Last Monday, we finally got to the point of being ready to help our injured chicken, Lady, assimilate back into the flock. As a refresher, she hurt her leg at the end of July and had to be separated from the flock while she recouped. It took about 2 months before she was finally strong enough to get around and to be able to get up on the regular roosting poles in the coop (which are about 5 feet off of the ground).
It can sometimes be tough to reintroduce a chicken back into the flock. The other chickens are often prone to attacking what they deem a weakling or an outsider. Our plan was to put Lady with the other chickens on the roosting pole at night, and spray all of the birds with a vinegar water solution. Chickens are calmer and more accepting at night. The vinegar water helps mask individual smells, so that it’s more difficult for the birds to tell each other apart.
So on the first night, we put Lady up on the poles and sprayed all of the chickens with vinegar water. Things went well that night, and all six chickens slept together.
Day 1 (Tuesday)
The next morning things went well for half the morning. Then Lady started getting attacked by one other chicken so I had to rescue her. I put her back in her crate inside the chicken coop for the rest of the day. That night, after the other chickens had gotten up on the roosting pole for the night we put her back with them and repeated the vinegar water spray. Things went well overnight again.
Day two (Wednesday)
Everyone seemed to be getting along better than on day one. I didn’t see anyone attacking her. However, I did notice the other five chickens were often out in the chicken run while Lady mostly stayed separate from them and inside the coop.
When the other chicken was attacking her the first day, it was while they were all out in the chicken run. I’m not sure if she was afraid to go out there or if they weren’t letting her or what. But they at least weren’t attacking her. All six got up on the roosting poles together for bed without any issues that night. Things were looking good.
Day three (Thursday)
I had a long day at work. I left before sunrise (chickens were still asleep) and got home after the sun had set (chickens had already gone to bed). Again, all six were sleeping together so I thought maybe we were good to go. We didn’t do any vinegar water that night.
Day four (Friday)
As far as I know things went well throughout the day while I was at work. Then in the afternoon all six chickens were in the run and three started attacking Lady simultaneously. I had to rescue her and once again separate her from the group.
Once again, we put her back with the chickens that evening and did the vinegar water trick. We had to turn on their heat lamp in the coop, since it was below freezing outside.
I had also read that you can put apple cider vinegar in their water, which will help everyone smell the same all of the time. So Barry put apple cider vinegar in the chickens’ waterer as well**.
Day five (Saturday)
Another day where things went smoothly all day. Occasionally I would see one chicken pick on Lady, but she always got away from them and they didn’t continue to chase her. I noticed she would be out in the chicken run (instead of isolating herself in the coop) but would typically stay separate from the other chickens. They seemed to be more accepting of her, though.
Day six (Sunday)
Finally, it seemed like she was part of the group again. For the most part she is coexisting with the group. Every once in awhile I would see one of the chickens run after her, but no one was actually attacking (i.e. pecking) her.
Overall, it wasn’t easy getting Lady reintroduced back into the group. It took nearly a week of perseverance on our part and several rescue missions during that time. We had to keep trying and trying to get Lady back in with the other chickens. But they finally seem to have accepted her. I’m so glad, because chickens aren’t meant to be on their own and do much better in a group, especially with winter on the way.
Moving forward, we will continue to keep an eye on them to make sure she is doing alright. We will also continue to give them apple cider vinegar mixed with water (1 Tbsp / gallon of water) to make everyone smell relatively the same. Bonus: apple cider vinegar also acts as a natural de-wormer and prevents algae growth in the waterer.
**A few days after we put the apple cider vinegar in the water, I read an article about not combining ACV with galvanized metal, due to the acidity (duh!). If you’re going to use ACV in the water, you need to have a glass or plastic waterer. So instead we will now be giving the chickens the apple cider vinegar/water mixture in a plastic bucket a few times a week, in addition to their regular water. If you’re wondering why we use a metal waterer, read HERE.