Can a rejected chicken ever rejoin the flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by bird_brain_scientist, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. bird_brain_scientist

    bird_brain_scientist Out Of The Brooder

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    I have four hens in a backyard setup - they sleep in an Eglu Go at night and share a big wire mesh run that I built for them during the day.

    One of my hens has always been neurotic. In spite of early hand-training, when I pick her up she shrieks like I am about to pull out her innards. She is also the lowest on the pecking order. A while ago I noticed that if I put her in the run with the other chickens while she is in this state, they would peck at her. I thought it might just be a dominance thing - they take advantage of her while she's frightened to assert their dominance.

    One day I got home to find there was blood all over the run. They had balded her and created a deep wound in the back of her head. Whenever they would have any chance at all to interact, within seconds several of the chickens would visciously attack her, even when I tried to scare them off by brushing them aside they would come right back.

    As this was shortly before the holidays, I moved them all into a shed (with regular visits from a pet-sitter) and kept the injured chicken in a cage that was separate from the others, but until the sitter put boxes at the edge of the cage, they would still peck at her through the sides and she was not smart enough to move away.

    I now sleep her in a different coop (she doesn't like it) and have her wander the yard outside of the run while the others are locked inside, so they can all see each other but not interact. When I do let them interact, she runs away and shrieks when the other chickens make the slightest movement toward her. It may be well-placed, because I now sometimes see them "running her off" like they do wild birds that land in the yard. Whenever I try letting them mingle they attack her again almost right away, even if there are other interesting things happening like they just got outside or there is food out and they're hungry, so I don't think it's boredom or space.

    I guess the question is, has the flock rejected this chicken for good, or if I keep them separate long enough (weeks? months?) is there a chance she'll reintegrate? I don't think she is happy on her own, and I am concerned that even If I took her out of the flock, another chicken would soon have the same problems. Has this ever happened to your birds?
     
  2. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Can you put ONE other hen in with her and test that situation? If that works (no injuries causing blood - flying feathers and squawks set just part of it.

    After a couple of weeks with them separate but visible, try to integrate the two back into the flock.
     
  3. bird_brain_scientist

    bird_brain_scientist Out Of The Brooder

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    That's an interesting idea. There are two chickens that are the most aggressive towards her, I could try letting her share the yard with the third less aggressive chicken and then eventually working up to one of the others.

    Does this kind of thing just eventually happen to the lowest-ranked bird? Or is my case unusual? I think they would kill her right now if they had the chance and i can't figure out what would have started it. It could be her neuroticism, which wears on even my nerves, but they grew up together and will have lived together for 2 years in the spring.
     
  4. Nutcase

    Nutcase Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    This sounds like a dangerous situation for your 'neurotic' hen. Sometimes there will just be one bird who is rejected and isolated and there is not much you can do about it. DO NOT leave her with the other hens unattended. By the sound of things, she'd be dead by the time you got back. Yes, if there is a less aggressive hen then you can try them together, watching carefully. Eventually if this works out you could leave them for a while with caution.
     
  5. chucksaway

    chucksaway Out Of The Brooder

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    I have had this problem myself, even if you bring one of the other birds to keep her company it will attack her (talking personal experiance) i have found that there is 2 ways of solving this problem,1: introduce a couple of new YOUNG birds to her and allow them to run together for a few weeks then reintroduce the 2 flocks or, 2: re-home her with somone who has a larger flock. I have only had this problem when keeping a very small flock, and have succesfully rehomed 2 bullied birds. I have also found that rehoming the 'ringleader' of these attacks helps. Had to rehome her as she was attacking the new chicks that one of the other hens had hatched, unfortunatly she had already managed to kill one before i had removed her. Hope this helps.
     
  6. bird_brain_scientist

    bird_brain_scientist Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the advice everyone - I will follow up to let you know how things go for her.

    Chucksaway: It's interesting that this is a small flock problem. As I am still chasing work around the country I couldn't add any more birds at this time, so I suppose if the current experiment doesn't improve things, that only leaves your option 2: rehome the bird into a bigger flock, sad as it would be to see her go.

    I have a theory that the reason she is the "odd chicken out" is that she is a barred rock, whereas the other three are shades of brown: a RIR, welsummer and easter egger. I have read that chickens will pick on ones that look different from themselves. I had thought I had avoided this problem because they are ALL different from one another, but the three other birds are more visually alike than her.
     
  7. bird_brain_scientist

    bird_brain_scientist Out Of The Brooder

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    Update: I have been keeping the birds in various pairings, which has been informative.

    - When I pair the bullied hen with the alpha chicken in the run, the alpha chicken will try to attack her as soon as she is done eating. The squeals will bring chicken #2 running to the run to join in on the action.
    - When I pair the bullied hen with all of the chickens *other* than the alpha chicken, there are no problems at all.

    This has me thinking that the alpha is the instigator, and that rather than isolating the bullied hen, I should isolate the alpha chicken. I have read that a chicken "loses rank" if she is isolated long enough. Perhaps I should do this to the alpha chicken to "bring her down to size", in hopes she will not be confident enough to revert to her aggressive ways.
     

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