HELP! alpha hen is suddenly bullying my best layer!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by smnytx, Jun 12, 2008.

  1. smnytx

    smnytx In the Brooder

    Sep 9, 2007
    I have a small backyard flock - just three hens that got the day after they hatched. They've always had clear personalities and quickly established a hierarchy, but for the past (almost) nine months, they've generally lived peacefully.

    They have a section of the yard fenced off for them, and a nice a-frame coop that they share. When I'm watering or tending the garden, I'll let them out for a good period of time to graze the entire backyard. In other words, they have plenty of space.

    Yesterday, for the first time, my BR (which is my best layer - more and bigger eggs than the other two) started "talking" to me - and trying to hang near me, although I was in the veg garden, which is blocked off to them with plastic fencing (as they tried to eat my tomatoes). Several times, I noticed the alpha hen (a RIR) come up to her and try to bite her neck - I would take a squirt at them with the hose when they did that, to break it up. Very effective!

    This morning, I heard a ruckus in their pen, and got up to see. Sure enough, inside the roost were several patches of blood, although it's hard to see any injuries on the hen. I think the alpha hen is pecking at the BR's toes. When they're out and about, I can see the RIR trying to keep the BR away from the food/water. Now, it's worse, because the BR is actually running away from the RIR, which gives the RIR more power, and makes her even more of a bully. (She is a bully to my younger son, too, who is scared of her and can't hold his ground, even though he's usually armed with a stick).

    This has just started, and I want to nip it in the bud. I plan to get more feeders, so that the mean one can't keep the BR from eating. My biggest problem is that I only have the one roost that they've always shared. I suppose the BR could sleep in one of the nest boxes if she got too picked on - if she's smart enough to figure it out.

    The other hen mostly just stays out of it. She's not at all cowed by the alpha hen, but she doesn't pick on the BR, either.

    I will consider trimming the beak of the RIR (just a tiny bit) to keep her from injuring the BR, but would appreciate opinions (and instructions) before taking on that drastic of a measure.
  2. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Crowing

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Beak trimming is not nice.

    Take the pecking hen out for 3 or 4 days. This will shake up the pecking order. When you put her baqk she will be the one having to find her place in the flock again and maybe not as the alpha hen if you are lucky.
  3. LindsayB

    LindsayB Songster

    Apr 26, 2008
    Cypress, Texas
    I rescued this hen about a month ago and the person who had her before me trimmed her beak when she was a chick...its really ugly and she can't eat the same as the other hens...Its also really hard for her to grip blades of grass to munch on. I have also 'heard' that it is very painful!! I wouldn't do it if I were you, but thats just my opinion... [​IMG]

  4. Bawkadoodledoo

    Bawkadoodledoo Songster

    Jan 4, 2008
    Central MA
    i say cull the meanie because she is going to starve the other hen.
  5. Cassandra

    Cassandra Ranger Rick

    Oct 27, 2007
    Southwest Mississippi
    Aww. [​IMG]

    I would say follow MP's advice cause she always knows what to do. (I mean that sincerely.)

    I just wanted to relate. I have two RIR who pick on a little dominique more than I care to see. [​IMG] It looks like they try to mount her (as a rooster would do!)--they stand on her and yank at her comb.

    Makes me mad! I spray them with the hose, too if I have it handy! But they have never drawn blood that I have seen. Poor little BR.
  6. smnytx

    smnytx In the Brooder

    Sep 9, 2007

    We isolated them a bit today, and the picked-on bird also had some good time out while she was laying (it seems to take her about an hour in the nest). I've given them backyard access all morning, and put out more feeders/waterers for them.

    My husband noticed that the BR is part of the problem. The alpha-hen (the RIR) was up on a rainbarrel, and the BR jumped up there with her, and tried to crawl under her (as if asking to be mounted). So, the RIR gave her a good bite on the comb, and she jumped down.

    SO - could this all be mating stuff, since we don't have a rooster? I know they'd be getting beaten up a lot more if we did have one!

    I don't want to do the beak-trimming thing. My girls are not over-crowded or otherwise stressed (unless it's the heat). They always have plenty of food and clean water. But if I see blood in the roost again, I'm not sure what other option I have. I don't have a place I can fully isolate one hen overnight, and still keep her safe from predators.
  7. blue fire

    blue fire Songster

    May 2, 2007
    Murfreesboro, TN
    man it was the opposite with me! My BR bullied my RIR, but my RIR died and there is no one to bully now [​IMG] .
  8. Featherland

    Featherland Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    If I need to isolate a chicken on a temporary basis, I just put it in a medium size dog carrier in my garage. I also have used a wire dog crate in the coop.

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