Better for a hen to live alone?

DDRanch

Songster
12 Years
Feb 15, 2008
1,189
23
202
California
One of my older hens is being bullied by the rest of the flock. This is beyond the pecking order syndrome. I have had chickens for many years.

She has been losing weight for several months now, still eating and participating but clearly not happy. Tail down, lying down for most of the day. She is 6 years old. I have cameras in my coop and pen area so I have observed the others picking and pecking on her. She has taken to sleeping in a lower nesting box, and the others will chase her out of the box in the morning, surround her, and peck.

I have seperated her the last couple of days and have her living by herself, to keep her safe. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.

Thanks,
Anne
 

Hen Pen Jem

Crowing
Sep 19, 2017
1,636
5,336
352
Southern California
Greetings DDRanch,

Wow, 6 years old! She has certainly been living well. :)

But, is it possible that she is now declining in health? She's up there in age, but I have heard of hens that are older. Are you sure she isn't sick? Chickens are very perceptive. They don't accept weakness, because it attracts predators. This may be why she is getting pecked.

Is it possible for you to turn her into a house chicken? Or, maybe put her with a companion animal, maybe a duck. My experience with isolated chickens is, that, they become depressed, and will get sick and die.

I have an older chicken in the house right now, something I said I would never do. After healing from an illness, she too, was avoiding the other hens, and not socializing well. I gave her a bath, and blow dried her feathers. Then, set her up a spot by the patio door. I set down dog potty pads for easy clean up. But, she makes tiny poops, since she doesn't lay anymore and eats less. She isn't too active, she knows that's her place. In the afternoon, I put her in the back yard to exercise and get fresh air and sunshine (the fence is electrified for safety). When the other chickens come out, they just ignore her, and she pays them no mind, either. At sunset, she heads for her dog crate out in the garage to sleep. If she wanted back with the other hens, I would let her go. But, she seems very content to live this way for now. I do know something is not right in her, and she does too. Chickens prefer to live with their own kind. But I have a small hobby flock of 8 hens and 1 rooster. So, giving her this special attention is no problem. It may be different for you, though.

These are my thoughts on your hen's issue. I hope they are helpful in some way.

God Bless:caf
 

azygous

Crossing the Road
Dec 11, 2009
20,604
26,584
992
Colorado Rockies
Both responses you've gotten so far have made excellent points. It's for you to determine what may be causing this hen to withdraw from the flock. Often, the cycle of bully/victim can be self reinforcing - the more the hen is bullied, the more she considers herself a victim, the more the flock bullies her, and on and on until each is cemented into their roles.

I've found that with some dedicated intervention, you can interrupt the cycle and restore self confidence to the victimized hen. However, at no time must the victim be removed from the flock's proximity or she will become exiled, and the reintegration can be far more painful than it needs to be.

This past year, I also had an older hen, aged seven, become victimized to the point she stopped eating and was spending the days hiding in a nest box. After several weeks of "therapy", she recovered fully her self esteem and went back to being the assertive little dynamo she's always been.

The way I rehabilitate a victimized hen is as @Eggcessive describes, set her up in a safe enclosure where she is still very much a part of the flock, but is protected and can enjoy a vacation from torment. I have a "jail" pen built into my run for this purpose, as well as to isolate problem chickens as necessary. The inmate always is returned to the coop each night to roost with the flock, however.

As the hen recovers from her trauma of being victimized, she is gradually returned to the general population for increasingly longer periods to demonstrate to her and the flock that it's no longer necessary for her to be in a victim role.

It takes around three weeks for this restoration process to complete itself. I've been using this technique for around eight years, and have never had a failure.
 

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