A Newbie Chicken Owner in Hot Water

ThreeFeathers

In the Brooder
Sep 15, 2019
15
44
41
Hi! I'm new to this site and joined because I really, really need help. I don't even know how to describe my problem, because it's not really one problem so much as a bunch of interrelated ones. We received four baby chicks last July with the intent of totally spoiling them (they receive lots of hugs and attention, as well as exercise, healthy treats, and organic feed) and having amazing little fluffy pets. We had done our research and gotten personable breeds that we hoped would get along. One was a barred rock named Dottie, another an olive egger named Jojo, the third a buff orpington named Sunshine, and the last an ausralorp named Raven. The Orpington, Sunshine, was smaller than the others, missing two of her toenails on each foot (they just never developed) and did not mature as quickly. She also didn't spend as much time with the others, seeming to prefer being off on her own. As they got older, they began to chase her and peck her aggressively. She became skittish and withdrew from us as well, always running away in terror whenever we came close. The barred rock, Dottie, appeared to be at the top of the pecking order and was the only one to resist handling (the others all loved to be held and petted as they had been sine they were babies). She was very close with the australorp, Raven. Jojo, the olive egger, tended to follow along behind them. In the meantime, we had noticed that Raven had been eating Dottie's feathers. (Dottie seemed perfectly fine with this). So, we checked them for pests (none found), gave their coop an extra thorough scrubbing with vinegar, let it dry, and began giving them more mealworms (in case it was a protein deficiency) and, when that didn't stop it, bought plastic 'glasses' that we put on Raven. (This seemed to work and Dottie's feathers began to grow back, however, every time we removed the glasses, she would just eat them again). One day I went in the run to check on them and found Sunshine in the coop with a huge gash in her neck. We took her to the vet, where she received stitches and kept her in a small pen in the garage while she healed. We slowly integrated her back into the flock, allowing her to walk around the outside of their pen, holding her while they roamed around, supervised time together etc., but she was ten times as skittish as before and none of us felt comfortable with the situation. Then, something else happened (while she was still living inside). The fence around their pen (which they were allowed in only while we were home) was low enough that Raven and Dottie liked to fly over it and escape into our and our neighbor's yards. One time, a fox (which we usually never see around here) happened to be nearby. I ran at him, but he took off with Raven (who was still wearing glasses). I chased him off before he could grab Dottie as well. I found Raven's body in our neighbor's front yard the next day. Only the head was missing. We tried clipping one of Dottie's wings, and, when that didn't work, we put up taller bamboo fencing around our fence so that they could no longer fly out. We continued Sunshine's integration, but it didn't seem to be working out. Finally, we bought a smaller used coop and put it in the run with the larger one. The smaller one was Sunshine's and was where she would sleep at night and spend her days while we weren't home. She could see and hear the others and would have time with them while we were there to supervise. Yet more issues arose. Jojo, previously meek and the only one who didn't pick on Sunshine, now seemed to have found a new hatred for her. For months afterward she would run at her, peck her (breaking skin), and jump on top of her every chance she got. The problem has become slightly better, but not by much. She (Jojo) also began eating Dottie's feathers. Again, we checked for pests, increased their protein and scrubbed the coop as thoroughly as possible. This time we also bought an all-natural bug spray made specifically for poultry and sprayed them, the coop, and the run with it as well. Instead of glasses, we tried rubbing Dottie with an (all natural) 'peck no more' purple goo that I'd read about. Poor Dottie is still stained purple and it didn't do any good. When Jojo had eaten all of Dottie's neck feathers we decided, finally, and sadly, to put one of the extra pairs of glasses on her. Dottie's feathers grew back. We couldn't keep the glasses on forever though, and now Dottie has the feathers pecked away in a ring around the base of her neck. One of these days, Jojo will go too far, draw blood, keep pecking, and I'll find Dottie's body laying in the run. What should I do? Dottie and Jojo have also become even more aggressive towards Sunshine and have begun jumping on her and pecking her head. I have also found scabs on her comb. I don't know what to do. I've read lots of books and articles and yes, even some of these forums on chickens and I haven't come across anything that fits my situation. I love them all so much and I don't want them to kill each other. They're barely a year old! I've never kept chickens before, so I don't have any past experiences to relate to. Please help me!
 

