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Has my pet chicken turned mean???

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Zannadoot, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. Zannadoot

    Zannadoot New Egg

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    Jun 30, 2013
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    I have 2 hens; a cochin and an australorp. They are about a year and a half old and grew up together. I got 3 new babies over the summer. They are 4 months old now. I've been slowly introducing them, and at this point, the 2 full grown hens stay in a cage inside the coop. and the 3 young ones have run of the coop. Most of the day I let the 2 big girls out and they have run of the yard. The coop is all wire except for the nesting boxes, so everyone can still see each other, even when the girls are in the yard.

    In the mornings, I let the 2 big girls out and I feed them on the porch, and I feed the babies in the coop. I've noticed that over the past couple of weeks, my australorp will follow close behind me when I'm walking back and forth to house to get the water and feed for everyone. If I stop, she pecks my leg. Most of the time I'll pick her up and carry her to get her to stop. But this morning when i was carrying her, she pecked my lip!!!! Other than nipping at my leg during feeding time the past couple weeks, this is the first time she has ever pecked anyone! Up till now, she has been a super sweet hen. Lots of my friends have held her and loved on her, and I would bring her into the house sometimes to sit on my lap while watching tv. I handled her a lot growing up, because I like my chickens to be tame, and be great pets.

    If there anything I can do to change her behavior?? Or is it once a hen goes bad, she is just bad and really shouldn't be trusted? I'm wondering if she is just mad at me because I brought in 3 new chickens? Do chickens get jealous? She hasn't started pecking at the cochin. If anything, the cochin is the dominate one. When they eat together, the cochin pecks at her. So I've had to give them their own little bowls because if they eat out of the same one, the cochin hardly lets her get a bite and she has to wait till she is done. The cochin is still sweat as pie to me! She still lets me love on her. I just don't understand why my australorp has gotten so mean at me all of sudden! Can anyone help? Thank you!
     
  2. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just pecking on its own isn't an aggressive behavior. More likely, she just sees something that is a different color than the rest of her surroundings--like a freckle on your leg, or the color of your lip--and thinks "Maybe that's food. Let's find out." Most of my chickens figure out after a few experimental pecks that I'm not food, but for the really determined ones, a tap from my fingers gets the point across. You don't have to hit the chicken hard enough to hurt them--just "peck" them with your hand like another chicken would do if she was in the same situation.

    Aggressive behavior would be indicated by your hen raising her hackle feathers, charging or posturing, or attempting to spur you with her feet. If she still seems relaxed and content, she's just being curious.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. mrsc1951

    mrsc1951 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Funny, I've had the same issue - with my Cochin. I hand raised her and her half sister from day old chicks; they both still expect to eat out of my hands which is fine but Greenie (the Cochin) has begun following me and nipping the back of my calf. I constantly have a tiny little perfectly round bruise on one or the other of my calves. I have chalked it up to different things at different times - one that I have freckles and have let her eat bugs/worms/ants off my hands and arms and she thinks she sees something to eat on me. However my husband commented on her behavior the other day and said she seemed to be stalking me for the purpose of pecking me. She is the largest of my girls but the youngest and is picked on - sort of - by the others, including my bantam and I'm wondering if she is just pecking me because she can get away with it. Back to the freckles thing, living on the southwest coast of Florida, I'm almost always in shorts or crops. Yesterday it was cool, temp was only 76 so I had on jeans (don't laugh) and she still pecked me so there goes that theory. I'm leaning more toward jealousy now since it only happens when I'm taking out food/treats. When Greenie and Olive were younger, they got separate food and treats and were usually given theirs first. Now everyone gets everything together. The only time I've been pecked in the face was one of my Lt Brahmas and she got me in the eye. She has never done it since and I'm always careful to wear my glasses when I pick up one of girls now. The jealousy thing is very real however and very apparent in one of my other girls. I have begun taking my finger and "pecking" her back when she does peck me. I've only done it a couple of times so will have to report back later to let you know if that works. Good luck.

    AND[​IMG]
     
  4. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My little banty rooster Star pecked me in the eye once. He didn't mean to hurt me--he just saw something white and thought it might be a tasty grub or piece of bread or something. Still, I've become very careful about having chickens near my face since then! lol

    Just keep doing what you're doing. Hens are usually pretty good about responding to corrective measures, so you should start seeing improvement within a relatively short amount of time.
     
  5. Zannadoot

    Zannadoot New Egg

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    Jun 30, 2013
    Louisville, Kentucky
    It for sure is aggressive behavior :-( I know how she acts when she is curious.
    She has been charging, fluffing up her feathers and skin on her throat kinda puffs out as she is bawking. If I hold my foot out after she charges and pecks at my leg, then she holds her head up really high, fluffs up and kicks at me with her legs.I haven't been able to get a submissive reaction out of her when I try to stop her. It just seems to get her more mad.

