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Biting pullet

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lynnski, Sep 27, 2016.

  1. Lynnski

    Lynnski Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After having to rehome our light brahma cockerel at 9 weeks, we were left with 4 girls (barred plymouth rock, NH red, EE, light brahma). The Barred Rock stepped up to lead the girls and i saw a clear pecking order at 12 weeks. They are 16 weeks tomorrow and I cant wait to see who will be the first to lay an egg (my bet is on the NH red) So many physical changes have been happening lately to the girls too. My issue lately is that the Barred Rock is biting me.

    The girls are held every day (they really only tolerate this!), come running when they hear me, climb on my lap, eat from my hand with no issues but when i pick up poop, she goes after my hands. I usually stop what i am doing and pick her up and just carry her around for a while. She doesnt love it, but doesnt struggle either. I put her down and resume the dootie duty and she bites my hands!

    I have read lots of old advice about what to do about a biting hen, but wondered what really works.

    Also, is it normal for them to "scratch" me with their beaks? One gets on my lap or shoes and scratches with her feet like i am dirt! They do the normal peck at the freckles, clothes and buttons but its never hard, like when they eat from my hand.

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    Any suggestions are appreciated!
     
  2. Wyatt0224

    Wyatt0224 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well I will have to agree with you on that the NH will lay first. My guess would be that your barred rock doesn't see you at the top. One thing that may or may not work is act like a rooster and use your hand to "tap" her on the head. If it continues or gets worse maybe put more force behind it. Just out of curiosity what other techniques did you read about?
     
  3. carlf

    carlf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yep, you're no longer at the top of the pecking order!
    I would stop letting her jump up on your lap. Just push her off.
    And give her a light tap on the noggin next time she pecks you.
    Might also want to try gently pushing her onto the ground and giving her a back-shake, imitate a rooster mounting her.
    Sooner or later she will get the picture.
     
  4. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This will be difficult at first, but I've been there and created the same issue- chickens that bite. I don't mix handling (picking up, checking over, trimming nails, looking for dirty bums) with food. When I was hand feeding that first group, every time I reached for a chicken, they would follow my hand and peck as I reached in. In their minds, hand approaching meant "take food"-- that got really old. They get plenty of treats, just not eating from my hand.

    Your chickens have learned that your hands produce food. Your Barred Rock is going after your hand while you're scooping poo because she "knows" your hands have food, and while you're on dootie duty, presenting your hands without treats, she's determined to get the treats- she takes them by pecking when you've got them, so she's just doing what she does to get what she wants.

    Given that they're scratching on you with feet and beak, they're treating you like you're one big flock block. (those cubes with seeds and other various goodies) I strongly urge you to establish physical boundaries with them. "I can touch you but you can't touch me"... While they look so much more grown up now compared with their adorable chick selves, they'll only be getting stronger and heavier- they're not done growing at 16 weeks. If they're only jumping up for food-motivations, then I would discontinue that- chickens looking for food peck and bite.

    This doesn't mean cease and desist treat-giving, just no more hand feeding given the issues. You're well past the trust-building part of your relationship- they know you and that you bring good things, and they seek you out when you're in their sight, so mission well accomplished.

    Think of this the same way as you might when starting out with a puppy- at first the mouthy-bites are just exploring and learning- but biting of any kind becomes unacceptable at some point.

    Your chickens will enjoy their treats just as much from the ground. They'll still come running when they see you. First comes establishing yourself as the CONTROLLER of the treats, not the climbable treat dispenser. Think of yourself as the granny chicken who gets her pick of everything before any other chicken dares approach the food. She pecks them and chases them off, has her fill, and only when she's good and ready do others consider approaching. Just because there's food to be had doesn't mean the youngsters get to run her over, bite her, scratch her.

    Others have suggested using your hand to peck and I agree. The top of the head or the middle of the back works well, Sometimes the back is easier because it's bigger and sturdier, and if you've ever watched a group of mixed age chickens, that's where they seem to aim.