ValerieJ

Straw parade on snow day
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 24, 2016
10,552
63,504
1,287
Washington State
Hi! I'm new to this site and joined because I really, really need help. I don't even know how to describe my problem, because it's not really one problem so much as a bunch of interrelated ones. We received four baby chicks last July with the intent of totally spoiling them (they receive lots of hugs and attention, as well as exercise, healthy treats, and organic feed) and having amazing little fluffy pets. We had done our research and gotten personable breeds that we hoped would get along. One was a barred rock named Dottie, another an olive egger named Jojo, the third a buff orpington named Sunshine, and the last an ausralorp named Raven. The Orpington, Sunshine, was smaller than the others, missing two of her toenails on each foot (they just never developed) and did not mature as quickly. She also didn't spend as much time with the others, seeming to prefer being off on her own. As they got older, they began to chase her and peck her aggressively. She became skittish and withdrew from us as well, always running away in terror whenever we came close. The barred rock, Dottie, appeared to be at the top of the pecking order and was the only one to resist handling (the others all loved to be held and petted as they had been sine they were babies). She was very close with the australorp, Raven. Jojo, the olive egger, tended to follow along behind them. In the meantime, we had noticed that Raven had been eating Dottie's feathers. (Dottie seemed perfectly fine with this). So, we checked them for pests (none found), gave their coop an extra thorough scrubbing with vinegar, let it dry, and began giving them more mealworms (in case it was a protein deficiency) and, when that didn't stop it, bought plastic 'glasses' that we put on Raven. (This seemed to work and Dottie's feathers began to grow back, however, every time we removed the glasses, she would just eat them again). One day I went in the run to check on them and found Sunshine in the coop with a huge gash in her neck. We took her to the vet, where she received stitches and kept her in a small pen in the garage while she healed. We slowly integrated her back into the flock, allowing her to walk around the outside of their pen, holding her while they roamed around, supervised time together etc., but she was ten times as skittish as before and none of us felt comfortable with the situation. Then, something else happened (while she was still living inside). The fence around their pen (which they were allowed in only while we were home) was low enough that Raven and Dottie liked to fly over it and escape into our and our neighbor's yards. One time, a fox (which we usually never see around here) happened to be nearby. I ran at him, but he took off with Raven (who was still wearing glasses). I chased him off before he could grab Dottie as well. I found Raven's body in our neighbor's front yard the next day. Only the head was missing. We tried clipping one of Dottie's wings, and, when that didn't work, we put up taller bamboo fencing around our fence so that they could no longer fly out. We continued Sunshine's integration, but it didn't seem to be working out. Finally, we bought a smaller used coop and put it in the run with the larger one. The smaller one was Sunshine's and was where she would sleep at night and spend her days while we weren't home. She could see and hear the others and would have time with them while we were there to supervise. Yet more issues arose. Jojo, previously meek and the only one who didn't pick on Sunshine, now seemed to have found a new hatred for her. For months afterward she would run at her, peck her (breaking skin), and jump on top of her every chance she got. The problem has become slightly better, but not by much. She (Jojo) also began eating Dottie's feathers. Again, we checked for pests, increased their protein and scrubbed the coop as thoroughly as possible. This time we also bought an all-natural bug spray made specifically for poultry and sprayed them, the coop, and the run with it as well. Instead of glasses, we tried rubbing Dottie with an (all natural) 'peck no more' purple goo that I'd read about. Poor Dottie is still stained purple and it didn't do any good. When Jojo had eaten all of Dottie's neck feathers we decided, finally, and sadly, to put one of the extra pairs of glasses on her. Dottie's feathers grew back. We couldn't keep the glasses on forever though, and now Dottie has the feathers pecked away in a ring around the base of her neck. One of these days, Jojo will go too far, draw blood, keep pecking, and I'll find Dottie's body laying in the run. What should I do? Dottie and Jojo have also become even more aggressive towards Sunshine and have begun jumping on her and pecking her head. I have also found scabs on her comb. I don't know what to do. I've read lots of books and articles and yes, even some of these forums on chickens and I haven't come across anything that fits my situation. I love them all so much and I don't want them to kill each other. They're barely a year old! I've never kept chickens before, so I don't have any past experiences to relate to. Please help me!
That is such a sad first experience with hens. So sorry you have had to deal with this. Whenever I hear about hens pecking each other I think about space concerns. How much space is in your run? Are there plenty of obstacles for Sunshine and Dottie to run behind when they need to escape an aggressor? Do you have more than one watering and feeding station? I simply cannot abide a truly aggressive hen and will quickly separate the aggressor for a while when it happens. One of my favorite hens, Rosie, was a very aggressive RIR, whom I didn't not want to cull, so I would separate her for a week or two. She never gave up her position as top hen, but she did mellow out eventually. I don't have her anymore, lost to a predator, and after the initial shuffling and scuffling, my flock is now very peaceful. I maybe should have taken Rosie out permanently a long time ago.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
