I have a flock of 7 hens, all between three and four years old. They've been together with no additions since the 3-year-olds came as day-old chicks.
Last week, my alpha hen, Red, had a terrible sour crop incident. I really didn't think she'd make it through- only with the help of a local avian vet (and an embarrassinng bill to go with it! :)) did she pull through.
However, she spent 2 days at the vet's office, and 3 more in my house recovering. Once she started feeling a little better, I slowly gave her time outside with her best buddy before putting her back out with the flock. Before putting her back out in the run with all the rest of them, I let her out in the yard with them for supervised free ranging time.
The unthinkable happened- one of the other hens decided to challenge her in a chest-to-chest battle for the flock- and she lost :( I feel terrible, because she's still skinny and a little weak, so I'm second guessing whether I should have let her out with the others when I did. But she was clearly depressed on her own, so I didn't feel that I had a choice. She was down to 3.5 lbs when she was really sick, and is slowly gaining back- the Golden Laced Wyandotte who took her on is probably close to 7lbs, so it wasn't much of a match.
Red has been the unchallenged flock leader for as long as I've had chickens. She's a benevolent leader but has always clearly been in charge. Now, this Wynadotte and her sidekick have moved up in the pecking order, putting Red back in 3rd position. She makes these really pathetic little cheeping chick sounds when the mean girls walk past her, and runs away from them (which seems to incite them to start chasing her). So far, there's been no physical violence. It was just the chest thumping, and occassionally the new #2 will chase after her and grab her feathers between her shoulders. It's been two days now of full integration back with the flock, but I'm not seeing anything improving.
Since she really needs to start eating well to put back a couple of lost lbs, I'm worried she's not going to eat enough with them around. They have a large fenced run with multiple food and water stations, and they free range a couple of hours a day.
Am I feeling worse about this than she is? Will she get used to her new position or is this going to be an ongoing problem? As she gets stronger, will she try to regain her spot?
Edited by deacons - 3/29/16 at 6:01am