarfed it.
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 9th, 2008 9:57pm (May 9th 2008)
     

    Keeper of the hens

    Yes. We put some in the chick's water when Sunny was ill, but they refused to drink it :-\

    The chicks are getting much more chicken-y now...put some treats in their food bowl and they scoff it down in seconds, just like the big girls :D All apart from Midget and Sunny who just stand and watch :confused:
    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 19th, 2008 9:36am (May 19th 2008)
     
    Hello everybody
    My silence was due to being in Shanghai on business for the last week. Got home last evening, anxious for a report as to how Gert and Daisy are doing.
    Big problem. They won't go into the house at night. We thought we'd overcome their reluctance but apparently not. They snuggle together on the straw bales in the pen. My husband has tried various things; he put them in the house for a few nights and then left them until well after dark in the hope they would eventually take themselves to bed but they were evidently going to stay on the bales all night. I put them to bed last night but I note they don't perch. They sit on the floor of the house underneath the perches.
    This is a problem for obvious reasons but more so because we're going on holiday in 3 weeks. To make life easier for our hen-minder neighbour, we've just purchased an automatic pop-hole door but it's of absolutely no use if if shuts the hens out!
    I would appreciate some help in how to get the hens to go to bed. None of my helpful books cover this.

    Other than this, they are no longer being bullied by the others but they keep themselves very much apart from the group. The two of them are inseparable, never more than a few feet apart and more often than not, appearing to be welded together.

    Good to be back!

    Penny

    (PS Is there any way to post photographs?)
    •  
      CommentAuthorneil
    • CommentTimeMay 19th, 2008 2:42pm (May 19th 2008) edited
     

    Keeper of the hens

    I was told that when you purchase new hens, you keep them locked in their coop (where they will be sleeping) for a couple of days before letting them out into the run - this teaches the birds that this is their home, and they'll automatically return and take themselves to bed on a night.

    Having said that, Milly seemed to learn from the other hens, and Eva and the chicks also, so you really shouldn't need to.

    Can you get in a week or a few days of putting them to bed on a night shortly after the other hens have gone up for the night?

    That might be enough to get them to understand that that's where they sleep on a night... not sure about how to get them to roost though.

    There is a way of posting pics, there's a thread on how to do it somewhere...

    How to post pics on the forum
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 19th, 2008 2:58pm (May 19th 2008) edited
     

    Keeper of the hens

    Maybe Gert & Daisy don't want to go into the bedroom because of the other chickens - are the still as nervous around your other chickens? Even though they are no longer being bullied, if they're still very nervy around the other hens it could take a while for them to pluck up the courage to go to bed at night...

    The only thing i can think of is to keep moving them into the house at night, and lock the door behind them. They probably already know that you want them to sleep in the house at night (chickens aren't stupid) , but choose to sleep outside in the pen because it's away from the other chickens.

    If possible, let those two go in first and sit them on a perch together, then put all the other chickens in and shut the door behind them - this way Gert & Daisy will have a nice spot on the roost and shouldn't be pecked as much because it will be too dark for your other chickens to see!
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 19th, 2008 9:56pm (May 19th 2008)
     
    Red you have the best ideas!! Hope it works Penny, let us know.
    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 9:25am (May 20th 2008)
     
    Here's something interesting. I followed your advice last evening Red by putting Gert and Daisy in the back of the house and tried, unsuccessfully to get them to perch. Gert/Daisy immediately ran out of the pop hole at the front (I know, I should have closed it first). Anyway this dismal failure led me to wonder if I need a second house for them so I started scanning the internet. By chance happened across the site of the supplier from whom I bought the current house at vast expense (www.henhouses.co.uk) and saw the following:
    "raised houses are NOT suitable for the big breeds as they will be too confined and will not appreciate having to use a ramp. So this (the one I have) is not suitable for the Orpingtons, Cochins, Brahmas" etc.

    I don't understand why hens are less confined in a house that isn't raised off the ground but perhaps the point about them not wanting to go up a ramp explains part of the problem. I also wonder if by chance Brahmas don't perch. Does anybody know? The rest of my girls perch on anything and everything - garden chairs, flower pots, branches - but the Brahmas have shown no inclination to.

    So I am no looking for a small house that can sit on the floor inside the pen. So far my chickens have cost me more than my two pedigree English Pointers. Cost price of each egg is running at around £50.

    Wazza/Kate/ChiefChicken - where are you? You are all most welcome to come visit any time.

