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hen pecking

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by RichtmanRanch, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 23, 2013
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    Hi I am new to chicken farming. We have 4 chickens and they just started laying about 2 weeks ago. In that time hen pecking has become an issue. Currently we have one nest box, which I read was adequate for 4 birds. Regardless I have been coming home from work to find scabs on comb and blood on feather. Our leghorn was the first victim, she had a large chunk taken out of the back of her comb, by the time I came home it was done bleeding and we cleaned her up, she is now fine. But now the barred who I thought was on the top if the pecking order is getting beaten up on now. This is now the second time her comb has bleed. I was shocked to see all the blood on her face.

    I was going to check on them before I left for work today when I discovered she had been pecked. I felt helpless in that moment. I couldn't take the time to help her because I would have been late for work and my husband and I are gone for at least 8 hours every day. I did have time to switch out the ceramic heat bulb with a red light to discourage further pecking and I tried to put pressure on her comb, but all i felt like I did was manage to stress her out more. I did put some corn starch on her comb but the blood just went right through. Like I said I didn't have much time to help. She seemed to be behaving normally other than shaking her head to get the blood off. It was running down to the tip of her beak. :(

    So here are my questions,

    Is she going to be ok? My experience with the other times is that it eventually stops bleeding, but I am nervous because I am not there to check on how she is doing. My husband is going home for lunch and will check on her then. But comb injuries seem to bleed a lot and for a long time. It does eventually stop right? I have read about removing the top hen and then introducing her back a few days later so that she is on the bottom again.

    Does she run the risk of frost bite in the coop because of all the blood? We have a 60W red heat bulb and the 4x4 coop is insulated. today it is about 27 degrees F. On any other day they are fine with that temp, but I just worry cause she is wet.

    Typically we open the coop to the elements, but today is going to be below 0 and a wind chill even colder. I feel so sick about all of this, I try to remember that they are not pets but birds for egg production, but I still want to do right by them. Thanks for any advice, I dont mean to freak out, but hen pecking was something we didn't anticipate. We are learning something new each day
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes, combs bleed when injured, a lot, but they usually heal pretty fast. If you put Blu-kote on the wound, it will heal faster and discourage renewed pecking on the wound.

    The question you really need to ask is what is causing this fighting? If you are burning a light all night long, that may be the problem. They do not need but two or three extra hours of light to stimulate laying in winter. Light all night is too disruptive, and they won't get as much sleep as they should have. This I've observed from experience. Put the light on a timer to come on two hours before sunrise.

    Is the victim of the comb injuries a repeat victim? What is different about her? Is her comb very much larger or different than the others? I had an SLWyandotte with a rooster-size comb and wattles who was getting scalped repeatedly. The problem was solved with a partial dubbing of her comb. Chickens are sometimes enraged by differences among their members.

    If the conflict revolves around sharing the one nest, then you need to consider adding one more at a different location.
     
  3. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    As of now we have a timed light to come on at 5 am and goes off at 8 am. Usually we have a ceramic heat bulb for really cold nights, but I did put a red light in there today to discourage pecking. We started the timer about a month ago and the chickens started laying about two weeks later. We have had no issues with hen pecking up until a few days before they started laying. It seems like every week there has been some sort of skirmish since the first egg was laid. the barred rock who has gotten the brunt of it lately has a fairly large comb but so does the leghorn that got pecked on previously. we also have a buff with hardly any comb, she has some scabs on her face, but no comb injuries yet. I think my bully is our RIR she is by far the biggest, but she is also the only one with out any injuries. But ultimately I think the issue is we only have one nest box and they all seem to want to lay right away each morning, and usually all the comb slashing has happened in the morning. I will be adding another nest box tonight and hopefully that will help. I'll also pick up some blu-kote later today. My husband came home over lunch and said she had stopped bleeding but that there was blood drops everywhere. Thanks for your help!
     
  4. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    So I just got home, she looks much better, she and all the others hopped down from the roost, all were eating and acting normal. She looks so clean having her face been previously covered with blood this morning. She has some scabs on the top of her comb too. I did notice however her comb is bright red, maybe even a bit swollen towards the back or her head. I guess I never really noticed how thick her comb was on a normal healthy happy day, but Im wondering if my eyes are just being extra critical. But as for the bright redness of her comb, I'm guessing cause her body is trying to heal the wounds? Typically all their combs have a chalky red appearance, but is her bright red comb a potential sign of frost bite? it has been about 27 degrees all day in there, I have a higher wattage heat lamp I can put in. I also bought blue kote to put on in the morning. I just dont wanna bother her any more today. I also put in a second nest box to see if that helps.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Glad to hear things are improving. A nice red comb is a sign of health, also fertility. It would be white if it was frost bitten, turning black as the tissue dies. When they're sick, you would see a very pale comb, and a purple comb signifies a serious condition.

    Adding another nest box has probably distracted them. Chickens notice new things, and their behavior can be affected by any sort of change. I hope things continue to settle down.
     
  6. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    The second nest box may have helped, they did lay two eggs in there today. I also put blukote on my pecked hen. To be honest two other hens pecked at her comb right away. I have a red light in there so I was somewhat surprised to see that behavior. But they all seemed rather feisty with each other today. Do they eventually figure out there pecking order and the settle down, or is this going to be the new "normal"?
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Thinks a second nest was a great idea. They should settle down after they get their laying schedules down. Raging hormones playing a part probably.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Unless you have a particularly belligerent one, chickens sort out the pecking order at warp speed. After that, they will reinforce it with a single peck on the back as a reminder to one who may be thinking about getting out of line. Very occasionally two will decide they need to have a real fight to either challenge or preserve their ranks. That is over in a couple minutes and they carry on afterward as if nothing had happened.

    Lack of adequate space is the main cause of chicken yard fights. If you experience ongoing conflict, you may need to reassess that particular issue.

    Aart is right about the raging hormones affecting behavior. Springtime is a regular circus.
     
  9. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    It does seem like the few times there have been pecking issues, it is one and done and then they move on with their day. It doesn't appear like they are all ganging up on one bird, or even after they have made one hen bleed they seem to leave her alone. Both nest boxes are being used. It is going to be nice and "warm" for MN this time of year for the next few days so they can spread out. Hopefully they will get it figured out soon. Since the attack on Monday they all seem fine today.
     

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