33,356
271,523
1,642
NY Southern Tier
My Coop
My Coop
Hi! I'm new to this site and joined because I really, really need help. I don't even know how to describe my problem, because it's not really one problem so much as a bunch of interrelated ones. We received four baby chicks last July with the intent of totally spoiling them (they receive lots of hugs and attention, as well as exercise, healthy treats, and organic feed) and having amazing little fluffy pets. We had done our research and gotten personable breeds that we hoped would get along. One was a barred rock named Dottie, another an olive egger named Jojo, the third a buff orpington named Sunshine, and the last an ausralorp named Raven. The Orpington, Sunshine, was smaller than the others, missing two of her toenails on each foot (they just never developed) and did not mature as quickly. She also didn't spend as much time with the others, seeming to prefer being off on her own. As they got older, they began to chase her and peck her aggressively. She became skittish and withdrew from us as well, always running away in terror whenever we came close. The barred rock, Dottie, appeared to be at the top of the pecking order and was the only one to resist handling (the others all loved to be held and petted as they had been sine they were babies). She was very close with the australorp, Raven. Jojo, the olive egger, tended to follow along behind them. In the meantime, we had noticed that Raven had been eating Dottie's feathers. (Dottie seemed perfectly fine with this). So, we checked them for pests (none found), gave their coop an extra thorough scrubbing with vinegar, let it dry, and began giving them more mealworms (in case it was a protein deficiency) and, when that didn't stop it, bought plastic 'glasses' that we put on Raven. (This seemed to work and Dottie's feathers began to grow back, however, every time we removed the glasses, she would just eat them again). One day I went in the run to check on them and found Sunshine in the coop with a huge gash in her neck. We took her to the vet, where she received stitches and kept her in a small pen in the garage while she healed. We slowly integrated her back into the flock, allowing her to walk around the outside of their pen, holding her while they roamed around, supervised time together etc., but she was ten times as skittish as before and none of us felt comfortable with the situation. Then, something else happened (while she was still living inside). The fence around their pen (which they were allowed in only while we were home) was low enough that Raven and Dottie liked to fly over it and escape into our and our neighbor's yards. One time, a fox (which we usually never see around here) happened to be nearby. I ran at him, but he took off with Raven (who was still wearing glasses). I chased him off before he could grab Dottie as well. I found Raven's body in our neighbor's front yard the next day. Only the head was missing. We tried clipping one of Dottie's wings, and, when that didn't work, we put up taller bamboo fencing around our fence so that they could no longer fly out. We continued Sunshine's integration, but it didn't seem to be working out. Finally, we bought a smaller used coop and put it in the run with the larger one. The smaller one was Sunshine's and was where she would sleep at night and spend her days while we weren't home. She could see and hear the others and would have time with them while we were there to supervise. Yet more issues arose. Jojo, previously meek and the only one who didn't pick on Sunshine, now seemed to have found a new hatred for her. For months afterward she would run at her, peck her (breaking skin), and jump on top of her every chance she got. The problem has become slightly better, but not by much. She (Jojo) also began eating Dottie's feathers. Again, we checked for pests, increased their protein and scrubbed the coop as thoroughly as possible. This time we also bought an all-natural bug spray made specifically for poultry and sprayed them, the coop, and the run with it as well. Instead of glasses, we tried rubbing Dottie with an (all natural) 'peck no more' purple goo that I'd read about. Poor Dottie is still stained purple and it didn't do any good. When Jojo had eaten all of Dottie's neck feathers we decided, finally, and sadly, to put one of the extra pairs of glasses on her. Dottie's feathers grew back. We couldn't keep the glasses on forever though, and now Dottie has the feathers pecked away in a ring around the base of her neck. One of these days, Jojo will go too far, draw blood, keep pecking, and I'll find Dottie's body laying in the run. What should I do? Dottie and Jojo have also become even more aggressive towards Sunshine and have begun jumping on her and pecking her head. I have also found scabs on her comb. I don't know what to do. I've read lots of books and articles and yes, even some of these forums on chickens and I haven't come across anything that fits my situation. I love them all so much and I don't want them to kill each other. They're barely a year old! I've never kept chickens before, so I don't have any past experiences to relate to. Please help me!
Can you please post a picture of your entire chicken keeping setup and include dimensions?
What, exactly, are you feeding them and including quantities of treats? I know you mentioned that you feed organic feed, but what is it?
 

