Advice Needed for Odd Hen Out

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chuckun, Nov 20, 2019.

  1. chuckun

    chuckun Chirping

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    Hello Wise Chicken People!

    I have a flock of five hens, two 5-year olds and 3-6 month olds, who were adoptees of my 5 year old Buff Orpington. Right now only the young hens are laying but the older ones are on the tail-end of a weeks-long molt.

    My concern is about my other older hen, a spunky Easter Egger who, lately, has been keeping a distance from the rest of the flock. While everyone else is down in the run eating and scratching, she remains up in the coop doing nothing. If I bring treats, she'll join the others, but then quickly leaves and returns to the coop. At first I thought she was being bullied, but I don't see it. If I give her a stash of her own up in the coop, and she gobbles it up. Her appetite is fine, as are all other signs of physical health. When they are let out to range she forages and runs around but still keeps a distance from the others.

    I am worried because I need to go away for several days at a time over the holidays. The coop and run are not large, but they are secure from predators and I have two automatic feeders and waterers in the run that will be plenty for 5 hens while I'm gone. I have been able safely to leave my flock for a few days in the past. But if my EE won't join and I'm not there to let them out for exercise, I'm afraid she will starve herself. She has never, ever been broody.

    I don't know anyone experienced enough to watch them while I'm gone, but might have to hire someone to look in on them just for my own peace of mind. Any thoughts on what I should do?

    Any advice would be appreciated!
     
    The Angry Hen likes this.
  2. The Angry Hen

    The Angry Hen Crossing the Road

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    Have you had any recent predator attacks? Is the particular hen the lowest of pecking order? Any signs of broodiness, or difference in appearance? Sometimes during molting season, birds can be slightly flighty when approached by you or birds larger and more domineering. If she's been laying eggs a little less than normal, but with no problematic happenings, it's likely molting. Watch how much she eats, drinks, lays eggs, etc... anything she normally takes to doing.
     
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  3. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Your older hen may be suffering from a developing illness and is removing herself from the flock out of self protection. Or as @The Angry Hen has mentioned, it could be molt that's causing her to be withdrawn.

    If you plan on being away, there's not much that can be done to get to the bottom of what underlying health issue is contributing to this. But if you have the time, it might be worthwhile to try to figure it out.

    Her laying history would be helpful to know. The condition of her crop, by checking it in the morning before she eats would tell us if a crop issue is involved.
    Giving her a thorough head to toe exam might turn up other treatable issues. Also, try to assess if she's been losing weight due to lack of appetite. That could contribute to her behavior.
     
    The Angry Hen likes this.
  4. SesameChicken909

    SesameChicken909 In the Brooder

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    Hi! So this happened to my chickens. I have 3 hens (Mabel, Minnie and Pepper) and only used to have 2 chickens (Pepper and Sesame). But one hen died (Sesame died). I was left with one chicken, so I got 2 more (I got Mabel and Minnie). Pepper is almost 4 now and she didn't really want to hang out with youngsters. So, she would go and do her own thing. I saw this problem going on so I started giving them little activities like, giving them one big plate of food to eat from. Or making them share one dirt bath. Just kind of like social activities. You have to do this everyday tho. I don't know if this will work for you, but it worked for me! The chickens all hang out together now. Personally, I think it just took time for them to re-coop.
     
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  5. chuckun

    chuckun Chirping

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    Thank you! All good thoughts.

    Re physical health- I will try to examine her but she is flighty and won't let me touch her; she's always been like this when not laying. She is just coming out of a molt, most of her new feathers are in and she's looking good. I had her examined and blood tested by a vet last July when she was having watery poop, but she checked out fine and resumed laying regularly and normally until she started molting in September. It's been a longer than usual molt.

    Having lost a hen that I had no idea was sick made me vigilant about signs of disease, and also made me realize how easy it can be to miss them. I will keep a close eye.

    I had not considered the possibility that a predator may have spooked her. I recently noticed burrowing and scratching around the run, so I reinforced the run floor and perimeter with new hardware cloth and added pavers so it's bulletproof now. She may indeed have been spooked.

    I will try to do what I can to bring the flock together. I chose the BO to adopt the chicks back in May as a Mother's Day gift to her - she was so often broody! Now that she's experienced motherhood, she has become dominant and she and her grown chicks operate as a unit. Even though there's been no obvious bullying, I do think that has contributed to my Easter Egger's isolation.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful replies.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    I would start confining them now, to see what happens and get them used to it.
    I'd guess you just have a pecking order thing, or a loner bird.
     
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  7. chuckun

    chuckun Chirping

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    Thank you for your thoughts. So after a few days of watching more closely and offering treats that bring them together, I did notice that my Buff Orpington has been pecking at my EE, causing her to flee into isolation. So it is a pecking order thing. I kept them confined yesterday. I'll watch today to see if my EE ventures to the feeder on her own. I am also arranging to have someone come every couple of days to watch the flock in my absence.

    Should I isolate the bullying BO for a bit? I hate to do it because I lost my barred rock that way a few years ago when she was being a bully. I had her in a large dog crate near the coop and found her dead after a few short hours. It might have been heat stroke, it was a hot day, but I still don't know. Should I leave the pecking order be? Thank you all for your help!
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    I wouldn't do that.

    These are from my integration basics notes,
    but apply at any time you have some flock disharmony.
    The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.


    Post some pics of your coop and run and we might be able to make some suggestions.
     
    chuckun likes this.
  9. chuckun

    chuckun Chirping

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    The run is small but the coop upstairs serves as space for an escape. I have two automatic feeders and one waterer downstairs in the run. One is directly under the coop. Here are some views of both:

    IMG_0387.jpeg

    The run downstairs:


    IMG_0397.jpeg IMG_0398.jpeg IMG_0388.jpeg IMG_0390.jpeg IMG_0394.jpeg IMG_0393.jpeg IMG_0395.jpeg IMG_0409.jpeg IMG_0408.jpeg IMG_0406.jpeg

    The coop upstairs with my EE in hiding:
    IMG_0399.jpeg IMG_0403.jpeg IMG_0405.jpeg
     

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  10. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Free Ranging

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    The run does seem a bit small for the number of birds, and is narrow as well, which further complicates any bullying issues as the victim can't easily pass by bullies. Also it means you can add more clutter to give her spaces to hide. Do you happen to have measurements on the run?

    In the future you may want to consider enlarging the run if possible, though obviously that won't help for your immediate issue. Can you ask your pet sitter to toss her some extra food when they can, wherever she normally eats?
     
    chuckun likes this.

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