Several years ago, I bought a group of bantam chickens: a pair of Black Breasted Red Old English Game (OEG), their two 6-week old daughters, a 10-week old Silver Duckwing OEG pullet and a Black Ameraucana pullet. If you are not familiar with bantams, OEGs are very small – pocket chickens that you can hold in the palm of one hand. They are significantly smaller than the average bantam. I think of them as super-bantams, like Seramas.
I had to buy the group as a package, but I didn’t want another rooster. At the time I already had one rooster, a Japanese Black Tailed Buff Bantam and a flock of standard hens. But I had friends who wanted a breeding pair of bantams so I organized a new home for them.
When they came home I put them all in a large dog crate. The next day, my friend picked up the OEG adults. What I didn’t realize was once the parents were gone there were no mediators for any potential conflicts. The four remaining birds had more space, and although there wasn’t a big difference in size between the younger OEGs and the Silver Duckwing, a pecking order was being established – literally. I discovered that the older pullet had pecked one of the smaller pullets quite severely. She had a gaping wound, exposing the whole back of her skull and I wondered if she would survive.
I brought her into the house to do some emergency first aid. There was no flap of skin to put over her skull. My partner, Jan, held her while I cleaned the wound and applied polysporin (not the kind with ‘caine’ as it’s toxic to chickens) and Vetericyn spray and covered it with a tiny square of gauze. We then tied a narrow strip of gauze, knotting it to keep the compression pad in place. I couldn’t return her with the others so she went into our bathroom in a small dog crate. I brought her sister in to keep her company and they got along fine.
For several days, I removed the gauze pads (at first it stuck to her scalp and I had to moisten it to work it away from the wound), put on more polysporin, Vetericyn and a new bandage
I didn’t really have the space to keep the four young birds in two separate spaces so the folks who took the OEG pair also adopted the bully and the sweet Black Ameraucana bantam pullet.
After a few, stinky, days in our bathroom the two sisters were transferred to the big crate and then later integrated into the flock. Her injury healed well, without any sign of infection. It took a while for the area to grow some new feathers, but she was left with a permanent bald spot on the back of her head.
People wonder if it’s okay to integrate birds of different sizes but I’ve never had problems. Chickens, like dogs, don’t seem to notice their size differences. And those two small girls had big personalities, and I have to admit were talkative. I hatched some bantam eggs and kept two cockerels to keep them company. Unfortunately one of them was killed by a hawk (before I netted my pen) and the other I re-homed with the two pullets a year later.
And what happened to the other ones? A predator got the beautiful OEG rooster, the Black Ameraucana bantam pullet squeezed through the wired pen on her first day at her new home and disappeared and the bully, named Pigeon, became the favourite of the four little girls who adopted her. They carried her around and in her new surroundings she integrated with the other, standard, birds and gave up her bullying ways.
Never having dealt with bullying before, I learned not to assume that if birds were familiar with each other there wouldn’t be any issue housing them together. Transporting and changing environments is stressful for birds and that can result in bullying. If I hadn’t intervened I have no doubt that any further damage to the little pullet would have killed her. If I have been more prepared and monitored them more closely I might have been able to prevent her pecking injury.
Thankfully I’ve never had to deal with another bullying injury and generally find it fairly easy to integrate new birds into my flock.