Help for the Newbies with a bully

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HalcyonNancy, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. HalcyonNancy

    HalcyonNancy Hatching

    Aug 1, 2010
    Greetings from a couple new chicken owners,
    This spring we bought 3 chicks a Wynadotte (Dotte), a Golden Sexlink (Amelia) and a Rhode Island Red (Reba). These are our first chickens and we live in an area zoned for no Roosters. We’ve built them a 3X3X3 hen house on stilts, and a 7x12 covered run. The three started in our house in a cardboard box and have always been very tame to my husband and myself. We typically get some lap time from all of them each day.
    They spend the day in the run and we generally let them out to roam the back yard after work and on the weekends.
    We guessed that Dotte was about a week older than the other two and has always been a bit of a bully. She pecks at both of the other two’s tail feathers especially Reba who is the one at the bottom of the pecking order.
    These three have been the best of buds for 15 weeks. Last Monday they were all inseparable as usual. When we came home from work on Tuesday, Reba was cowering in the corner of the hen house. As I let them out Amelia flew at her in serious attack mode. Reba flew for my shoulders. Amelia would not let Reba get anywhere near Dotte and her. When going to roost Amelia hammers Reba until it’s dark, and it starts up again at daylight.
    We read through the blog postings and figured we needed to separate the bully. So we put Amelia in a wired off next box for the night and built her a separate temporary pen across the yard from the run. We kept her there for 3 days and when we would let the other two out they would come and hang out near Amelia. At first she would give Reba the stink eye, but that seemed to subside.
    Last night we tried to bring them together in the run under supervision and Amelia flew at Reba again, so she went back to her nest box cage for the night and is now back in her temporary pen.
    During all this we did notice that Amelia has had a growth spurt. Her comb has proper spikes on it and her hips are getting wider and she is almost as big as Dotte now.
    We don’t let any of them on our shoulders anymore, as some say that’s not good for establishing ourselves as the head hen/rooster. We’ve become very attached to all three. Is there any hope of getting them to get along again? Are we doing anything wrong here? Is this just chicken PMS? Will Reba get a growth spurt and kick some @$$? I’m fine with Reba being on the bottom of the pecking order, someone has to be. I don’t care if she ever gets to grow tail feathers, but I don’t want her terrorized to death.

    Thanks for the help...N
  2. damselfish

    damselfish Songster

    Mar 8, 2008
    Southwest Missouri
    I've only had this once, and it was with younger chicks so my advice may not apply. But what we ended up having to do after trying other solutions was separate the bully from the flock entirely (so they could not see or hear her) for about a week. When she returned, she was an "intruder", and she got hammered. She has been low girl ever since.

    It was not an ideal solution...we think it made her kind of neurotic. But she was a serious, blood-drawing, won't-quit bully and the other choice was culling.

    Good luck. I hope it all turns out for the best.

    Edited to add: I forgot to say [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  3. Carpe DiHen

    Carpe DiHen Songster

    Feb 4, 2010
    El Dorado County, CA

    This is my first batch of chickens so I can't help you. Sounds aweful, you must be stressed! Hope you get lots of good advice! Good luck [​IMG]
  4. swordgeek

    swordgeek Chirping

    Jun 23, 2010
    Westford, MA
    I'm probably the last person in the world who should offer advice on this. I had the same thing happen here last year - I had 4 hens and one roo (who was originally #4 out of 5 in the pecking order). Blackie, at the bottom of the order, got pecked a bit, but nothing too bad - the alpha birds was really sweet. Then the alpha bird died very suddenly, leaving #2 and #3 to grapple for control for a few weeks. Once the order was established, they BOTH turned on little #5 in a bad way.

    Unfortunately, #5 had to be separated from the flock for 2 weeks around that same time due to a foot infection (the others wouldn't allow her to perch anymore, and she slept in poop, I suspect). When we tried to put her back with the others, they went batsh*t crazy on her, and I swear would have killed her. We brought her back indoors. Every couple of days, we tried to sneak her back with them, with the same result. I was so worried about her, I just let her move indoors. Problem solved! She loved it in here!

    Fast-forward 6 months. Husband insists she become a chicken again instead of a house pet and the cat's chew toy. There is no way those mean girls are taking her back. I do the only thing I could think of that wouldn't result in her death - or my divorce. I get 5 pullets. Figure, heh, maybe if I slip her in with a slew of other birds, maybe they won't notice my baby...

    It sort of worked. The mean girls still peck Blackie, but not really any more than they do the new girls. And amazingly, Blackie grew a set and learned how to give it to the younger ones. Not in a vicious way (unlike her original flockmates), but to establish territory and keep them away from her treats.

