Feather Picking, egg pecking and rooster impersonating

EandC

In the Brooder
6 Years
Jan 14, 2014
3
0
42
Please help! I have a hen (maybe more than one, but I’m leaning towards one main hen) that I have seen with my own eyes eating feathers, jumping on the back of other hens and acting like a rooster, and most recently pecking an egg and starting to eat the yolk right in front of me. I have a total of 24 girls. They were all summer babies last year, so some of them started laying toward the end of our Alabama winter. They also started a very small molt this spring. Since then, I have about 5-6 of them who still have large areas of missing feathers around their tail feathers. The skin is also varying shades of red. I’m beginning to wonder if they are being pecked. If they are, I would have to assume it’s my bossy and nosy Isa Brown hen. I have a coop that easily accommodates all of them for sleeping with extra room on the roosting bars and 9 nesting boxes. They only use 4-5 of the boxes. There’s a covered run attached to the coop that’s 8’x 15’. I keep their two large PVC pipe feeders and large waterer in there to keep them dry. The covered run has an open door to the outdoor fenced area that is approx. 60’x60’. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. None of my hens seem overly stressed, they all seem to easily get to the food and water. They’ve scratched their outdoor run down to dirt of course but still get plenty of bugs and weed clippings from me. I’m open to any and all suggestions. If she’s just a bully, is there hope for rehabilitating her?
 

ECSandCCFS

Free Ranging
6 Years
Jul 23, 2013
2,105
3,866
532
Georgia
I just want to start off by saying that these behaviors are unrelated.
Often, the flock leader, when there is no rooster, will produce more testosterone, and therefore act like a rooster, including by mounting other hens. You can't "train" her out of it, since it is from hormones. If she is being overly bossy, you could try separating her for a few weeks, with one or two other hens for company, and re-introducing them. Then they would be unfamiliar, and probably would not make it to the top of the pecking order for a while. This will probably help her aggressiveness, but I don't know for sure if it will clear up her mounting of other hens.
The other behavior is egg-eating, which can become a destructive habit very easily. Just one or two hens eating eggs can result in many hens learning the behavior, which making it nearly impossible for you to get eggs. There are several ways you can try to teach them not to eat eggs, including blowing an egg out and filling it with mustard, and adding fake eggs that won't break when the hens peck them.
Sorry if this was confusing! Let me know if you have any questions!
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
75,019
81,982
1,607
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
I have a coop that easily accommodates all of them
How big is that in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics can really help.

Do they have access to the 60x60 area all and every day?

Where was the egg that was eaten in front of you, on the ground or in a nest?
Was the shell particularly thin?

What all and how exactly are you feeding?
Low nutrition, protein and calcium, can be causes of egg eating.
 

EandC

In the Brooder
6 Years
Jan 14, 2014
3
0
42
Thank you all for your help!! It’s a 60’x60’ outdoor area that they have access to every day.

The egg that was pecked was in the nesting box. All the ones I’ve found are in the nesting box. The shells seem strong to me and I do give oyster shell on a regular basis. The shells are much stronger than my previous hens.

For feed, I give them nature’s best organic layer pellets that are available at tractor supply. I don’t give a lot of table scraps or treats other than weeds I pull or veggie scraps from our meals.

The thing right now that bothers me the most is the feather picking. She’s not the only one that does it. I’ve actually watched several of them do it. With such a large space and an indoor and outdoor roost/activity area I don’t know what else I could do to entertain them.
 

EandC

In the Brooder
6 Years
Jan 14, 2014
3
0
42
Yes, but how big is the coop?

Give them some animal protein...mealworms, canned mackerel, scrambled eggs, etc.

The coop is 8’x4’ with an attached covered run that is 8’x12’. That has a door that opens to their outdoor run. They have two roosting 2x4s that are each 8 feet long.

Thank you for your suggestions!! My neighbor grows mealworms so I may see if she can get me started.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
75,019
81,982
1,607
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
The coop is 8’x4’ with an attached covered run that is 8’x12’. That has a door that opens to their outdoor run. They have two roosting 2x4s that are each 8 feet long.
That's tight space for 24 birds.
Best if they have 12" of roost length for each bird.
I'm not surprised you have a pecking problem,
even if they spend most the day in the 60x60' area.
Roost time is the most contentious time of day,
the pecking there can become a long term habit.
 

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