Do you ever have that one pesky, mean and bullying hen that disrupts the peace of the flock and pecks on the weakest hens? Mean hens can be a pain, especially when it becomes harmful to your other birds. Some hens go as far as to pecking their fellow flockmates combs, or even worse, pecking them to death. But there are several ways to prevent this in your flock.
Mean hens can be pretty nasty.
Lets start off with the most asked question, why do chickens do this? Why do they peck each other instead of living in harmony?
It is called the "pecking order" and it is a cycle that all new and old hens go through everyday. When you add new chickens to a flock, the older ones immediately begin pecking and chasing the new visitors. They do this so they can keep their spot in the order, meaning they want to be the "top hen" or the "queen bee". The hens at the top of the pecking order get the most food, treats and get to choose where they want to sleep at night in the coop. The hens at the bottom of the pecking order get pecked daily, pushed around, get small, quick meals before another hen comes and chases them away. The lower hens often get pushed into a corner at night, and have their feathers plucked out. Why do the "queen bee's" have to be so mean to their flock? Because, when you're in charge, you get more food, more space and more respect.
Hens are very serious about their nests.
Is the pecking order always happening? Do the hens ever get to rest?
The first few weeks, new hens will be bullied. They will be pecked, chased and have feathers pulled. But once it is all established, the hens are usually peaceful. They will only peck eachother when they want another hen to go away, or leave the food dish. The lower class hens often hang out with the respected hens and can be with them all the time without any bullying.
Broody hens can be very intimidating.
What about when a hen is broody? How do I break her of it?
When a hen is broody, she will sit in the coop all day long and only get up to get food and water. Even then, she will run back as soon as possible to her nest and sit down again. She will often bite and attack anyone that comes near her, hen or human. A broody hen wants to sit on eggs for 21 days, and hatch them. Almost all hens go through this in their life; its like a urge to be a mother. How you break her of this, will be hard. A broody hen is very persistant. You have to be diligent, and take her out as often as you can. When you pick her up, she may try to bite and peck you, so be careful. Place her next to some treats or let her out to free range, and close the coop. At night, she will go back to her nest, and in the morning you have to take her out again. Its a long process, but will work eventually. Make her want to be outside the coop, give treats, throw some scratch, maybe some mealworms... anything to make her not want to be broody anymore.
Don't mess with a momma and her (imaginary) babies!
Another good way to break a hen from being broody is to take a wire mesh cage, with a wire bottom and put the broody girl in there. The bottom of the cage will have air flowing through it, unlike shavings or hay. She cannot generate warmth, and cannot keep her (imaginary) eggs warm, so usually within 4 days she will be back to normal.
Some hens will hog a treat or bowl all to themselves and won't let the others near.
What about a non-broody hen who is just plain mean?
Alot of times a hen will become especially mean for no reason. Maybe she's bored from a small pen or lack of activity. When a hen becomes really mean to her flock, you have to seperate her. This is called the "Seperation method". You need to make a pen where you can put her so she can't see her flock. Put in food and water, and have a crate ready for when it gets dark. You cannot allow her to see or come in contact with her flock or this method will not work. What this does, is it makes her and the flock forget about eachother, and when you reintroduce her in 10 days, they will go through the pecking order again. If she acts mean again, repeat the process, only for a longer time away from her flock.
Once your flock has its pecking order settled and there are no more broody hens, all will be peaceful! :)