bullying of molting hen

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by starchix, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. starchix

    starchix Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 17, 2010
    Bend, Oregon
    My sole Ameraucana hen, Hawkeye, is undergoing a fairly drastic molt, along with a couple of other girls. The rest of the flock (there are 7 total) molted earlier in the fall. A week ago or so, I noticed Hawkeye wasn't out with the rest of the flock in the outdoor run. I checked and she was inside the henhouse, tucked up on top of the nest boxes. The weather had just turned cold (lows in the low 20's and high 'teens) and I figured she was maybe just cold, due to lack of feathers. When I checked her, she was alert and perky, so not exhibiting what I recognized as sick chicken behavior (head turned away from the flock into a corner, not eating, etc). I checked up on molting behavior here on the forum and read that some chickens get cranky or withdrawn due to feather-growing-in irritation. Thought that might be it. Gave her another day or two and started giving her food and water on her perch when she seemed hungry.

    A day or so later I opened up the door and caught her eating a newly laid egg. Bad chicken! I cleaned up the egg, replaced the nesting material and gave her more food, while pondering the stewpot option. But really, there's no way I could eat one of my girls. Besides, I have no experience in the neck-wringing department.

    Next day I opened up the door again and Hawkeye jumped out onto the roost next to the door with gladsome buks. Hmm, I thought, I seem to have a friend. At least she was not just stuck on the shelf. Later I was out in the covered run, kneeling down to attach a cup for oyster shell. Hawkeye came right over to me, stood right next to me (on the side away from the other girls) and leaned up against me. When I lifted my arm, she crawled up into my lap! This is very unusual behavior for any of my hens, especially Hawkeye, who tends to be very active, curious and bold, but somewhat wary of me. Then she jumped up onto my arm and wouldn't budge. I stood up and went outside and she flew up onto my shoulder.

    She stayed there despite my best efforts to put her down. No one else was home, so I stood out there for quite a while with a chicken on my shoulder, like some kind of farmer/pirate. She was quite friendly, peering into my face and looking around. When I finally managed to detach her, the two head hens rushed over and double-teamed her -- jumped on top of her, rooster-style and started whomping on her. Yikes, no wonder she is hiding.

    Clearly I am now her protector and BFF. As much as I love having a parrot, er, chicken on my shoulder, she obviously is being bullied by the flock and needs to be safe again. I appeal to the chicken old-timers among you: is it normal for molting birds to be pecked? She was in the middle of the pecking order before this. Will she be able to safely re-integrate, once she grows her plumage back? I'm thinking in desperation of knitting her a wee chicken 'jumper' a la the English battery rescue ladies. Or would that make them attack her even more?

    Help?

    Until I figure out what to do next, sign me ....
    Kathbeard
     
  2. SuperChickenDude327

    SuperChickenDude327 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Eee, you may have a problem there. One of my chickens doesn't have many feathers, but she's pretty high in the pecking order. Does it look like this?
    [​IMG]
     
  3. starchix

    starchix Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 17, 2010
    Bend, Oregon
    Not really. She's just kind of scruffy-looking and patchy, all over.
     
  4. trish5909

    trish5909 Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 28, 2011
    Erin, Ontario, Canada
    Hi, some of my chickens are moulting now but earlier in the fall one of my hens had a really severe moult, losing so many of the feathers around her backside that she looked like only half a chicken (the front end with nothing behind the legs!). She was also very ratty around the neck, back and one wing. The other girls were merciless with her so I bought some No Pick, which is a bad-smelling red liquid that is supposed to disguise wounds and prevent pecking by other chickens. It didn't work at all, except making the hen truly look like roadkill, which unfortunately became her name.

    In the end, we had to separate her in a dog crate in our garage. I put up some fencing behind the garage for her to roam during the day. She spent about a month in isolation, which was a hard thing for me to do, though it was for her own good. When most of her pin feathers had come in and grown a bit I reintroduced her to the flock. One hen ruffled up her neck feathers and the 2 of them jumped up and chest-butted each other and that was it; by evening I couldn't tell her apart from the rest of the hens.

    I've read that the pin feathers still have blood circulating through them and that attracts pecking from other chickens, so isolating her may have prevented some injuries. Also, I was able to give her a really good diet with lots of protein & vitamins so that her feathers would grow back quickly & well.

    Good luck![​IMG]
     
  5. starchix

    starchix Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 17, 2010
    Bend, Oregon
    That sounds promising! Luckily, I have a secure covered run I can separate off from the rest of the girls, and that is where I'm keeping my poor hen. She has food, water and a portable nest box so she can stay warm. We are having temps in the 20's during the days, and at night she goes in with the rest of the girls where she can be safe in one of the regular nest boxes. This way they can all see each other and I don't have to take her somewhere else like you did. I am sneaking her scrambled eggs and cottage cheese and kind of enjoying having a shoulder hen. [​IMG]

    Thanks for your encouraging story. I will keep her separated for a while and then try putting them all together again. Too bad it is so cold -- they all really need each other's warmth to stay warm at night.
     
  6. starchix

    starchix Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 17, 2010
    Bend, Oregon
    BTW there are photos and the story in more detail on my blog,

    arabellasgarden.blogspot.com


    if anyone is interested.
     
  7. Tres Amigas

    Tres Amigas Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 25, 2011
    EA WA - 2 chicken yrs.
  8. idahochicklady

    idahochicklady Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 6, 2012
    I have been dealing with this since last week. when i noticed one of my hens looked awful. this is my second fall with my hens and never experienced a heavy molt so I was/am freaking out especially when i see two or three others chasing her down. i am used to pecking order but this seems brutal. I have been letting her stay in the coop at night and watching closely until everyone gets settled in. (The other hens willl try to push her off the roost) then in the morning i remove her because she is scrambling to get out or just hiding and i put her in the dog crate condo[​IMG] where i can feed her a bit more (been giving her scrambled eggs but don't know how much i should give) in the afternoon i let her out with the others in the yard and watch. But i feel bad that she has to stay in the crate during the day. dont know how long before feathers come back but she already has quite a bit coming in. trying to figure out how i can make an area where she can get around that wont kill my pocket book.
    tonight one hen pushed spike off her perch so i pushed the bully hen off too .I dont if they learn lessons or if she will forget tomorrow. i dont like being mean to the girls these are my kids but dont know what to do
     

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