    And since it's been cold outside, most of the time I'm wearing jeans outside, so I know she isn't going after a freckle or mole. And it's been happening every morning for the past couple of weeks. It's like a switch was flipped in her or something! It's so frustrating because I've had her near my face a lot, kissed on her and held her for a year and half with NO signs of aggression at all until now.
     
  6. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, that's definitely aggression. Is it possible she's going broody? It's about the only reason I can think of that a friendly hen would suddenly turn aggressive. If she's going through a hormonal change, that could account for the shift in her behavior.
     
  7. Zannadoot

    Zannadoot New Egg

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    Jun 30, 2013
    Louisville, Kentucky
    She did go broody twice this summer. I had to block the entrance to the nest boxes to break her of it. But she never had any aggression during those times. They have been laying their eggs in the yard under a bush while I've been transitioning the young ones outside. I know it seems silly that it has been a month and I still haven't fully combined them all together yet. I've always had at least a couple chickens growing up, but this is the first time I've ever introduced new chickens into an existing flock. I'm paranoid about it, especially because 2 of the 3 new ones are bantams. A silkie and a D'uccle. I'm extremely attached to the D'uccle and I don't want anything bad to happen to her.
    So that's really the only thing that has changed. Her routine has changed and there are new chickens in the yard. The first two weeks she didn't show any aggression towards me, just paced at the coop all fluffed up and tried to peck at the babies any chance she could get. Then the past 2 weeks she has shifted that aggression to me. She will still try and peck at the babies if she gets the chance, but all her attention isn't focused on them like it use to be.
    This is the reason why I'm wondering if it's jealousy and she is mad at me. Another weird thing is that she hasn't shown any aggression towards my boyfriend, just me.
    When I do finally get the groups fully together, I'm hoping that she will stop and go back to being sweet, but I'm nervous that she won't.
     
  8. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, I think you have it pretty much pegged. She's probably stressed by the introduction of the new chicks and will relax as she adjusts to the new situation. I advise going with your gut instinct and integrating your chicks slowly to avoid them coming to harm. It depends on the batch of chicks, but every group of chicks is different--what may have been a reasonable time to integrate one brood may be way too early for another. I've read on the forums that some folks don't integrate their new chicks until they're four or five months old, so a month or more is not unreasonable, especially if your hen is having a hard time accepting the new arrivals.

    Love and patience, lots of treats... Beyond that I'm afraid I don't have a lot of advice to offer.
     
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    PrairieChicken has a lot of great advice for you, especially the part about following your instincts. You've been close to your chickens for a while now, and you really do know them pretty well. This experience will tell you what your need to do.

    As for the aggressive behavior, we usually have this sort of problem in roosters, not so much in hens. But both can suffer from fears and mistrust, and when they do, they are usually aggressive toward the subject of mistrust.

    Try to think back to the time when you first introduced the chicks. What happened? Was there anything that might upset a hen and make her not trust you? Perhaps your behavior has changed around the older hens since you've introduced the chicks.

    Regaining trust involves attitude and decisive, but slow and careful behavior. Sudden movements and loud noises can upset some chickens. Just like us humans, some are more sensitive to this sort of thing.

    I would try giving your problem hen some special treatment to regain her trust and the bond you once had. Give her treats and stroke her while she eats. When she's ready, try handling her again.

    I would also let the juveniles begin to sort out their place in the pecking order. Perhaps part of the problem is the flock isn't being permitted to do this, and the result is that your older ones may be doubtful and insecure as to where they rank with the new ones. Your hen may want to "get this resolved" with the juveniles, but you aren't letting her, so she's "resolving" her rank in the pecking order with you.

    Your youngsters are plenty big enough now to be able to endure the sorting out the pecking order will require. The only really critical issue would be providing plenty of space for them to do this.

    I would bet that your hen will stop being aggressive with you after the pecking order has established itself.
     
  10. Zannadoot

    Zannadoot New Egg

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    Jun 30, 2013
    Louisville, Kentucky
    Thank you to all of you for the great advice! This morning I fed her first and she ate out a cup of food while I held it, fed everyone else, then came back and hand fed her some dried meal worms (her favorite treat!). She didn't try and peck me this time! So, I think the special 1 on 1 attention, and slowly regaining her trust should help a lot! I'm going to keep it up, and hopefully after all the pecking order stuff is figured out, then things will go back to normal.

    The one thing I keep reading about in different posts regarding introducing new chickens into an existing flock is the importance of space for the chickens. The bigger the space, the smoother it should go because the new chickens have space to get away in hairy situations. It makes sense to me, but I haven't found anywhere what would be considered a good amount of square foot per chicken for the transition. My coop is 6 feet by 10 feet, and there are a couple higher levels where the chickens can jump up. I would be combining the cochin and australorp with 2 bantams (a silkie and a d'uccle) and an orpington. Does this sound like plenty of space for things to go smoothly? Or should I be extra cautious?
     

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