We are approaching our second year of raising chickens and our first BIG problem! Until recently, the chickens have lived together peacefully. They have a 6×6 coop and a fenced chicken yard to enjoy. All was good until…
One morning a few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the chickens had some feathers missing from her breast area. Other then the missing feathers, she seemed healthy. She ate, drank, scratched around, and she socialized with the other chickens. I continued to observe her. As the days went on, more feathers were missing, but her eating and social skills still seemed okay.
Then one day I saw it! Another chicken was chasing her and started pecking her. I quickly went out screaming toward the chicken yard. In total, I have observed this behavior only twice, so I am thinking that the ‘bullying’ was going on inside the locked coop in the morning before I let them out.
We had a long and bitterly cold winter, so I had gotten in the habit of not letting the chickens out of their coop until later in the morning when it had warmed up a little. I thought I was doing them a favor…protecting them from the cold. As winter passed, I reverted back to an earlier let out time.
The other thing I noticed during all of this was the chicken yard. Free range is not an option for us at this time, so needless to say, they had little grass left in their fenced in area after two years. I make sure they get kitchen scraps almost daily and they get layer pellets twice a day. Maybe…possibly…could it be true? Our chickens were getting bored!
We decided to move the coop down just a little bit, tying into the old fence area and a part of the garden fence.
We used material that we had on hand to finish closing in the area – metal studs, metal and wood posts, and chicken wire . Hubby and I lifted the coop while our girls slid two 2×8’s under the frame. We hooked chains to the coop and pulled it (approximately 12 feet) with our ATV. The 2×8’s helped it move smoothly. We have seeded the other area and will continually move the coop back and forth as needed, providing them with a grass fenced area.
The coop and chicken yard were near the garden area to begin with. Now it connects to the newly installed garden fence. (Click HERE to see our DIY garden fence.) We were still a few weeks away from planting the garden, so I wanted a way for the chickens to get into that area. They could help ‘work’ the ground up with their scratching around.
They quickly created a new dust bathing area.
For now, we don’t have any chicken wire around the garden fence, so we (and our watch dog) keep an eye out for predators when they are in that area. We also re-clipped their wing feathers to help ensure that they didn’t escape and become prey.
For access to the garden area, we simply removed a picket. At first they seemed a bit nervous, so we put a board on each side for them to go up and down. This is familiar to them because it mimics their ‘ladder’ to go into the coop.
Moving the coop created a small issue for us. In their coop are 8 nesting boxes (4 on each side), with hinged lids on the outside of the coop. (To read about our DIY coop, click HERE.) The openings to the nesting areas were located on the outside of the original fenced area, making it easy access for us to gather eggs, without going into the chicken yard. All the chickens used one nesting box on the right side!
Since the entire right side is now inside the newly fenced yard, we boarded off those nesting boxes on the inside of the coop. Our intent was that the chickens would use the left side nesting boxes, so we could continue to easily gather the eggs without entering the fenced area. As I have said before, chickens are a creature of habit. For a few days, they laid their eggs on the right side of the coop, next to where we boarded off the nesting boxes! They have since found a nesting box on the left side that they all agree on.
In summary, the feathers are growing back on the chicken and the ‘bullying’ seems to have stopped. All the chickens have enjoyed spending some time in the garden area and are appreciative of their new chicken yard with grass.