ThreeFeathers

In the Brooder
Sep 15, 2019
15
44
41
Thanks for the advice, ValerieJ! I forgot to mention that we did try that. We kept Raven in a separate pen in the garage for a week when she was being aggressive towards Sunshine. It didn't help, though. We have two feeders (one twenty pound one with two openings and a smaller one from when they were chicks that Sunshine eats from), two waterers (a two gallon one with two cups to drink from and a small bowl (refilled each day) in Sunshine's pen). There is also a small cage thing that hangs in the large pen. This is occasionally filled with treats like broccoli, brussels sprouts, squash, pepper heads, or small pieces of corn. Whenever we offer treats outside the runs, we try to do so in two or three different locations. They have two separate runs that are totally enclosed. The large one (for Dottie and Jojo) is eight feet long and almost three feet wide (about 24 square feet) It has a peaked roof that is 42 inches high at the highest point. Sunshine's is a little less than half that. (I'm not sure of the exact dimensions.) There are roosts in both coops and one in each run. They are let out for several hours almost every day when I get home. During this time they are in a larger run that is not totally enclosed. It takes up the entire space beneath a very large pine. It is just dirt, but they have a swing (that they never use), a small structure of stacked bricks to climb on, and a piece of concrete pipe. Sometimes we hang up a piece of cabbage for them to peck at. As for hiding, there is the tree's trunk, the rain barrel, and behind and around the coops. Most weekends and on the occasional weekday, they will spend several hours in the side of our yard, under another pine (they love the dirt there), in our landscaping, and in the lawn, eating clover and dandelions.
 
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DallasLoneStar

Chirping
May 21, 2019
104
225
96
Dallas, TX
My in laws have had great dogs their whole lives. I have known the last two to pass away personally. They got new new dogs a couple years ago. The dogs just suck. The jump, bite, they are loud, steal food. They have spent probably $10,000 on sleep away intensive dog training camps, dog trainers, classes etc. Nothing seems to make much of a difference or when it does, it doesn’t last.

Sorry but this reminds me of their situation. Sometimes pets just come out of the gate with less than ideal personalities. If I were you I would consider culling and starting over. That being said, I am fairly new to chickens so there are probably others that will chime in as well. But so far it sounds like you are really trying and addressing the usual main concerns like nutrition and space.
 

ThreeFeathers

In the Brooder
Sep 15, 2019
15
44
41
Thanks for the advice, DallasLoneStar, (and I agree with you - we certainly are trying) however, I don't think I could bring myself to kill them. Like, I said, we got them with the intention of holding, petting, and generally loving them as pets, and in that at least, we succeeded. They also seem to like us a good deal - Sunshine will follow you you around begging to be held and fall asleep on your lap. Raven used to beg to come in the door. Dottie will chase my pencil eraser. Jojo likes to roost on my shoulder like a parrot. I just don't think I could kill them. Thanks for the thought though - I appreciate your trying to help.
 

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