    Pick the treat, put it on the ground, and then defend it like you're granny hen. Anyone who comes in to nab it gets a "bite" on the back- you'll probably find they won't believe you at first. There shouldn't be any anger or frustration behind it, just setting down new rules. This might also help them see your hands as a beak instead of a food source. Mine got so bad that they'd see the treat, jump up, grab my fingers or flesh, even when they could easily have gotten the treat instead. They'll get the treat- when you decide to give it to them.

    Hopefully that will help with the scooping problem- be consistent- good peck to the head or back every time she goes for your hands, every time.. If she's eyeing you, do it THEN. If you miss, pursue her around the yard (not anger, follow-through). Ultimately it's much more enjoyable to have chickens that don't bite or jump up to try and steal treats.

    Hope that helps a little!
     
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  5. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I do a poke or tap as well if one of mine gets pushy - not too hard, but enough that I hear a small squeak of protest to know they got the message. Nowadays I only have minor issues when I switch nail polish colors and the new color attracts them, but even then they seem to have learned that the "shiny color things on ends of fingers" aren't good eating.

    If they're crowding around and I don't have anything for them to eat, I open both hands and show it to them so they can see, no goodies to be had. They've figured it out that an open hand is no good, a closed hand and me calling out to them means a treat is incoming.
     
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  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    This^^^
    Gentle - maybe, at least not violently, but definitely firmly. Sometimes you have to be fast about it too, so there's no mistaking your dominance.
    If 'finger pecking' them doesn't work, hold them firmly to the ground with hand on back until they submit, repeat as necessary.

    I still hand feed on occasion, any pecking gets pecked back pronto.
     
  7. Lynnski

    Lynnski Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is wonderful advice! Thanks!!!

    It makes complete sense now that you all say, that she is establishing her dominance over me and my food!

    @Wyatt0224 - I have read people suggest holding a chicken like a football and pushing their heads down, Pinning them to the ground by their necks, pulling feathers.... It just seemed so extreme and maybe that was for agressive birds or roosters, but seemed not to fit my situation. I am happy to hear you agree with the NH red as possibly being the first to lay an egg! thanks!!

    @carlf - Yup, now that you say that, when she jumps on me, she had a bit of a tall and intimidating posture.

    @Shezadandy - Thanks for the info and the reassurance.... i certainly wouldnt want to make things worse by making her defensive when she sees me, so your info really drives home the suggestions the others are making. I am used to the mind of dogs, so the bird brain is tripping me up! Even tho i decided not to give them a flock block till they are giving me eggs, i see know that I AM the flock block! so true! hahaha! I am pretty sure that my new nickname around the homestead! Im hoping Granny hen sticks! I am instituting the granny hen technique today!! I have noticed that even if she is not pecking me, she is following me like shes inspecting my work! Now i understand she is trying to intimidate me and i need to stand my ground.

    @rosemarythyme - I love the idea of showing them empty hands.... this is the type of training i was hoping chickens could learn! I will certainly give it a shot.

    @aart - Thanks for bringing it home.... i know the head/back tap is the way to go here.... but i wasnt sure about force so thanks for saying firm. I tried the head tap just now, and she struck with more aggression. I had to back it up with a firmer tap. She got it, but stared my hand down like it was her arch enemy! I know this sounds weird but i stared her back (with my hand!) hahaha! She walked away!

    I cant thank you all enough... I'll be back if there are any hiccups!
     
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  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Good! Gave her the evil 'hand' head, huh? LOL!!
    Yes, it takes some persistence. I've never had one get the message the first time.....always takes at least a couple finger pecks, then pin 'em down.
    She may try again tomorrow, just to be sure you mean business.
     
  9. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    to be honest....NOT pecking order...Your dealing with a learned behaviour taught by yourself....Hand feeding is just that....Your hand is a trigger and they do not understand if your cleaning the poop or feeding them.....Start feeding from the ground...Soon they will forget your hands....


    Cheers!
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Nahhh, they can learn that hands do not always hold food.
     

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