Advice on quarantine/management for overmated hen, please

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by junglebird, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. junglebird

    junglebird Songster

    Aug 29, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    My pretty little Ameraucana X has become the only hen my Black Australorp rooster can manage to get hold of long enough to mount. And she's overmounted - little bare patch on her back with a couple of cuts. I've cleaned her up with saline solution, and put some salve over the cuts. I think she'll heal just fine. You can see the scabs that have formed.

    She's my best layer, and smaller than the rest of the hens (Barred Rock, Marans, New Hampshire Red ... all around 7 months old). The other hens pick on her too, but she manages to roost next the BA rooster most nights. I also have a jr. rooster, a Buff Orpington, who doesn't have permission from the senior rooster to mount hens. He'll be getting his own flock this spring, and the little injured Ameraucana will be part of that.

    In defense of the BA rooster: When the rooster started mounting the hens, I thought he looked pretty gentle. But all of the hens struggle so much that he's gotten more insistent (none of them has ever squatted). He's very protective, and gives the girls treats, so I think he's a good rooster. He had been a little challenging with me, but simply changing up my stance and attitude with him has backed him down, he even voluntarily stopped mounting in front of me.

    I've got the Ameraucana in a dog crate this morning, while I sew up a saddle. I still want to quarantine her to avoid the risk of more injury, the back of her head is pretty shaggy and I haven't seen patterns for hen helmets. [​IMG] I'm thinking to quarantine her, rather than the rooster, in hopes that he learns to spread his love around. Failing that, I'll quarantine him instead. I like having roosters for range protection and breeding.

    My chickens are used to having a roomy coop (90 sq ft for 7 birds) and nice backyard-sized sized run. I can split the coop and add a pop door. I can separate the run into 2, since it extends on either side of the hoop house. But I don't like the idea of one chicken living by herself for an extended period of time, so I have questions - help! [​IMG]

    South Side run, covered with summer coop at end
    North Side run, old garden beds

    1. Will this hen be wearing the saddle till she molts next fall? I am not excited about putting clothing on a chicken, but don't have another idea how to keep her protected for a long period of time, other than 100% lock down. And, will increasing BOSS/protein speed up feather regrowth, or is it just going to happen when it happens?
    2. What can I put on the back of her head so rooster will not like the taste of mouthing her there? (Something herbal please!)
    3. So, how would you folks manage this extended quarantine? I think I read (and seem to have noticed) that roosters do most of their mounting in the morning and eve. Could I just quarantine from say an hour before dusk till an hour after sunrise and leave them together during the day? Next week I'll be putting up some electro-netting for ranging adjacent to their current area, so maybe I could let the quarantine hen in with them while they are busy exploring?
    4. If I tripled, or quadrupled their ranging space would that keep the rooster busier, so he'd be mounting less?

    I want all the chickens to have maximum space and socialization, without experimenting in ways that cause the Ameraucana more damage. I feel bad I didn't get her out of there sooner, the cuts were hidden under her feathers, and I didn't look carefully enough. It just kinda sneaked up on me. [​IMG]

  2. emys

    emys Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    Hmmm Lots of questions.

    I think your chicken saddle is a great first step. I also believe 100% Tea Tree Oil on the back of her neck may help him find her in bad tasting for awhile.

    It takes more than an hour for the "mood" to leave a rooster, but, keeping them apart until later in the day could help as they are more hormonal in the morning.

    If you do end up dividing your run, make one section large enough for at least 2 birds, then both roosters can be confined away from the girls or the favorite hen and another hen can be confined together.

    The one thing you must not do is take away the dominant rooster and leave the subordinate rooster in with the hens. You will make the subordinate rooster believe he is now dominant and when the dominant rooster is returned to the pen, the two will have it out in a big way.

    Maybe someone else will have more thoughts for you.

    Good Luck
  3. bburn

    bburn Songster

    Jul 9, 2010
    Delaware, Arkansas
    Whatever you do you can't put her by herself. I did that and the chicken was SAD. Seems silly but I seriously had a depressed rooster that I had to take out of the main flock. I finally have him some girls and they are all Cochins and so sweet together. But he was really sad and really depressed.

    I also have a hen that I noticed today was missing feathers on her neck. Not her head, like from a rooster, but her neck...all the way around. The rooster in that flock just went through a period where he was missing a bunch of feathers on his neck. His are growing back now but then there is this hen. I think I have a feather picker. Maybe at night when they are roosting. But I have seen a hen peck at both the rooster and the hen.

    If I could tell her apart from the rest of the RIR hens I would gladly pull her out.

    But putting one by themselves really makes them lonely and sad. If you do have to do it put someone else in with her at least.
  4. junglebird

    junglebird Songster

    Aug 29, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Thanks for your feedback!

    Here she is with her silken saddle (like a medieval Japanese warrior!).

    emys - thanks for the heads up on the rooster management! [​IMG] I wouldn't thought of that, and would have felt really stupid if I ruined the equilibrium between the 2 roosters. Also, thanks for the tea tree oil suggestion - I'll try that during some supervised visits.

