Getting my confidence back and preventing food agression

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SusanD, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi,

    Ever since I had to deal with a peck and draw blood incident (covered in my earlier postings), my confidence with our chickens has gone way down hill. I went from perhaps handling them too much to barely touching them. Also, to being afraid that I'm going to find an injured hen when I get home from work.

    My Mom reassured me that our chickens were not fighting over food. However, I don't think she is a reliable reporter. Because, today when my mom dumped some peas out the window for them (and after the initial feeding frenzy), the dominant hen went after the lowest ranking hen several times- not to kill, more like get out of here now). This is discouraging to me, because I was hoping I could using something like hanging vegetables to help with boredom, but I am afraid that would lead to squabbles.

    My questions for you are -

    - Does this sound like normal pecking order stuff or like something that could be exacerbated by boredom (I still think our run needs work)?
    - If this is normal, do we need to treat them separately?
    - Can I try using food as a boredom buster, or would that be a bad idea?
    - Would it help to narrow the flock down from three to two (forcing them to hang together for company)?
    - Any advice on getting my confidence back? I want to make this work for my parents sake if humanly possible and because I am fond of the chickens.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  2. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

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    It's normal pecking order behavior. There will always be a dominant hen, and there will always be one at the bottom of the pecking order no matter how many birds you have. One higher up will always peck another lower on the ladder, it's the way chicken society works.

    Hanging veggies will not lead to squabbles as long as a lower ranking hen does not challenge the top dog.

    I would not recommend having fewer than 3 hens. At least with 3 you won't have a lone hen if something happens to one. Besides even with only 2 there will be a pecking order.

    I didn't see your earlier post. Did one bite you? Not all chickens (probably most) do not enjoy being handled.
     
  3. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks. no, the chicken didn't peck me. The dominant bird went over and pecked the middle chicken after I was finished holding her (she drew blood, so I had to intervene). It was suggested that perhaps she felt her place as top chicken was threatened by me giving attention to a lower ranking one. Also, that overholding chickens (to keep them tame) can backfire, if they start trying to figure out where you belong in the dominance hierarchy.
    I did cross my mind after that, that I should probably back off a little to make sure that the holding is something they enjoy (I know holding is not something that comes naturally to them) and also that I wasn't creating any issues that might lead to a repeat). Hope that makes sense.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    When I give treats I scatter them so everyone can get some. It's normal for dominant members to try to take stuff from those beneath them, if they don't give way quickly enough they can get a peck to remind them of their place. I think my last answer might have made you over think what you are doing.

    Hanging vegetables is a great idea, hang at least as many as you have hens and spread them far apart to give everyone a chance.
     
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Chicken society can seem a little harsh to us non-chickens but thats the way they work. Having more than one feeding station can ease tensions, in addition to the advice already given.

    All the best
    CT
     
  6. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks. I suppose it is different knowing about pecking order in the abstract and seeing it with live animals. I think they can figure out how to get along when they have to (for example, they all sleep in the same place in their small coop, and have been in there for a 1/2 hour after sunrise without any bloodshed [​IMG] I will keep experimenting to see what works.
     
  7. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    One more pecking order question. Is it normal for chickens to try to work their way up the pecking order, if they think they can get away with it? I suspect my Welsummer and my Langshan have traded places, since I caught my Langshan pecking at the Welsummer today (no blood was drawn, but it's not something she's done before). Also, the Langshan was sleeping next to the dominant hen (normally the Welsummer does) when they went to bed tonight. I'm hoping Miss Langshan is a bit nicer to Miss Welsummer tomorrow.

    Also, this may be a silly question, but what is the best way to put a chicken down? My chickens seem to be picked up and carried, but get antsy when I try to put them down like they don't feel secure.
     
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    The pecking order is always changing due to disease, death, broodiness, hormones, maturity, almost anything can cause shifts, it's always the desire of most hens to get to the top position.

    At first I thought you were asking about putting them down, permanently. It can sometimes help to put them on top of something, a fence, bench, or to let them get down on their own, otherwise they do seem to fuss about it a bit.
     
  9. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Me too! [​IMG] It can depend on how one holds the chicken in the first place, if you support their weight with the palm of your hand (and forearm) along the breast bone, and lightly hold their legs between your fingers, they seem to feel fairly happy. When you put them down, with your other hand, gently keep their wings together. It seems to work, although some chickens don't like being held - period, so no matter what you do, there will always be a little bit of flapping - thats my experience, at least.

    CT
     
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  10. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I totally agree with what everyone else said about the pecking order stuff. I'm raising my first flock, and had I not read a lot about the pecking order issues I would've been alarmed at all the fuss too. My approach has been mostly hands-off; I don't intervene at all. They know me as the guy with the food and that's about it. I'll feed them treats from my hand a lot and then sprinkle some in their feed troughs, and I figure whoever gets to it first, more power to 'em. I haven't handled them either since they don't seem to like it too much, especially the Leghorns. I value my gals a lot but I keep in mind they're farm animals with a purpose and we get along fine. I definitely wouldn't keep less than three chickens together since they seem highly social. And if you think about the pecking order, it's kinda the same way with most animal groups - even ours.
     
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