Help for Picked On Hen w/Soft Shelled Eggs

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by greenbeandreams, May 22, 2010.

  1. greenbeandreams

    greenbeandreams Chillin' With My Peeps

    My favorite fluffy cochin, Puff, used to be in the middle of the flock. As soon as she started laying, she became the target of the alpha chicken who now pecks her relentlessly and ignores the other lower pecking order hens.

    Puff used to lay nice dark brown eggs. Well, its only been about six weeks since she started laying but lately she has taken to laying eggs on the roost. Soft shelled eggs, I might add. I didn't realize who was doing it until, today, she laid 2 soft shelled eggs about 5 minutes apart right in front of me. I'm assuming she's taken to the roost as she's picked on in the nesting box.

    The hens get layer feed, oyster shell free choice, and a handful of scratch along with occasional veggies/yogurt. I did notice that Puff also had very watery poop on the roost last night.

    Any ideas? Do you think the soft shells are a result of stress from being picked on?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. jujubean99

    jujubean99 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2010
    I haven't had this problem before, but the first thing that came to mind was stress. As I gather, the eggs changed from good quality to bad right about the time when her status in the flock went from high to very, very low. This, to me, indicates stress but there are more factors that could be playing a part, I just don't know what they are. . . good luck with your chickie though!
  3. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Keep the alpha by herself, isolated in a cage with food and clean water for a couple days, where she can't see the rest of the flock. When you let her out, she'll be very happy to be back in the flock and she may leave off bullying the target hen, for a while. It could help out the situation a little because it may cause a reshuffle in the pecking order.
  4. greenbeandreams

    greenbeandreams Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you for the replies. I think you are right - I'll segregate the meanie and see if Puff starts laying normal eggs again. Too bad the alpha is such a darn good layer!!
  5. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    You won't have to isolate Meanie for too long, just enough so that she is very relieved to be back within the flock again. She'll probably continue laying eggs during isolation, so be sure and have someplace she can lay and shelter her from the elements & predators, too.

    The pecking order is part of the life of chickens. In the wild, their pecking order is important to the flock's survival against predators. And, in the wild, they would have LOTS of space and natural hiding spots to get away and escape bullying, plus in the wild they have SO much to keep them occupied and they also have roosters with them who take over the leadership role and mediate any infighting between hens. Being confined and/or bored increases aggression in birds. So, we have to do what we can to understand the dynamic, and occasionally intervene, if necessary. Free-ranging can also really help to lower the aggression levels in a flock.

    ETA: Hens don't choose to lay their eggs from a roost. She may just be a young layer with an oviduct that is still developing its ability to produce eggs correctly. I wouldn't worry too much about that. I had a pullet start laying good eggs for several weeks, following by runny, horrid little eggs with partial or no shells. She dropped these from the roost at night in to the poop below. Yuck. After a couple weeks of this, she went back to laying good eggs, in the nest once again.

    I still think you should intervene with your alpha hen - if you feel she is really hurting your target hen. My own indication for "really hurting my timid hen" is when I see neck feathers or other feathers being aggressively torn out, or blood being drawn.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: May 22, 2010

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