Fighting and Molting - Any Advise?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Fletch83, Dec 6, 2014.

  1. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi all,

    I had posted a question very similar to this last week but I find I am in need of more advise and want to see if anyone has experienced anything similar!

    I have two EE hens, Pomona and Pasadena, who have been closely bonded together since the day they were hatched. They have never fought in the past, other than some minor squabbles over spots on the roosting bar or who gets the last mealworm. They have always been inseparable. Pasadena is the dominant alpha hen, but has never really picked on Pomona. They are about 2 years old this month, and right now are both going through their first truly heavy molt.

    I know that hen's personalities can change during a heavy molt, and that they can become moody and irritable, or withdrawn. Pomona has been fine, other than hiding out a little more in the coop or under bushes. One afternoon, they were both out in the yard free-ranging, and a huge fight broke out. Pomona was submitting during the fight with her head down, but Pasadena was viciously attacking her back and neck. I know people advise not to interfere in fights, but I was worried about the damaging of sensitive pin feathers and I stepped in. Pasadena continued to stalk and try to attack Pomona, who just kept running away and clucking pathetically. She was just intent on going after her.

    The problem I am having now with just letting them have it out, or wait until they normalize once the molt is done (if that is what's causing it) is that Pomona is so afraid of being attacked that she will not come out of the nesting box in the morning to eat or drink. She stayed in the roost all day until I physically picked her up and placed her away from the other hen to eat and drink. She is not broody and apart from the molt, she is in good health.

    My problem with the situation is the bully hen keeping the other hen from functioning normally. They have simply never behaved like this in the two years I have owned them. I can wait it out and see if they go back to normal after they finish molting, but I don't know what to do in the meantime. They have to stay in their run together out of necessity while I am at work during the day, and with only one coop and run, I don't have the immediate means of separating them to make sure that my poor beat-up hen is able to get to her food and water. At the moment they are both in the yard, but Pomona is keeping her distance from the alpha hen so it seems she is still scared of an attack. She is sweet and it breaks my heart. Plus, since they were so inseparable before, I don't want them to become lonely if kept apart since hens are such social creatures.

    I know hens fight and establish pecking orders, so fighting is not anything out of the ordinary, but these hens are my beloved pets so I am obsessing and worrying. Does anyone have experience with this much of a behavioral change during a molt? Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom!
     
  2. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Not interfering in normal pecking order scuffles is one thing, leaving an aggressive bully hen to attack others is quite another. While it is true that hens can be a little off and cranky during a molt I have never seen it turn into aggression like you describe. I would be very concerned about leaving them cooped up while you are away, that could turn ugly for the one being attacked. If they were my birds I'd be separating that bully hen for a couple weeks and see if she settles down. The other hen might really appreciate a break from her. In the meantime make sure you have more then one feeder/waterer available so the other bird can get enough to eat.

    Wish I had more or better suggestions but with aggressive birds sometimes there's not a lot you can do but pull them out for a while and hope that they have an attitude adjustment lol. Sometimes this behavior becomes a habit though.
     
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Make sure they have sufficient space, extra scattered food and water sources.
     
  4. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They are both out free ranging in the yard at the moment. I haven't seen any fighting yet, but the alpha bully hen is being extremely vocal at my other hen. I am not sure if she has gone after her with the intent to attack, since the other hen keeps on running away as soon as she sees her - she must just be anticipating an attack because of the other day.
     
  5. MelissaZeno

    MelissaZeno Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do pullets under a year old molt?
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    They can. A very few breeds do as a matter of course. Others can with the right stressors.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Are these the only birds you have, just the 2?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
  8. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They are just the two...I am in an urban area. The fighting is so sudden and out of the blue. It's totally breaking my heart too because they are my babies. My coop is a "two chicken house" so I don't have much of a way to separate them constantly short of sticking one in a dog crate overnight. I'm thisclose to going to pick up a separate run at this point.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I think behavioral problems are harder to manage, and maybe more apt to happen, with a smaller flock......nowhere to 'spread the love'.
     
  10. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That's what I've heard. I have no idea where this behavioral change came from, at first I thought irritability from molting but it seems to be more than that.
     

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