    So my solution to you is simple: get more birds. [​IMG] You'll always find a good excuse to do it if you ask the right audience.


    But if you do have to work with what you have, definitely move the mean girl completely away from the others. Otherwise, she'll be whispering orders to her capos though the glass divider, ordering the hit. I've been tempted to do it with my alpha bird, but frankly, I don't like her enough to want her in the house with us. She's a real pill. It may come to that someday - but that day is not today.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  5. ChristyDawn

    ChristyDawn In the Brooder

    Aug 5, 2009
    Moravian Falls, NC
    I cannot say I am an expert either, and my experience has always been with bully roos. What has been working this summer is that the bullys get picked up or chased at the first few offences and now all I have to do is yell at them across the lawn and they straighten out. They see me as the dominant roo for sure. I love my birds, but we are not as bonded as you are with yours. Separation might be good, but it might also be good to apply a little discipline to the situation like giving them a soft boot off the hen they are picking on. It worked for my roos. Welcome to BYC [​IMG] and I hope you find a solution that works for you and the girls!
  6. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    It sounds to me like normal pecking order behavior as your hens reach maturity. As long as there's no blood drawn, I think the chickens need to sort things out for themselves. Things should settle down in a while as soon as the dominant hen feels comfortable about her job.

    There are things you can do to help the bullied hen have a more pleasant life in the meantime. Your coop is a tad on the small side for three chickens. Be sure that your chickens are never locked inside it other than at roosting time, and let out first thing in the morning. Usually, the rule of thumb for a coop is 4 square feet per chicken. Your run is plenty large, though. You can put up things inside the run for the bullied chicken to hide behind and get out of visual contact with her tormenter: even some cardboard boxes would work for this.

    You could set up two separate feed and water stations, one on each side of the run, so that there is no way the bully can cover both stations at the same time. That way, the picked on chicken can still get to feed and water.

    Last fall as our flock was reaching maturity, we dealt with similar problems. It was our favorite hen, Billina, that the dominant hen decided to pick on! It was awful for a while, but then things settled down. This spring, when we had to rehome our rooster, we sent the dominant hen along with him to a new home. And instead of the no. 2 hen inheriting the mantle, what do you know? Our favorite hen became the queen. She's a much more benevolent ruler than the previous one; when she reinforces her dominance over the other chickens, she does it with a light hand...ehr..beak. She only chases another chicken for a few steps, not all the way around the yard like the previous head chicken used to do.

    I know we're in for pecking order battles again this fall, though, as our spring crop of chicks reaches their maturity. Sigh. I hope Billina keeps the top job!
  7. HalcyonNancy

    HalcyonNancy Hatching

    Aug 1, 2010
    Thanks all of you for your kind words and advice.

    This has been Chicken Intervention weekend.

    What we decided to do was put Amelia, the agressor into solitary for a week. She spent each day in a little temporary pen in the yard and each night we would put her into the chicken house, but into a wired off nest box.

    Friday well after dark we moved her from her nest box to the perch with the other girls.

    Saturday morning around 6am the squaks started. I spent most of the morning in the run sitting on my bucket and giving Amelia a squirt from a spray bottle when she would go after Reba. Eventually she got the idea. Today, Sunday, that things are complete bliss. Amelia is barely tollerant of Reba, and Reba still stays well out of her way, but there has been no blood, and the third not hen, Dotte seems to spend her day going between the two trying to be peacemaker.

    We've set up a second feeding/watering station so Reba will have options and Amelia can't be two places at once. Tomorrow will be the test as we'll be gone to work for 11 hours of the day. Still I'm much more confident that things are going to work out.

  8. Carpe DiHen

    Carpe DiHen Songster

    Feb 4, 2010
    El Dorado County, CA
    Hi! Thanks for the update! This has been of great interest to me.

    I have 16 week olds, and 6 weeks olds in a split run with a dog crate for the younger ones. I am going to wait till at least 10 weeks for the babies, and then I may be "sitting on a bucket" (funny visual [​IMG] ), in about 4 weeks! Hope your chickens are all well when you come home from your long day at work.

    Good Luck! [​IMG]
  9. HalcyonNancy

    HalcyonNancy Hatching

    Aug 1, 2010
    After things had settled down for a week or so, Amelia laid the first egg. So all of this agression was PES (Pre Egg Syndrome)? Maybe. The three have really settled down and get along fairly well now. Reba is definately on the bottom of the pecking order but she is not suffering there. She is even growing tail feathers! Her first.


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