    Ameraucana spent the day by herself in the summer coop. She wasn't the only sad one, the rest of the flock stood vigil by her locked pop door - especially the roosters, but even the other hens.

    I got the coop and runs divided ... and, as you both suggested, emys and bburn, the little hen was so sad, pacing back and forth at the barrier, in the dark, that I finally caved in and let her roost with the others.

    I watched for awhile, after she rejoined the others. She hopped up on the perch next to the BA rooster, and kinda pecked him. Then she nuzzled her head under him till he had scooted to the end of the roost. When I left all the birds were still jostling positions.

    I'm going to get up early and separate her again, but this time I'll put the second bottom in pecking order, a Marans X, with her. With the Ameraucana gone, he redoubled his efforts with the Marans ... so we'll see how relationships shift with both lowbies gone.
  5. emys

    emys Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    Saddle looks good! I am sure she was much happier with the flock last night.
  6. saladin

    saladin Songster

    Mar 30, 2009
    the South
    First, that ain't bad at all. As a matter of fact, I would never have worried about that at all.

    Second, if it still bothers you (which it should not) trim the boys nails. That is the easiest solution to your problem.
  7. Carolyn

    Carolyn Songster

    Apr 6, 2008
    I think having more hens would help with your problem. You said you have 7 chickens, 2 are roos??? You need 2x+ the # of hens you have now. Then the roos can spread the love a little thinner on the ladies. She sounds like his fave, that could mean she gets a little extra love.

    You have to include the other roo in your ratio count. He is old enough to sneak in some mounts whenever he can. Also in my personal opinion, my hens got mounted more by the dominate roo when there was another roo also on the scene. ..... maybe showing off to prove he was dominate.
  8. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Saladin beat me to it, to trim nails. And the pen inside the coop is an excellent way to go when you have to separate a bird. I've never taken one entirely away from the group for more than an hour or so; I also have a pen in the coop.

    Sounds like you are fetting her back in with the others just fine.

    I wouldn't feel bad about the saddle. I have left them on for months. One has one now, not because she needs it any more, but I'm reluctant to remove it in the middle of winter. Looks like it isn't bothering your girl at all. I don't think mine was really aware of it after a few minutes or so.
  9. junglebird

    junglebird Songster

    Aug 29, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Thanks for the feedback, folks! Thanks for the encouragement, emys! [​IMG]

    saladin, ddawn - I had been thinking that trimming the rooster's nails would make him less effective as a protector. But then I rethought that this morning and realized that there is no predator out there that would give a hoot about rooster claws. [​IMG] But, are there any downsides to trimming the rooster's claws? If not, I'll go ahead and do that. I hope the tea tree oil helps with her head, since she already has some little scratches there too.

    saladin brings up a great point [​IMG] ... I wondered if (and how much) I was over-reacting to her wounds. I know somebody's got to be on the bottom of the pecking order, and somebody's going to be the roo's fave, and it makes sense that it would be the same bird. I don't want to have naked, ugly, wounded birds walking around, but I consider these chickens co-workers, not pets, and don't want to baby them too much either. How do you measure how much damage is enough to merit your attention?

    Carolyn, I hear ya, and do plan to grow the flock and perhaps even separate into 2 flocks. I wonder about that competition thing between the roosters. The Jr. roo is on my husband's hit list due to ceaseless crowing - all day, all night ... really, constantly! [​IMG] I wonder if each roo had his own flock, if they'd behave less competitively.

    I tried putting the #2 lowbie with the saddle back girl, but #2 was super aggressive ... grabbed at the back of saddle girl's head with her beak, and gave her a 2 footed kick like roosters give each other. sheesh.

    So, for now, until I come up with another idea, I've got tea tree oil on saddle girl's head, and they're all together. In my heart, I think the little Ameraucana cross is just a bad match with this bigger, tougher crowd. Even though she seems quite content ... and even happy.[​IMG]
  10. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Songster

    Sep 4, 2008
    I have had the same problem before.

    Not once, but twice. Once last spring with a barred rock hen.

    Most recently, just last week, with the daughter of the barred rock hen.

    I put an apron on the barred rock hen for about a month last spring, until she figured out how to get it off and hid it from me. (It was a month before I found where she hid it.)

    This second time, I have not put an apron on her daughter. Not yet, anyway.

    But what I do is isolate the hurt hen with her next best buddy (or somebody similar on the pecking order), so that she is not alone. I do this for a day or two, while she heals some.

    Then I put her in with the rest, but pull out the rooster. After that, I alter who is isolated -- sometimes I isolate the offending rooster, sometimes I isolate the popular but hurt hen with another hen she gets along well with.

    I did this for about a week or two last spring, and it seemed to work well. After that, the rooster didn't pay quite as much attention to the hurt barred rock.. But if it hadn't worked, I would have continued to simply keep the two birds separated, rather than always isolating the little hen.

    I'm doing a similar thing with the same rooster and her daughter, who is now the apple of her daddy rooster's eye...

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