Flock roles and bullies

Mootay

Chirping
Apr 14, 2020
79
70
53
Portland, OR
I have a Speckled Sussex hen who has been a pill since she was a two day old chick. Recently, she pecked at the back of one of my six week old chicks head and literally scalped the chick! This is not the first time she’s been aggressive, (she’s previously bullied our polish who she grew up with and pulled feathers out of her head.)

A friend who raised chickens for a couple years said whenever they removed a bully chicken from the flock, another flock member would step into the bully role. Has anyone else observed this same type of flock dynamics? I am working on integrating the babies into the flock, by having them in a separate pen while the older gals free range, and can see the babies and get use to them, which I’ve been doing for three weeks, and the scalping incident took place about a week and a half ago. I’m worried my Sussex will continue to bully the babies/really hurt them when I finally let them out to free range with the hens.

In case it’s helpful:
-My Sussex is not the flock leader, but is close to the top of the pecking order.
-The 6 week old chick was in a separate, fenced-in area while hens were free ranging when my Sussex got her bite in. I’m assuming the chick put her head out of the fencing and the Sussex grabbed a beak full then.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,365
33,477
1,122
Colorado Rockies
Bullying issues involve not just the bully but the victim. In fact, the victim's behavior is most often the trigger for the bullying behavior. Here's how I deal with it. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/chicken-bully-chicken-victim-a-two-sided-issue.73923/

I've had a chick scalped from sticking its head through the poultry mesh. I now have fine mesh fencing along the lower one foot of fencing to prevent this. Chick injuries can be caused by curiosity or the reflex to show a chick its "place" by giving it a disciplinary peck. Chick skin being tissue thin, it often tears. Keep the wound cleaned daily and moist, and it will heal just fine.

I use a panic room and chick size openings from it to the rest of the run. My chicks use the special pen to rest from the pecking order and to eat in peace. It cuts down on the injuries that can occur as chicks try to compete for food at the adult feeders.
 

Mootay

Chirping
Apr 14, 2020
79
70
53
Portland, OR
Bullying issues involve not just the bully but the victim. In fact, the victim's behavior is most often the trigger for the bullying behavior. Here's how I deal with it. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/chicken-bully-chicken-victim-a-two-sided-issue.73923/

I've had a chick scalped from sticking its head through the poultry mesh. I now have fine mesh fencing along the lower one foot of fencing to prevent this. Chick injuries can be caused by curiosity or the reflex to show a chick its "place" by giving it a disciplinary peck. Chick skin being tissue thin, it often tears. Keep the wound cleaned daily and moist, and it will heal just fine.

I use a panic room and chick size openings from it to the rest of the run. My chicks use the special pen to rest from the pecking order and to eat in peace. It cuts down on the injuries that can occur as chicks try to compete for food at the adult feeders.
Thank you so much, this is sooo helpful!!!
 

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