Bullying of one hen

DebiWebi

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2020
13
5
16
Hi there, I have 5 hens of various breeds. They were all bought as day-olds on May 1, 2019 and have gotten along well except for the past two weeks. One of my smaller hens Dixie suddenly started attacking my Jersey Giant. Even while free ranging in the yard, she would chase Jersey down and grab her comb. I'd break it up, hold Dixie down for about 15 seconds and then put in her a travel cage for a while. That worked to the extent that she will not attack Jersey when she can see me. But when they're in the run (64 sq ft plus attached 32 sq ft tractor and attached coop), all hell breaks loose. She won't let Jersey near the food and water or sleep on the roost set up in the run. Jersey will roost in the coop and hide there until the other chickens are let out of the run to free range. Yesterday two chickens went into the coop and chased Jersey out. This morning, Dixie trapped Jersey in the tractor and would not let her out. Intervention again and right now Dixie is locked in the run by herself. Now, two other chickens have started going after Jersey. She's terrified of them. I've had to put some Blue Kote on her slightly bloody comb. When the chickens are all out and I'm on the porch, she'll come running to me because she knows the other chickens will not attack when I'm there. The weird thing is that sometimes one will attack for apparently no reason, and other times they are all in close proximity with no problems. Jersey is bigger than the others, but she's been very meek, does not fight back. But even though she backs down, they still continue to chase and grab her by the comb, rip feathers out, jump on her, etc. She's healthy, the only thing that's different is that she's molting (very slowly, first molt). She's still laying.

I have a friend that has an animal rescue who said bring Dixie over for a 2-3 days to see if that breaks the cycle. When I brought her there, a giant rooster immediately cornered, attacked and mounted her and I just couldn't leave her there. She also looked like she was in shock. The conditions there don't look so great to me either, so I brought her back home. Her behavior was better for one day. My rescue friend, who is a bit if a chicken "expert," says she normally lets the chickens work out their own problems.

Any advice on how to stop this would be appreciated. I don't want to get rid of any chickens, especially Jersey. I also don't want to reinforce any bad behavior, if I'm doing it all wrong.
 

MrFluffyandGirls

Songster
Dec 30, 2018
931
2,618
191
SC, Low Country
Try having two feeding/watering stations so Jersey does not have to compete so hard for food. she can go to one while they're at the other, vise versa. Make sure you have areas like a perch where she can jump up on by herself to get away from her tormentors and a few obstacles in the run where she dodge attacks or the smaller ones when behind an obstacle won't see her; kinda like out of sight out of mind. Certainly chickens can be cannibals so if any sores or open wounds don't let her in with them but keep her in sight so shes not become a total outcast. Chickens can also be butt holes so if an aggressor like the one you have is starting the crap put her in the see but don't touch time out.
Also it's very unwise to just toss a chicken into a group of new chickens and your chicken expert friend should know this. It's also very unhealthy; Chicken flocks have their own biochemistry and introducing a bird into a new environment of a existing flock without proper precautions could be detrimental to their health.
 

DebiWebi

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2020
13
5
16
Thanks I'll see what I can do as far as the extra food & water. We do have a second set of feeders on our back porch, but I'll have to figure out how to get an extra feeder/waterer into the run. Plus the obstacles. The run is 8'x8', not a lot of room. If there was a second entry into the tractor I could put them in there. Maybe I'll get my husband to make the far end of it into a door.
 

MrFluffyandGirls

Songster
Dec 30, 2018
931
2,618
191
SC, Low Country
Thanks I'll see what I can do as far as the extra food & water. We do have a second set of feeders on our back porch, but I'll have to figure out how to get an extra feeder/waterer into the run. Plus the obstacles. The run is 8'x8', not a lot of room. If there was a second entry into the tractor I could put them in there. Maybe I'll get my husband to make the far end of it into a door.
Space maybe your issue causing anxiety stress. Some breeds take confinement better than others, what breed is the one being a bully?
 

DebiWebi

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2020
13
5
16
Like a cage (a large dog crate works well) with in the run so the chickens can see each other but not touch each other. So the chicken in the cage can chill out and observe appropriate social behavior.
OK thanks. I have a wire transport cage set up on the back porch. I started out with time outs for the aggressive chicken, but now that I have 3 out of the 5 attacking I'll have to rethink that. This morning we left everyone out to free range but her when she trapped Jersey in the tractor. Setup images to follow in a new post.
 

DebiWebi

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2020
13
5
16
What are the breeds attacking your Jersey?
RIR are notorious for causing problems. If one starts, they all jump in.
Can you also send some pictures of your set up please?
Dixie (the most aggressive) is an Ameraucana. Then comes Einstein, I think she's a Partridge Rock, and Ginger—totally out of character for her. I don't know what she is, Buff Rock? Photo attached, she's lounging on the patio furniture right now. The only one that hasn't jumped on the bandwagon is Jade, a Whiting True Green.

Attaching photo of our backyard for free ranging (100' long, garden also open to them at this time of year). Next photo is the run/tractor/coop setup, last is the interior. I usually have things hanging for them to work on, i.e. a whole cabbage, seed block, apples. But they also attack in the back yard while free ranging. That's Dixie watching me by the garden gate.

The thing is, I had another flock for 8 years, same setup, no problems other than a poke here and there. These girls have been together since May 1 and the problems only started about 1-2 weeks ago.
ginger.jpg back-yard.jpg run-tractor-coop.jpg inside-run.jpg
 

DebiWebi

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2020
13
5
16
I forgot to mention, Dixie crowed a few times yesterday morning. I used to have a hen that crowed (poorly), so I wasn't totally taken aback, but I was surprised how perfectly rooster it sounded. Then she went into the coop and laid an egg.
 

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