Help! Isolate the head hen or the most picked on??


9 Years
Oct 5, 2010
I have 5 chickens and the lowest in the flock is getting severely picked on. The head hen seems to pick on all of them and they all have varying levels of feather loss, but the lowest one is so scared she won't leave the coop. She also seems pretty thin and is missing feathers everywhere. The second-in-line is also getting in on the bullying. A little back story: we had 6 but had to cull the lowest one b/c of a prolapsed egg tract. Now since that one is gone, it seems the now lowest chicken is getting it even worse. The middle chickens all also have feather loss but the head chicken looks perfect. So my question is: do I isolate the meanest chicken or the one getting picked on the most? I'm worried that if I put the mean hen in jail, the second-in-line will just take over the bullying. I have a large dog crate which will only fit in the run. Is it stressful for one to be alone at night when the rest are in the coop? Thanks in advance!!

So, a week with my head chicken in isolation hasn't really helped the issue. The lowest chicken is still hiding in the coop. As I had feared the now head chicken has taken over the bullying. however, the remaining 4 do sleep together in one of the unused nest boxes at night. My options are: crate both chickens separately for another week (I have another dog crate) or I have a friend who will take the lowest chicken and hopefully her chickens will be nicer to her. My concern with this option is that the one who will then become the lowest will start getting beat on. My other concern is with the bullying that has been going on all summer 3 of the 5 have large bald spots on their backs and elsewhere (like 3x1 inches). Will they be warm enough over the winter? I'm in the foothills of CO and it gets pretty cold. Any help would be appreciated!!!!!
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8 Years
Mar 23, 2011
Beaufort, SC
Separate the head hen for about a week. She will loose her place in the pecking order and will be at the lowest when you put her back. This works any time you get one that gets a bit big for it's britches LOL


8 Years
Jul 24, 2011
Vista, CA
I agree - go after the bully.

I had a goose that I thought was sick because he was hiding under a bush. After a week in isolation, I let him out and then he started acting funny again - THEN I caught the a drake fighting with him!! Well, I had 2 drakes that looked exactly alike and since I couldn't tell which one it was, I put both of them in isolation and Silas is now back to his old self and those drakes were absolutely marvelous on the grill!


8 Years
Jun 23, 2011
Spokane Valley, WA
Get rid of the bully if separating them is not helping. Don't give away the most picked on one because chances are the new flock would pick on her just for the simple fact that she has already been picked on.


8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
Massachusetts, USA
As I watch my birds, pecking order is a function of personality and temperament. This doesn't change during the time of isolation so I see this as a short term fix. IMO the pecking order will again be established as it was originally.

My first hen, blame her for my interest in chickens, was on the bottom of the pecking order at her original home. SHe is boss here as she was the first full grown adult and she made sure all new birds know there place. As the new chickens mature I expect the pecking order to change accordingly; my 7 months olds still jump out of her way. She will nail them if they don't move quickly.

Try rehoming the lowest on the pecking order--introduce a new person to chickens!


12 Years
Jul 28, 2010
Ripley, WV
I've been dealing with this pecking order issue with 3 adult birds hammering 2 juveniles. Here's my 2 cents:

I separated the 1 hen who was determined to de-feather the juveniles. I kept her out for over a week. She could hear the other birds but could not see them. When I put her back in there was a very definite improvement in attitude. However, over a couple of weeks she climbed back to her top dog status. Not as hateful though. A kinder top dog. But the other 2 adults that I did not separate out because they were pecking but not in a hateful mean fashion -- those 2 birds became more aggressive and did not let up on those 2 juvies. When 1 of the 2 younger birds began laying, and the 2 adult birds were tormenting her and running her out of the coop, that's when I stepped in and removed those 2 birds - the 2 adult birds.

Now I have 2 adult birds in jail - each in a separate jail cell and neither can see each other or the other 3. I will put them back together sometime later this week. I expect them to be kinder birds. However, they too might get back to being aggressive again.

What I have observed is that by taking the aggressive 1 (or 2) out, my young birds had a week of rest, relaxation, and an opportunity to become more self-confident. I have watched them take up for themselves when I re-introduced the 1st aggressive bird. Right now I have 3 birds in the coop - 2 juveniles and the 1st very aggressive adult. They are getting along very well without the other 2 adults. I believe this week of good interaction with the top dog bird will give them confidence to stand up to the other 2 when they come back in and this week in isolation will make the 2 adults more kind... in their aggression... I don't fool myself - THEY determine the pecking order. Doesn't mean a little time out won't improve their attitude.

That's my 2 cents - for what that's worth....


10 Years
Aug 12, 2009
I used to put my RSL hens into a dog crate for a week or more. They were still mean when I put them back,and the EE's will never stand up to them. I got a roo who kicked RSL butt,but the RSL hens still peck the EE's. It isn't so bad now but I would prefer to get rid of the RSL hens than the EE's if the kids weren't so stuck on them.

I would get rid of the meanies instead of the bullied hen.

When I first started out I had 3 RSL and 3 white leghorns. The whites attacked the RSL hens often .I found it stressful so I got rid on those 3 and was happy with my 3 RSL hens.Then I took in the EE's from the kids school,and had to deal with the pecking order hassle all over again. It never really ends,but you can make it less hostile by getting rid of(eating) the super mean ones!

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