Help with aggressive hens

jmcquigg13

In the Brooder
Mar 28, 2017
4
0
10
Ohio
I have 5 hens that are all 18.5 weeks old and should start laying any day. They have some aggression issues, but I'm having trouble figuring out which hen is the problem. A few weeks ago I went out to find one of my two Rhode Island reds with much of her rump plucked bare and bloodied by the other girls. I isolated her and treated with bluekote. After a few days, I reintroduced her and things have been great. Then today I went out and my other Red had been plucked and bloodied the same way, but it was even worse. I suspect the issue is that they are bored because they haven't been allowed to freerange the last week or so thanks to a family of raccoons that live in a tree near the coop (the youngsters are still active during the day). This means they have been isolated to their coop (20sqft) and run (40 sqft). I try to give them enrichment to keep them busy, but can only do so much.
Do you have any advice to help fix the aggressive bevahior? I'm desperate to keep my girls from getting injured again.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Grateful
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
45,546
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Pullets often become moody when they are close to laying which can contribute to the problem. I personally might still allow some free ranging when possible or enlarge the run. What enrichment are you doing? They can kill each other by pecking, so you definitely need to do something.
 

sylviethecochin

Free Ranging
Jun 14, 2017
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11,295
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Central PA
I don't know what your run is like, but if it's bare of grass, you might try adding some grass clippings. My grandfather always added clippings when his hens started eating each other, and he said that solved the problem right away.

I've (knock on wood, throw salt over shoulder) never had that problem, except with one broody bantam that soon got knocked over the head. I have no time for that garbage.\\

Don't use lawnmower clippings. Something about the way they're cut makes them toxic.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,955
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western South Dakota
Also check your run. Is it just an empty bare rectangle? Put up some obstacles, some hide outs, some peaches up above and use more verticle space. Add a couple feed stations out of sight of each other. It is important for birds to get away from each other, have a bit of shade too.
 

jmcquigg13

In the Brooder
Mar 28, 2017
4
0
10
Ohio
Thanks for all of your replies.

I'm free ranging today but even with a whole acre to use, my barred rock still jumped at the other three hens with her. No immediate pecking, but certainly aggression. I intervened so she would know I'm boss, not her.

The injured hen is still in the house recovering. For enrichment I usually throw a broken up head of lettuce in the run or twist beet greens in the fence so they have to jump and work to get them.

Our weekend project will be enlarging the run as much as possible.
I was suspicion that reaching maturity might be a driving factor here as no aggression started until the first girl started getting her comb coming in. Do they settle once they start laying?
I had chickens as a kid, but this is my first flock that's my responsibility and, honestly, they have me so stressed with this aggression that I'd almost rather give up at this point.
 

jmcquigg13

In the Brooder
Mar 28, 2017
4
0
10
Ohio
Are you sure you don't have a rooster? I might segregate the aggressive one for a while.
Three of them are being aggressive to the other two at this point. My Australorps and barred rock are ganging up on the two reds. The barred rock seems like maybe it's the head aggressor, but the Australorps are aggressive toward the reds even without the barred rock.
For part of today I had the barred rock, and two reds all individually isolated with the only ones together being the Australorps. Attached is the best picture of my barred rock that I have.
The barred rock still hasn't had a comb or wattle come in, so I am trusting the breeder that's it's a hen, but the other 4 are definitely hens.
 

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