Bullying in the Coop (Pack behavior in chickens?)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LittleZ, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. LittleZ

    LittleZ In the Brooder

    Apr 23, 2012
    So... I had a lot of changes to spring on my chickens (integrate younger chicks with older ones, upgrade the coop, and move) so I opted to do them all at once. All seemingly went well. I moved my six young chicks to the new house and their new coop first. About a week later came my three older hens. For the first couple of weeks, it seemed a very smooth transition. Everyone seems happy running around their new digs, inside and out. At night I noticed that the older hens roosted together on the right side of the coop with the younger ones snuggled up on the left. Then about a week ago I noticed that the young chickens were not heading into the coop until the very last minute waiting for almost complete darkness. This is typically followed by a lot of squawking and commotion in the coop until eventually everyone settles down. A little observation revealed the source of this raucous bedtime ritual .

    My dominant hen heads to bed first roosting near the door. She then proceeds to chase off all the younger hens attempting to head in for the night. Soon she is joined by her older flockmates who take their respective places on the roost center and far end. When the younger six finally make their way into the coop, they congregate on the floor. Attempts to climb up on the roost result in pecking and feather pulling by the guard, no blood... yet. The young hens do eventually get up there but they cower or huddle together almost on top of one another. I never thought that chickens would work together in such a sinister fashion. Am I worrying for nothing? Is this something that will work out eventually? Or should I segregate the coop in an attempt to keep the peace? Thoughts?

    Oh, everyone gets along well enough when they are out free-ranging, although with the days getting shorter, there will soon be more time spent in close quarters. Also, they seem to like the coop and are laying and eating in there without problem, it should be big enough for 12-15, so nine seems a completely reasonable number.
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    What you are describing is much what I see every night. There is always a "head chicken spot" and there will likely be a squabble over who gets it, regardless of who had it last night or who appears to be at the top of the pecking order. For some reason, even though a flock seems to get along with minimal "reminding" of who is the lead hen all day, they seem to find it necessary to have this conversation at roost time. Just leave them to it.

    It's also not unusual for a flock to have more than one "clique" within the flock. This might persist for years, so they hang out in certain small groups during the day, even though they all come running if they think you are bringing a treat. This can also show up with grouping on the roost, one reason I like having an oversize roost. it also lets them spread out more in hot weather if they get warm.
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