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Help with Aggressive Hen and separating from rest of flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by 5Leepy!, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. 5Leepy!

    5Leepy! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 17, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I got sick of watching Bunny harass Scrappy. Scrappy was the top hen at their former home but Bunny took her spot when they moved here. Scrappy had issues with lice/mites and after cleaning her up over a couple of weeks she started to molt. It's been weeks now and she still looks like crap. Her back has bald spots on it (former owner told us she looked bad because she was the roosters favorite) she has no feathers on her neck, the top of her head near her comb is practically bald and her wings are about half way covered with broken feathers. A couple of weeks after we got them, I caught Bunny seriously attacking Scrappy. Since then I've been pretty diligent about not letting Bunny be mean when treats are being handed out. Tonight I caught Bunny pecking Scrappy over and over again when they were on their roost. Seems Bunny has gone into hiding with her bullying and is waiting until they're settling down for the night. Scrappy doesn't do anything, she just sits and takes it. My suspicion is that Bunny is the reason she looks so bad.

    So, I got so mad at Bunny tonight after seeing this that I got her out of the coop and left her in the run for the night by herself. At least Scrappy will have one peaceful night. I closed off the coop so Bunny can't get in. Our run is as secure as the coop so she's safe, we don't usually close the door on the coop anyway.

    I realize this is a temporary solution and Bunny may take it out on Scrappy tomorrow but I just couldn't take it anymore. So, now I'm thinking of separating Bunny from the rest of the flock hoping to get rid of this dictatorship/terrorism thing she's doing. I don't have a lot of options for doing this, though. We have their run separated down the middle but this is so we can put our 5 week old chicks in there every day and keep them separate from the older girls. We bring them back inside to their brooder at night.

    I have a dog crate that I can use but it's not a large one and would feel bad keeping her in that all the time. She doesn't like being cooped up (pun intended) and is used to free ranging most of the day in our yard. With the temps in the high 90's she probably needs to be out and finding good cool spots. Not to mention she's the most skittish one of the bunch so the thought of getting her in and out of that crate so she can forage depresses me.

    I started out trying to discourage the bad behavior like I would with our dogs... Loud noises and reprimands for bad, lots of treats and nice words for being good. This does not seem to compute in a chicken's brain. Lololololol

    Any suggestions? Thanks!
    5Leepy!

    Edit: Edit title so it's more appropriate to the subject
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2011
  2. Luvroos

    Luvroos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 12, 2010
    Fredericksburg
    You could always designate their roosting spots which helps and yes, hens learn just as well as roosters although seem to be more stubborn. It took me a long while to train my girls and a couple are still just simply hard headed although know when I really mean it and will abide nicely. I will some times stand and wait for my flock to get settled on their roosts before I shut the lights out and have one that can be mean to every one that tries to sit beside her except for my roosters.
     
  3. 5Leepy!

    5Leepy! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 17, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Update:

    Bunny spent the night alone in the run and the 2 other Hens up in the coop. This morning I let the other Hens out to free range. I also set up a temporary feeder for them near the coop and they have pans of water out. I'm thinking of leaving Bunny in the run alone for a while. She is NOT happy about this situation. She can see the girls free ranging and is pacing back and forth in her run stressed out. My DH brought up the option of getting rid of her but I'd rather try to fix the behavior first.

    I've read about separating an aggressive Hen and reintroducing a couple of weeks later so she loses her top position but I'm not sure if this will work in our case. We only have 2 other Hens and then 4 6 week old chicks (not 5 weeks like I said before, looked at the calendar this time [​IMG] ). Where she is in the run she can see everyone and they can see her. Is this enough of a separation to fix behavior? Is it fixable if there are only 2 other Hens her age?

    I'm not wanting to keep the situation as I've put it now... with the other 2 Hens free ranging all day without access to their run. They're unprotected. I moved the ramp for the coop from the run to an access door we use to clean the coop so they can get in and out but still worry a bit. Not a lot of predators here during the day, we're in an Urban area but there are Hawks occassionally not to mention neighborhood cats and dogs that could potentially be a threat. Nothing's happened to any of them to date but you never know. I usually put the girls in their run when I leave on errands, etc... but won't be able to do this if I want to keep everyone separated like they are.

    Again, any suggestions would be welcome!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2011
  4. Luvroos

    Luvroos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 12, 2010
    Fredericksburg
    If she becomes stressed out over this it could bring her immune levels down and you could be looking for more a problem than what you've asked for. I'd let her out to be with the others and see how things work out tonight when they go back into the coop. Like I said before designate their roosting positions.
     
  5. 5Leepy!

    5Leepy! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 17, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Bunny's not stressed anymore, I guess she's resigned. She's still not happy but isn't pacing or making any noises really.

    I wish I could designate their roosting positions but our coop is too deep and the roost too high for me to reach all the way from the door. The pen is two stories with the coop over their run so we have to lean into an opening that's a bit higher than my waist. My husband can reach all areas of the coop but he works 3 nights a week so can't help with it. To get Bunny out of there last night I used a child-sized rake to push her to and out the pop door. If I hadn't had that I'd never have reached her.

    I also noticed that our 3rd Hen, Waffles, doesn't have feathers around her vent. When she's just walking around everything looks good but when she parts her feathers to poo I can see it's bald around there. Is that normal or do we have feather plucking happening as well?

    On a side note, today is the most peaceful day we've had in our backyard in a long time. Everyone seems quiet and sedate. Everyone's eating and drinking when and where they want to. Whew!

    Thanks,
    5Leepy!
     
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    South Georgia
    Mine have a small bald area near the vent, only visible if I pick them up to check them and part the feathers, no redness, no lice/mites or eggs visible. It looks to me like they simply don't grow feathers for that last half inch or so of skin right around the vent, but I have no idea whether this is true.

    You have a tricky situation and I hope it continues to improve for you. Things should change a lot when your little ones get bigger, of course; they will shake up the pecking order. Maybe you can keep her in line well enough til then. I guess if it came to it, you could put Bunny in the dog crate when you aren't supervising, and maybe at night. I don't think I would feel too badly about putting one in a crate at night. Seems like once they get used to the idea, they're asleep anyway....
     

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