    Penny
    •  
      CommentAuthorwazza
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 12:18pm (May 20th 2008) edited
     

    no longer a member

    Wazza is in Milton Keynes... CC is in Marlow and kate is near Birmingham.. where are you ? look at top of page for google map directory and add your location there
    •  
      CommentAuthorneil
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 12:28pm (May 20th 2008)
     

    Keeper of the hens

    If you are going to buy a second home, have a look at rabbit hutches, they can usually be modified to be hen-friendly without too much hassle, and seem to be cheaper than chicken-specific stuff.
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 1:51pm (May 20th 2008)
     
    Perhaps big hens are scared of heights! Brahmas are very pretty hens - hope you can get them sorted soon.
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 3:00pm (May 20th 2008)
     

    Keeper of the hens

    I've never heard of 'big' chickens not liking houses that are raised off the ground - in fact i have always heard the opposite: chickens will try and sleep in raised houses because it makes them feel more secure, and safer from predators on the ground such as foxes. Tilly and our BO chickens have never had a problem with sleeping in a house off the ground (I include Tilly because she is a very BIG chicken ;) ), but i've never had any experience with brahmas.

    I did read in a chicken book that some feather-legged chickens prefer not to sleep on roosts as it's easier for them to get mites (?), but like i said i don't really know anything about that, sorry :(

    What was Gert & Daisy's previous home like? Did they have perches there? I do know that ex-battery hens, who have never had any experience of perches before and don't really know what they're for, sometimes take months to start using a perch, and some never do. Just wondering if it could be anything like that?
    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 4:21pm (May 20th 2008)
     
    I've put the marker on Abingdon on the Google map. Not sure if I've done it correctly. Abingdon is the closest town to my house which is in Sunningwell.

    I called the woman at www.henhouses in Oban (you can see I don't shop locally!) to ask her to elaborate on the comment she had made on her website. She said Brahmas find the ramps too narrow because of their big fluffy feet and she reckons the reason they won't roost is because there isn't sufficient height between the roof and the perches. She says I need a very tall, ground level house! Of course this could be a method of selling me another hen house but she sounds like a nice woman, so I doubt it. However, my husband has since measured the height and says there's plenty of space. I don't know if he measured Gert and Daisy to reach this conclusion but we're going to give it another try tonight as per your suggestion Red. This time I'll shut the pop hole first and put G and D to bed an hour before the others.

    Another small problem with them sleeping on the straw floor is that they sit in their own mess. Have you ever tried washing a hen's bottom.....? Not easy.

    Will report back.
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 9:06pm (May 20th 2008)
     
    I think its more likely that they didn't do it before so don't like doing it now. Poor G and D - hope they come around and get into the swing of it. Could you give them a low perch for in the day to practice?!
    • CommentAuthorollie in UK
    • CommentTimeMay 20th, 2008 9:31pm (May 20th 2008)
     
    Don't you have a "Freecycle" group in your area? Ours has had a few hen coops lately.

    Freecycle is a great organisation, designed to keep stuff out of landfill. Your rubbish is someonelse's treasure and its all for free.
    Google it and find your local groups.
    • CommentAuthorPenny N
    • CommentTimeMay 21st, 2008 11:26am (May 21st 2008)
     
    Thanks Ollie - didn't know about Freecycle and will give it a try.
    Well, we followed the instructions last night; put G&D in to the house an hour before the others shuffle up the ramp. Shut the pop hole. G&D settled down together in the straw, between the two perches. When the others arrived they were shunted off to the edge of the house which is where they were when I opened up this morning. So no sign of them perching. I will try a low log or something in the garden and put them on it to give them the idea. Meantime I can see no alternative but to buy a second house if they steadfastly refuse to take themselves to bed. If not the new auto pop hole is redundant.

    The photo-loading instructions sound far too frightening for those of us born in the era of telex machines and typewriters.....my assistant at work loads all her pictures on a Kodak web site for free. They can be downloaded at any time and Kodak will print them in photo books. I think you can then give friends an access code to view them which all sounds within my mental grasp. I have a photo of a box of eggs, one of which must be eligible for the Guinness Book of Records. It turned out to be a three-yolker, 'donated' by Brenda shortly after she started laying. Would love to show you all.
    Penny
    •  
      CommentAuthorKateb
    • CommentTimeMay 21st, 2008 7:42pm (May 21st 2008)
     
    It really is easy Penny - the instructions sound complicated but if you follow them through step by step you'll see how easy it is.
    •  
      CommentAuthorRed
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd, 2008 1:35pm (May 22nd 2008) edited
     

    Keeper of the hens

    Some chickens just don't like perching - Eva never got the hang of it because she didn't have the chance to sleep on a perch before, and she just never took to it. She used to sleep on the floor of the bedroom nestled under the other three, and the only thing we could do was to keep the bedding clean so she didn't get too dirty.

    Maybe put the log or whatever in the garden, and hang grapes / a leattuce above it so the chickens have to get on the log to reach the treat?? I dunno...