Added a rooster, now everyone is picking on one hen

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Jrose, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello! So I know chickens have their pecking orders, and the bottom of the chain is going to get the worst of it, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing...

    A few weeks ago I added a 3-4 month old buff orpington rooster to my flock of 5 girls (all are over 1.5 years old and have lived together for at least a year now). I got the rooster for free and decided to try keeping a male around. If he doesn't behave, well, chicken stew. I have one small auracana, one small phoenix, and three huge new hampshire red hens.

    So probably as expected the girls kicked the snot out of him for the first week. After a day or two he put his head down and followed their lead. This last week I noticed he's gotten much bigger and is really taking care of the girls- bringing them moths and feeding them, herding them around the yard, standing between them and danger, etc. They follow him everywhere. He's also started earning breeding right with the girls, apparently!
    By the way- their coop is in a 12x14 run, but I let them out to free range on 3/4 acres all day every day.

    My problem is that he really doesn't seem to like my phoenix hen, Butch. She's very small and blind in one eye- she was a battery hen and has always been skittish. All of the NHR hens are picking on her pretty bad, too. If she gets anywhere near them or the current food source they will chase after her and try to grab at her comb. Over the last week she's isolated herself- she will remain in and around the run while everyone else free-ranges, or keep herself alone on the other end of the property, or if she does follow them, it's at a 10-15' distance.

    I was feeding everyone in their run the other day, and Butch remained outside of the run at a distance, so I threw some scratch to her through the chainlink so she could eat too. One of the NHR girls saw Butch eating from a distance, ran out of the run and took off after her, making very unhappy chicken noises. She chased Butch off of the scratch and came back into the run to keep eating.
    I also watched the rooster go after her yesterday. I'm not sure it's mating. He doesn't dance or puff up, he just sets off after her at a sprint, chasing her in circles until she leaves the vicinity. He is not hassling or chasing any of the other hens, even if they tell him off for trying to mate.

    Before the rooster came in, there was no aggression or bullying amongst the girls whatsoever. They were all very close. Now Butch spends most of her days hiding in the grape vines away from the other chickens. I figured after a week or so the new pecking order would settle in and the bullying would stop, but it seems to be getting worse. Any ideas?
     
  2. BlueEggsDaily

    BlueEggsDaily Out Of The Brooder

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    That's tough. I have a "loner" too, our white crested polish doesn't seem to fit in but she's not necessarily being chased off more just being ignored. I don't have a rooster either. Ill be interested to see what others say.

    Giving extra attention to her? Spray bottle towards the other "attackers" when they attack?
     
  3. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The girls have become much more distant with me with Fernando (the rooster) taking care of them. They no longer hunker down and let me pick them up when I approach, and when I do pick them up they flip out. I would have no luck trying to catch and pick up Butch, she's gotten so jumpy and skittish this last month.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2013
  4. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was just in the kitchen this evening watching the girls through the window. They're penned up for the night, mulling around and getting ready to roost. One of my NHR hens is chasing Butch all around the pen, grabbing at her tail feathers. Butch is making very upset sounds and sprinting around in circles. There is no food out to be fought over. When Butch flies up onto a perch area to get away, the other hen follows and keeps pursuing her. She's being terrorized inside of the pen!

    This alone is making me think twice about keeping a rooster. As fun as Fernando has been thus far, I hate to see my hens' relationships with each other get turned upside down like this!
     
  5. BlueEggsDaily

    BlueEggsDaily Out Of The Brooder

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    Yikes... Yah I probably wouldn't keep him. Poor girl. She may stop laying from the stress or have distorted or shell less eggs from all of this "abuse".
     
  6. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    The problem is that now that this has started, for whatever reason, getting rid of the rooster may not solve it. I would not be locking the bullied bird in the coop with the others at night, this is very stressful for her and she could end up badly pecked. What I would do though is watch carefully and see if there is one bird who is an instigator, if so, pull that bird out for a good week and see if things settle down. It may or may not and it may start right up again when that bird goes back. I had a similar situation once with a single bullied bird, she ended up sleeping outside the coop. Things settled down over time but she always kept a little distance from the others. But they at least got to where they did not chase her anymore.
     
  7. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    She's always been an extremely finicky layer already. She started laying again in the first week or so of getting Fernando, then stopped again when the bullying started. I'll get an egg a day for a week or two then two months of nothing. I'm not sure how old she is but I get the feeling she may be an older gal.

    All three of my NHR hens are terrorizing her. My Auracana has always been very close to Butch (I got them together from a chicken factory). They sunbathe together and rooster next to each other still. So it's just the three big hens who all have a good 6lbs each on Butch.

    I'm working to expand my coop and thought, if she can hang in there, I'll introduce a cluster of new hens and the pecking order can reorganize itself. Maybe I'll add more small breed hens so the big hens don't feel superior?
     

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