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9 month RIR hen taking a sudden dislike to flockmate, flockmate acting unusually submissive

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SusanD, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi,

    I noticed this morning when my Mom gave our chickens some cheese curls, that the black one was hanging back while the two red ones were eating. I gave them a small amount of scratch as a test, and the same thing happened.

    This evening, after they had gone up to roost, but before it was dark, I heard some squawking, so opened the coop up to investigate. The black one was being pecked (hard) by the RIR and was trying to get away from her by getting in the nestboxes. I called the black one to me, took her out and stroked her for a few minutes, and then put her back in again. She started to go to the nestboxes, but changed her mind and pushed her way on the roost by the other hen (so that she wasn't roosting by the aggressive one).

    Any ideas on might have started this -

    Some things I thought of are -

    Maybe the submissive behavior is triggering the bullying, by making the RIR think the other chicken is now lower in the pecking order.

    Molting (Red is not molting yet, but the other two are - at least I think they are).

    Illness - Maybe Red isn't feeling well? Or maybe Blackie is sick and she senses that?

    Maybe its the time of year - Our weather has been good this week (45 to 59), but they have been cooped up more than usual (they are out from dawn to dusk, approximately 7 to 4:45). And when they are not cooped up, it has been raining off and on, which limits their ability to run around.

    Please let me know if you have any thoughts on managing their behavior. I don't want to have to isolate one of them, but I will if I have to.

    Thanks,

    Susan
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    It's quite normal for molting hens to act more submissive and to want to sleep in the nestboxes, they are uncomfortable and don't like being touched, your top hen is just exerting her dominance, unfortunately submissive behavior can trigger it too.

    Boredom doesn't help, cooped up chickens are bored chickens so I would get some things for them to do like flock blocks, suet, hay to pick through, cabbages, lettuce, anything they enjoy, I personally use hay and give scratch twice a day to keep them busy. Hopefully everyone will molt and things will go back to normal.
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I forgot to ask if they were all nine months old or just the RIR.
     
  4. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    They are all 9 months old.
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I should have asked that first, they shouldn't do a total molt yet, so it could be they are just hormonal and crabby from confinement as well as still getting used to adult behaviors. I wouldn't intervene unless there's blood being drawn, there's always a bottom bird who takes it from everyone. It's also normal for there to be squabbling at roost time, always offer more roost than necessary so the lower member can get away from the top hen.
     
  6. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    That is interesting about not doing a total molt yet, because I have definitely noticed some feather loss from two of them. In fact, I was contemplating putting them on feather fixer. The Welsummer's feathers look thin in places, and both the Welsummer and the Langshan have blood feathers around their neck. None of them are laying. Could they be doing a partial molt, or does that warrant further investigation? They don't have lice or mites that I can see. I do see them preening themselves a lot.

    I will see what I can do about finding some things to keep them occupied.

    I will also see what I can do about space issues. We have a small prefabbed coop, which unfortunately makes it hard for them to get away from each other. That does help me understand the reason for the space recommendations being what they are.

    Any thoughts on pecking order pecking vs pecking to draw blood? I may have overreacted, but it did look to me like the RIR might have drawn blood if I hadn't intervened (unusual for her, as she's normally not that crabby).
     
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Younger chickens will have mini molts as they finish growing, and many will go through neck molts, so you could be seeing that. I like to keep my hens on a non medicated grower or an all flock ration to make sure they have enough protein to grow and to start to lay eggs. I always have a bowl of oyster shells free choice as well.

    Pecking order pecking is usually a dominant bird pecking a passing bird or one that doesn't move when she approaches, there's usually some screaming from the one being peck, then they both go about their business, aggressive pecking is different in that one bird focuses on another and just keeps following and pecking and pulling, there can be cornering and more extreme pecking.

    I do know that as young hens come of age some can get a bit mad with power and over play their role, and of course the bottom bird can become confused why their friend has suddenly become bossy. Usually a rooster would intervene in fights and will protect the bottom bird in exchange for mating. You have no rooster, your girls are young, and as you said you have a smaller coop. If the top hen continues to harass the bottom too much you could always remove the top hen for a few days to see if she loses some power, otherwise I would just let them work things out, and I always like to slip my bottom hens some treats and block others from seeing it.
     
  8. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks. I will keep an eye out on how they behave tomorrow to make sure that Blackie's not being targeted like you describe.

    I don't know if it makes a difference as far as molting is concerned, but I should clarify that two of them were laying but have gone on strike for the winter (I was surprised they kept laying as long as they did) [​IMG]
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    First year chickens seem to start and stop a lot during the beginning of winter, then about February or March they start laying regularly again, the lessening daylight and the energy needed to stay warm seems to affect it, so hopefully your girls get going again, it will at least burn energy and give them something to do.
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Space could definitely be part of the problem.

    Cheese curls...Like Cheetos?
    Insufficient nutrition can cause feather, and blood, pecking.
    Put them on a higher protein, balanced chicken ration...and cut out the 'treats'.
     

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