I hope you all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. I think the tendency to overdo it is universally human. At least that’s what I tell myself as I try to wade through the new crop of plastic junk that my kids accumulated over the past week.
Come to think of it, the tendency to overdo it is not limited strictly to us. Chickens will compete for anything and EVERYTHING. The winners win big, and the losers seem to always lose. Chickens don’t play fair, and playground rules don’t apply. They don’t share, play nice, respect their elders or help old ladies cross the street. So, it is up to you, as the flock supervisor (chickens will never admit to being owned….kinda like cats), to convince them to be proper citizens.
The consequences of failing in your responsibility can be pretty significant. The losers can end up injured or malnourished, and the bullies will can get diseases from overeating. Strategies include the gradual introduction of newcomers into the flock, providing enough distance between feeding stations to allow all your hens to eat simultaneously (and keep the bullies from guarding a lot of the available food), and keeping a close eye on the “timid” birds to ensure they are not being pushed around too much.
The major concern is around food distribution. If there is competition for food, the bully birds will take more than their share….partly as a greed thing, but mainly as an expression of dominance. “Pecking order” is called that for a reason. Nobody has ever been low on the “grazing order”. Once a hen is dominant, she will make it apparent to anyone who cares to watch that she a) gets to eat first, b) gets to eat the best stuff, and c) decides if and when somebody else can eat. If you have one of these fascist leaders in your flock, there is not much you can do about “a” and “b”, but it is important to make sure that “c” is impossible. Having several feeding stations, at least 6 or 8 feet apart will help control her tendency to “guard” food. She will spend a day or two running back and forth, trying to chase subservient hens away, then usually give up, and hoard the one feeder she can control….this gives the rest of the hens a chance to eat at the other one(s).
This strategy for the kids is not too different…..if we bury them in toys, they will always have some new toy to play with…..less fights, less “parenting” needed, less stress, and a happier holiday for all…..
In all honesty, I do kinda wish that raising my kids wasn’t so similar to looking after chickens……somehow I had higher aspirations for them….
Mike the Chicken Vet