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Two Little hens, one big mystery

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I"m sure this is the most common question in this section -- but we are total newbies and have an 8 month old Dorking who quit laying about a month ago.  I hope it is 'only' because of the decrease in daylight, but there a few other things to consider which I'll describe in case someone wants to dive in here...

 

We have the Dorking and her flockmate is a Wyandotte.   About a month and a half ago, we had a hawk near-miss which most likely traumatized these two. The Wyandotte was injured a little, but it was superficial thankfully.  Both had been laying just fine at this point although we couldn't (still can't) get them to lay in their nest box which is in their usual coop and at the point of the hawk attack, the weather was nice and they were laying in a few predictable places in the yard.  

 

After this, we couldn't find eggs anywhere. We thought it was the stress of the attack and hoped it would pass. About a week and a half later, we found ALL THE EGGS together in a corner of an abandoned/unfinished coop. Clearly both birds had been laying as they were two colors.

 

I removed the pile of eggs and placed a new nest box in the unfinished coop nearby to try to attract them into it since at least this location was sheltered and clean.  

 

Thankfully, the wyandotte liked the new box and she has continued to lay.  However, the Dorking has quit seemingly for good. Not only this, but her personality has shifted too. She is no longer sweet and docile, but now more prepared to attack if given a chance, and has attacked several times with children whom we had previously never worried about as she is usually so sweet with everyone! My daughter is now terrified of her.

 

Related side note: is it normal for layers to "hunch" down when you approach them, spreading their wings?They both began doing this almost the day they began laying.  I assumed it was a protective instinct. The Dorking no longer does this, but will now swivel around preparing to defend rather than even running away.  She is now larger than the wyandotte who, when there were 3 pullets (we lost one), was the boss.  I'm not sure who is boss now, but Dorking is much larger and more aggressive and not laying.  Does she think she is a rooster? Is she sick?  We haven't changed food or anything during this time.  I thought I saw issues with the feathers around her face, but I think that I was just seeing new feather growth as she seems to be still maturing.  Otherwise, she looks beautiful and healthy.

 

Another sidenote: Around this same time shortly after the hawk and while they were secreting eggs away unbeknowst to us, we did have friends visiting and the children approached the chickens too forcefully and got pecked. I dont' know who did the pecking, but wondered if it was the Dorking if the mixture of the hawk and children could have permanently traumatized her??

 

Yet another sidenote:  The Wyandotte was pretty aggressive when she was younger towards the other two and sometimes to humans. I read that calcium can cause aggression and -- so with supplementation, she made an almost overnight change into a sweet and submissive personality.   So I wonder if the Dorking has a deficiency of some kind?  How on earth would I know?  The oyster shels are still available to her...

 

Tons of questions I know... I haven't had any luck finding folks to ask around here in person.  Thanks for any help at all.

post #2 of 4

Question one...as I got a little lost in the story...you are positive the Dorking was laying.  You had 3 hens at one time, but you know it was this Dorking laying? (Just ruling out you've got a late maturing rooster).

 

I can definitely see hawk attack throwing them off of laying for a few days, maybe a week, but not for a long period. There would be other factors.

 

Being reluctant to lay in the original coop where the attack happened is normal and understandable. I had a raccoon get one of my birds in a nest box, and it took me almost 2 weeks to get them comfortable with that coop again. (They were all huddled in the other coop, crowded, and in fear for a full week).

 

It is the time of year for molting, which will throw them off laying. And a molting hen can become irritable because her feathers are prickly. That might be what you are seeing around her neck.

 

She may have become traumatized by both hawk and children springing on her so that she does not like to be approached from behind. You may have to gently recondition her so that she comes to expect treats instead of threat.

 

One other very possible thing....if she is trying to huddle in a corner, all fluffed up and cranky, she may have gone broody, or contemplating going broody. That will make them very, very hormonal...and yes...uhm....temperamental. (Serious PMS chicken style). They also stop laying when they begin to brood, but she should be hunkered down in a self made nest somewhere. Perhaps the hawk startled her out of her chosen nesting area, and she was trying to set the clutch in the new area and you stole all her eggs. If you see her trying to sit and sit somewhere, with a trance like gaze, then attack anything that comes up on her, she likely has gone broody. Dorking is a breed that is broody prone.

 

As to feed...good quality layer with supplemental oyster shell. If they look bright and healthy, that should be fine. I like to add apple cider vinegar in the water (raw with mother, plastic container only) to help keep the gut flora and digestion healthy. Probiotics with yogurt treats is also good.

 

My thoughts.

LofMc

Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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post #3 of 4

and 

 

:welcome

Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
Reply
Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thank you for trying to see the big picture through the weeds, @Ladyofmccamley!

 

I wish I could say she seems broody, but she's out foraging with her friend all day long and I have snooped around the yard for a secret clutch a few times without finding anything, although I suppose it is still possible. She doesn't seem to be just "sitting" anywhere though... 

 

My top concern is that she is having some kind of health issue resulting in the change in temperament and loss of laying.

 

Is it normal for hens to change temperament once they begin laying?  The change with both of them when the started in late August was very noticeable.  (from skittish/grumpy to more friendly and submissive)

 

And could the shorter October days be a possibility?  I presumed not after all my research saying they are good winter layers.

 

I don't think that molting could be the issue as they are only 8 months or does that happen at this age?  

 

Oh and yes, she was definitely laying before.  Not a rooster!  :-)  My husband read that sometimes hens take on rooster traits -- so we did wonder about that and whether the fact that there are only two of them could play a role...

 

I do appreciate the reminder about probiotics... I completely forgot about that.They do get high quality feed, no soy, although in the mornings they oftentimes still "beg" and act like they are hungry. I assume they are like most pets and figure if they can beg for treats, they will!

 

Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. I just need some people whose brains I can pick about all this!!!

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