Bully hen vs new egg layers

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by teria, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. teria

    teria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a RIR that is about 10 months old. She has always been a bit of a bully with my group of 6 younger chickens. We got them when she was about 5 months old, and she just doesn't tolerate them very well. She will deliberately find ways to push them around. If I put out scratch, which I do in small piles rather than scattering it, because it gives them space between each other so there is no fighting, each chicken has a small pile to themselves, she insists on going from pile to pile and pecks the younger chickens away when she gets to their pile. They have come to learn she is mean to them, and they give her a wide berth, which is fine, except for the new problem I have encountered. She doesn't let them go in the coop to lay their eggs.

    At night, when they go to roost, she makes sure the younger chickens do not come to the end of the roost that she is on, but will allow the older chickens to be there. She is not the top chicken, and I do understand pecking order and it's purpose. I don't interfere as long as it doesn't get out of hand. If it's a quick peck, I let it be.

    Now, the younger chickens have started laying eggs. So far two are laying, but, two more are really ready and will start any time now. The first one to lay was our Austrolorp. She was laying in our cat's igloo outside, but, when I found where she was laying them, I made it impossible for her to get there or anywhere else that she could hide her eggs. I kept showing her the nesting boxes in the coop, and offered her a large low basket as an alternative, which she liked, but, the RIR seemed to know the Aus was trying to lay an egg and she kept coming into the coop and trying to get to the Aus. I knew she wasn't interested in being friendly, and didn't want her to peck this poor little chicken who was already stressing that the RIR was even in the same space as she was, so I chased her out of the coop. Still, the Aus was determined not to lay her egg in the coop, and kept wandering the yard looking for another place. None of the younger chickens will go in the coop or run when the RIR is in there. She chases them out. The Aus kept running up to me like she wanted me to help her. I just took her back in the coop and put her in the basket or a nesting box. It was so sad how stressed she was. I've seen chickens stress when they are laying those first eggs, but, this was so much worse.

    Finally, with no other choice, the Aus hid behind the nesting boxes and laid her egg on the floor of the coop.

    Two days later the Aus was stressing again and the RIR was chasing her out of the run. I had to put the Aus in the coop, and close the door so the RIR couldn't get inside. After I knew the Aus was settled in and laying, I opened the door and the RIR went on in. She didn't bother the Aus, maybe she couldn't find her, I don't know. But, then one of the EE youngers started looking for a place to lay, and sure enough, the RIR chased her away from the run.

    I don't want to give away the RIR if this is solvable, but, I guess I'm hoping to hear what others think about this and what you would do. I work when they are laying, so, I can't always be there to run interference and I can't just put her in a dog crate 24/7 in this cold weather with no friends to help keep her warm.

    Help.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    First thing is you have to take the concept of mean out of your dialogue about chickens. She's not mean, she's dominant, she's expressing the pecking order which is normal especially when they are under a year old. It also sounds like she has no one her age so she has no real friends or allies. As the younger ones become older she should calm down a bit but will most likely always be the top hen, someone has to be, it's what keeps a flock in order and working. You can't fix any of it and the more you try to favor the younger ones the more she has to exert her dominance, stay out of it, eventually all will calm down. The big thing you have to keep in mind is if you added more young ones they would be treated that way by the ones you think are being bullied.
     
  3. teria

    teria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    She actually has a brooder mate that she was raised with. She is not the top hen, she is about three or four down from the top hen. I don't favor the babies anymore than the others, I am just trying to get her to let them lay their eggs in the coop without being attacked. She stands and waits for them when they start making noises like they want to lay, and she runs to head them off in the run, chases them out, and then follows them around pecking them even when they are retreating. They do not challenge her, they run from her. I have stayed out of it, but, I need those chickens to lay their eggs in the coop, but with her standing guard over the run, they can't get in to get to the coop.

    From my understanding RIR's that are not bred well can be mean, and I am pretty sure she wasn't. I'm just looking for ways to get my littles to lay their eggs in the coop. I don't care where any of them are in the pecking order, or if she throws her weight around, I just want her to not seek them out to run them out of the coop and leave them be when they are laying their eggs.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Remove the bully from the coop for a few days...or better yet crate her in the coop itself if you have room so she can't beat on the other birds.
    Hard to manage if you're not around all day.... if your coop is not large enough to have an isolation area.

    More info about your flock(numbers and ages) and your coop/run(feet by feet sizes), might help us help you find a solution.
    Good pics are always helpful.

    There are birds that are 'just bad' and need to be souped.
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Sorry, I didn't mean any offense. Understanding of the pecking order and how it works is important knowledge. The problem you are having is because all your birds are immature and a bit like high school students. I might do like aart says and remove her, but that might nor work out this time because she may fight more with the young ones to get her pecking order position back, and it doesn't matter that the others aren't fighting, she's still telling them she's boss over them, I'm sure it's all been triggered by sexual maturity.

    I think some RIR do poorly in confinement. I would wait it out,otherwise get rid of her. Sorry I wasn't judging, I too favor my bottom of the pecking order birds and hate to see bullying behaviors, but it's all considered normal behavior, and we need to know when to step in and when to let it be settled between the birds.
     
  6. teria

    teria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh, you didn't offend me, I wasn't clear in my first post about the situation. I do appreciate the tips about RIR's not doing well in confinement. That's the kind of information I need to decide how to handle her. Our flock is 12 chickens and their coop is 8x8, with a temporary run of 8x12, they free range our 1/4 acre back yard all day. The older four are almost a year old, The RIR and her brooder mate are almost 10 months, and the younger 6 are almost 8 months. I agree they are certainly acting like teenagers. It can be frustrating but I also know what it's like to be a middle child, so I'm hoping she will mellow out as she matures. She's a good hen, lays an egg nearly every day and I wouldn't want to part with her. She's also in love with my husband, so, she can't be all bad.
     
  7. Ourpeeps123

    Ourpeeps123 Out Of The Brooder

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    I have a Rhode island red too, and she also sometimes goes after the younger chickens. We would keep her in the run and let the others out of keep them in the run and let her out. Older chickens can get a little territorial when you have younger chickens.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I'd like to just cut to the chase here, and say that some breeds do not mingle well with other breeds, and to keep the peace, I have resorted to separating them.

    Five years ago, I picked up four "mystery chicks" from the local Big R feed store. I thought I might be getting EEs since they were chipmunk striped. They grew into Speckled Sussex, and soon became the holy terrors of the flock, bullying, picking feathers, and keeping things stirred up.

    Around that time, I lost my two roosters in rather quick succession and a coop and run became empty. It was a no-brainer. I gathered up the four hellions and installed them in the vacant quarters, and peace reigned again in the rest of the flock. Even now, if I let them all free-range together, these Sussex start throwing their weight around again, and truth be told, they seem much more content to be separate from the flock.

    This is what I recommend you do if you can figure a way. If you can't build a separate pen and coop, it may be possible to partition the coop so your two RIRs can have their own space and not feel obligated to run the rest ragged. It's amazing how easy it is to cut a new pop hole in a coop so these other chickens can have their own entrance, too, and throwing up a temporary run for them off this new pop hole may also be feasible, at least until summer, when the Reds can free range and stay out of everyone's hair.

    It's called "flock management".
     

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