Does your flock have an outcast?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Oceanbyrd, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. Oceanbyrd

    Oceanbyrd Out Of The Brooder

    60
    2
    33
    Nov 3, 2013
    [​IMG]

    Meet Ethel. She is the outcast of my little flock. If she dares try to hang around the other three chickens, Gertrude (Wyandotte) chases her away. If Edna (my other RIR) sees Gertrude do this, she will race over to help Gertrude chase her.

    The only one who will let her hang is Agnes (my EE). If Agnes isn't too close to the other two, Ethel will come graze with her and Agnes lets her. Sooner or later though, Gertrude notices and her and Edna chase her away.

    It is so bad that, at night, Ethel doesn't sleep in the coop. She shelters underneath. She couldn't get in if she tried. My small coop only has one small door and Edna waits until Agnes and Gertrude go in and then roosts in the doorway. I have a nice long pole for the girls to roost on, so she doesn't have to roost there.

    Any ideas, thoughts, observations?
     
  2. steny03

    steny03 Chillin' With My Peeps

    191
    16
    93
    May 13, 2013
    Nevada
    How long has she been the outcast?

    Flocks are constantly evolving. I have had one, Biscuit, who has always been the bottom of the totem pole because she is the only non black chicken in the flock, but lately a different hen (one of the black ones) seems to fallen out of favor too.

    Maybe give her some time?
     
  3. Oceanbyrd

    Oceanbyrd Out Of The Brooder

    60
    2
    33
    Nov 3, 2013
    I got all of these girls at the same time back in mid-November. They were about 7mo. old or so. They were given to me by a local farmer and were part of a much larger flock. I had 5. They live in a smallish but adaquate (according to my research) coop with attached run. They get to Free-Range for 3-5 hours, 6-7 days a week.

    About a month ago, the flock leader, Velda, began to chase her away. Then Gertrude and now Edna began too as well.

    About 3 weeks ago, Velda started crowing ( a late bloomer, lol) and we realized she was a Vinnie not a Velda and we rehomed her. It has only gotten worse since then.

    Gertrude won't tolerate her anywhere near her and Edna is her minion. She doesn't seem to stand from the rest, to my untrained eye. She isn't the only RIR. She isn't the smallest or largest. She has no wounds or deformities. I'm stumped.
     
  4. steny03

    steny03 Chillin' With My Peeps

    191
    16
    93
    May 13, 2013
    Nevada
    I am not super experienced with this...but this is what I'd do...

    I would separate the ring leader and keep her in isolation for a while. Do a search on this forum, and you'll find other instances where people have had to separate a troublemaker for a while....

    Hopefully someone else who has more experience will be able to offer a solution...otherwise if it becomes too bad, you might have to rehome one of them....
     
  5. Oceanbyrd

    Oceanbyrd Out Of The Brooder

    60
    2
    33
    Nov 3, 2013
    Thank you. I'll do a search. I didn't think of that, but separation may be the key. People keep telling me "they are just chickens, don't worry" and "they'll work it out". But I can't help but feel bad for how they treat her.
     
  6. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    5,387
    916
    291
    Dec 25, 2012
    There is no ring leader in this situation, there is only normal chicken behavior. Gertrude is doing what comes naturally to a chicken. Any so called cure for this behavior is simply designed to harm Gertrude in either body or spirit or maybe both. All any action that you undertake to favor one hen over the other is designed in some way to remove the boss hen and replace her with a lower ranking hen who maybe a kinder and gentler hen but this outcome is doubtful.

    You may be able to help the roost situation some what by adding another roost pole parallel to your current one. This is so Gertrude can't as easily control who roosts on the pole with her. Gertrude thinks that Edna is intruding on Gertrude's personal space and Gertrude's reaction is relative benign. Remember that your chickens are not humans, they are hen chickens and as such they will act like hen chickens act.

    Your hens will not now, nor will they ever act like a rational human! It is simply too much to expect. Since Ethel is not experiencing any harm except maybe to her self esteem, let girls be girls. Anyway, just how much self esteem can one hen possess seeing that she fornicates in public and eats raw earth worms?

