Discouraging Bullying Chicken Behavior

By AnimalsComeFirst · Nov 10, 2012 · ·
  1. AnimalsComeFirst
    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?

    A lot 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! :)

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Recent User Reviews

  1. tjo804
    "This makes things sound simple."
    2/5, 2 out of 5, reviewed Jul 23, 2018
    there is more to a bully than high school type behavior. Chickens do not have human emotion or attachments.

    The pecking order is what creates harmony in the coop. And the "bully" could be addressing other issues from another hen. Top Hen is a big responsibility in the coop, not just a behavior or gluttonous thing.

    Over crowding is more than boredom and should be addressed.
    Brooding is not a want to it is a have to! it is instinctual and hormonal. Breaking is a good idea for many reasons. But it is animal instinct not bad behavior.

    I think without further research new people could get the wrong idea.

    Watch your flock and address the issues. Feather plucking could be due to diet.

    Yes some chickens can be bullies, but I never assume that without ruling out if the bully is disciplining a disruptive hen or being challenged for her spot. Pecking order is a necessity.

    I did not mean to sound Raney, but I think this article needs to address understand the flock dynamic before assuming bad behavior.
  2. ThatsneakyHen
    "Stop gusgus!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 26, 2018
    Stoping gus gus was hard but HAHA She stopped pecking our 2 bantams! THANKS SO MUCH!!:clap:celebrate:thumbsup View attachment 1405603 The easter egger in the center!
  3. Cryss
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 25, 2018
    I shared this with my family to show them why I was insisting we expand the coop and run.:yesss:
    tjo804 likes this.


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  1. Tricia6227
    Thank you for your valuable info! I have a kind of different problem Im hoping you can help me with. I started out with 2 polish hens. They are/were 6 1/2 months old. Im not sure exactly what happened, but I came home one night and one of them had a hole in her side. These two had grown up together since birth. There is no way a predator could have got in so I think they had to of got into a fight. Sadly, she ended up passing away. I also have (3) 10 week old babies. Two females; one cochin, one sultan, and a male polish. The prob Im having is the 6 1/2 month old female is being very aggresive and Im afraid she might hurt one of them. I have the babies in a cage, and the older one in a small doghouse converted into a coop, all inside a 10×10 covered run. Ive let them see and visit with each other for about 2 weeks. I tried putting them all together but the older one chases the rooster and pecks at the other 2 baby hens. I was told to wait until the babies are 16 weeks old before I put them together. I have a brand newly built coop that I havent used yet because of this problem. Im seriously thinking about putting the younger ones in there and leaving the bully in the converted doghouse until theyre 16 weeks. Do you have any advice on what I should do? Should I try the not letting her see them, like in your post? Thank you so much.
  2. Bluechick2u
    I had a leghorn that constantly attacked all other chickens and the quarrantine method failed completely 4 different times. In desparation, I tried a pinless peeper on her, and WHAM! Different chicken. It appeared that she was focusing down her beak on every other chicken, but the peeper made her look sideways and it didnt trigger the attacks. I took it off after a few months, and she was completely fine for years.
  3. R1V3R20NG
    Sorry to say, but nothing worked for my Ember. We even quarantined her for over a month and she still attacked the other chickens non stop. She had PTSD. Almost killed Marshmallow twice. She wasn’t even head of the flock... she was about the center. We had to kill her.:hit
    1. Fishkeeper
      It's not possible to say an animal has PTSD because one of the primary diagnostic criteria for PTSD is experiencing flashbacks. It's possible for an animal to be traumatized and experience what outwardly looks like PTSD, but there's no way to confirm that it is actually PTSD.
      I'm not sure any sort of trauma could make a chicken that aggressive. Is it possible she had a hormone disorder?
  4. terrsaw
    Great information, THANKS
  5. Haddy22
    Great article- I will have to try this out! I have a stinker of a chicken in my flock :)
      ColoradoSLV likes this.
  6. alexa009
    Awesome article!:thumbsup I could use this method on some bossy little chickens I know.;)
      Haddy22 likes this.
  7. KDOGG331
    Can they hear each other as long as they can't see each other at all or do they have to be totally 100% separate? Cause I have an area a few hundred feet away I was gonna use but wasn't sure if that would work
  8. Dawnclucks22
    If I don't have a separate area where she can't see the flock, then what?
      WhiteCastleFarms likes this.
  9. Arnettalynn67
    That was very helpful.. It was napping.. Between our 6 week old chicks.. My white ones got
    attacked and almost pecked to death.. Why is that.. They have room to move around.. Is it because I let them outside in the run to young.. Plz help.. Babychick mamma.
  10. AnimalsComeFirst
    Thank you for reminding me, I just posted a tribute to her on my blog. Totally forgot to do a post on there about her passing. :(
  11. Snooglerat
    I'm so sorry! I follow your blog and I knew I recognized her! :( Poor Gloria! So sorry for your loss.
  12. AnimalsComeFirst
    Yes, that is. Sadly, she passed away 3 days ago. :'(
    Maybe if you keep her locked in a pen?
  13. Rainbirds
    Well, I plucked her out. And is she mad. She went after the goats. lol
      Haddy22 likes this.
  14. Snooglerat
    is that barred rock Gloria? with a bad leg?
  15. AnimalsComeFirst
    I saw that article! Great job, and yes they do got together quite nicely!
    Awesome! Let us know if it works out for you!
  16. Rainbirds
    Great info, I have a broody banty hen. She's not mean. I can pick her off the nest, but she always goes back. Now I know what to do!!!
  17. Whittni

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