Millie came to me a few weeks ago, after she’d been badly pecked up by her flock sisters. Actually, Millie has been treated like this her whole life (of about one year), living with a flock that never accepted her into their hen club. Out of desperation, frustration, and concern for Millie, she came to live with me.
I wasn’t totally sure what breed of hen Millie was when she showed up (as she was missing so many feathers) but my best guess these days is maybe a Red Sex Link? (What do you guys think?) She’s VERY skiddish. VERY. Tiny birds flying FAR overhead will startle her. I don’t blame her, though, since she’s pretty much only known violence and being an outcast her whole life.
Millie came to my established flock only a week after my lovely, gentle Jessica (Black Sex Link) was beheaded by a raccoon. Jessica was the leader of my flock so there was already some pecking order re-positioning going on. I figured that might be a great time to introduce someone new.
The friends that brought Millie over also brought her a deluxe rabbit hutch to live in temporarily. I set it up near the chicken yard and also fenced off a section of the yard for Millie to hang out in without the threat of being bullied by my hens. Pecking order is a serious thing among chickens and I’d be setting Millie up for failure if I had just released her into my flock. Everyone needed time to get to know each other.
Hattie, my white Easter Egger, who is a strong contender for the top dog (er, hen) position with Jessica gone, was not happy to see a trespasser on the property. In fact, all my hens were extremely upset to see poor Millie move in. They paced a groove on their side of the fence, puffing up, strutting around, making all sorts of non-typical noises. Hattie even tried her hand at crowing (badly).
Poor flighty Millie just flitted about and worried about her new situation.
I knew things would eventually settle down. And they did.
After about a week and a half of this carrying on from my normally mellow flock, they moved on to more interesting things, still keeping their eye on Millie, but not in such a worked up way. I eventually allowed Millie into the larger chicken yard, with supervision and we’d have short recess times together. This transition wasn’t seamless, but overall it went well. Slowly I increased their together time and for the most part Millie is part of the flock now. (Goldie, the lowest hen in the pecking order in my original flock is the one who picks on Millie the most, reminding Millie that she’s the boss of at least her.)
For now, Millie still sleeps in the rabbit hutch. She puts herself to bed there just as the other hens put themselves to bed in the coop. I do keep Millie in the enclosed area by herself for a bit in the morning to make sure she gets enough food (most of the fights these days revolve around food), but then she spends the rest of her day with the other girls.
Millie is settling in too. At first she wouldn’t let me get near her. And when I’d lift her out of the rabbit hutch in the morning, her poor body would just shake like a leaf. Now she patiently waits for me and allows me to lift her out to start the day.
She’s even eating out of my hand. And coming with the others when I call her.
When she first came her naked little shoulders were badly sunburned. So, I mixed up a HIGHLY DILUTED solution of essential oils and I spray her shoulders every morning. It seems to be helping her heal. And slowly her feathers are coming in, although her wings are still pretty naked.
I would have rather introduced Millie to my flock with an additional hen at the same time. This way she’d be more likely to have a ‘friend’. But I took what I got and I didn’t push the process. Patience (which is not a strong suit for me) is essential when transitioning new birds into the established flock. I’m happy to say, although there’s occasionally a little bit of squawking, there’s been no blood and virtually no feather loss.
Millie seems to be settling in quite well and runs around having a good time with her new, much nicer to her, sisters. Once again, all is well in the chicken kingdom.
PS If you’d like more information on how to introduce new chickens to your flock, click here. Or more information on what the pecking order is all about, click here.