    It is common for a hen to crow like a rooster, especially when the flock male has been removed. If this is the case in your flock Gertrude is acting like the rooster that chickens are accustom to occupying the top slot in the pecking order. No one ever said that chicken society is pretty, or that chicken society is in any way equal to the human society that we understand.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  7. Oceanbyrd

    Oceanbyrd Out Of The Brooder

    60
    2
    33
    Nov 3, 2013
    Despite my terminology (a poor attempt at humor) I realize they are chickens and not "girls" or " ladies" but, again, I find it humerous to call them such. I do not expect them to exhibit human rationality, hence my questions and research into chickens. I don't see that I used the terms "gang leader" or " ring leader" it's almost midnight and I'm tired, so if I'm wrong, that's not what I meant to imply.

    I do consider Gertrude to be a flock leader, of a sort (realizing 4 birds isn't much of a flock). I observe them when they are free-ranging and I'm in the garden and I notice the following:
    1. She comes out of the coop run first and looks all around. The other ladies seem to be waiting for her to relax her "watching stance" before they venture out to range.
    2. They let her get to food first, generally.
    3. As I see them throughout the time I'm out there I see that she is the hen most concerned with the other's actions.
    4. All negative-seeming behavior incidents toward Ethel were begun by my former Roo, Vinnie. Gertrude would then follow suit. When he was rehomed, Gertrude took over initiating these incidents and now Edna will follow her lead.

    This is all "normal" chicken behavior, but it does lead me to the conclusion that, with the removal of Vinnie, she has stepped into the top of the pecking order.

    I will not willy-nilly separate any one hen, but I will research and consider all my options, including temporary seperation, NOT imprisonment. This to be done, if chosen, humanely.

    I appreciate your advice about Adding a second Roosting bar. I will always try simple solutions first.

    Finally, I am aware I may just have to live with the behavior or, if it gets to the point of Ethel being pecked at until bloodied, I may have to either have a chicken dinner or rehome one. I love my chickens, but they are livestock. I grew up in a house with livestock and know that, ultimately they are food and/or food producers. Having said that, I will worry about Ethel and how the hens treat her. It is in my nature.

    I hope I explained where I am coming from, my views on raising chickens, and ideas/observations on the situation in my flock, with out sounding upset. I am not mad, just want to be clear and orderly.


    -edited for spelling error :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  8. ldyshrk

    ldyshrk Out Of The Brooder

    26
    0
    22
    Aug 19, 2012
    I have one hen that is definitely the "black sheep" -- our Sultan. Most of the other hens keep her at a distance during the day. It isn't as extreme as your situation, but I feel you. I too want them to be nicer, but what can you do. I have always gotten my chicks and pullets in groups of 2 or 3. But the hens that didn't come with another hen of the same breed seem to be more of loners than the rest -- this is true for Sulti (our Sultan) and JB (our Japanese bantam). I know, we aren't too creative with names ;)
     
  9. Oceanbyrd

    Oceanbyrd Out Of The Brooder

    60
    2
    33
    Nov 3, 2013
    Neither was I, really. But it is easier than saying "the smaller RIR" or such, yeah? I I like the term, "Black Sheep" hen. Lol. I honestly am not super worried about her during the day, but am baffled that they don't even seem to let her in the coop at night. (Or they pester her so much she chooses not too). The southern Oregon coast doesn't stay super cold, but we get our moments and I don't want her exposed to the elements without other chickens to huddle against.
     
  10. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,923
    2,898
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Yes, I have an outcast, or rather, a misfit. Flo is a three-year old EE with a long history of manic feather picking. The only hen who lets her near is her former brooder mate. Even though Flo seems to be cured of her nasty vice, the others refuse to let her roost in the main hen coop. So she took it upon herself to go move in with the new pullets in their coop, separate from the main coop.

    However, there is another misfit who has also decided to roost with the pullets, and she's a two-year old Speckled Sussex who loves to beat up Flo. So Flo looks to me almost every night to help her roost. I'll find her outside in the run after all the others have gone into roost. She stands at my feet, looking straight up at me, going, "Caw! Caw! Caw!" This is language she uses at no other time except with me. I understand her perfectly. I carry her around to the coop access door, look for a spot well away from her nemesis, and deposit her on the perch. It's become a ritual, though sometimes her nemesis won't have the energy to bully Flo and Flo will roost without incident.

    If you keep your refereeing to a bare minimum and provide your chickens with as many alternatives as your imagination can conjure up, you'll find that these animals are clever enough to adapt to just about any problem.

    And, as in Flo's case, if they need your help, they'll find a way to let you know.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by