Hen Scratching Out Others Feathers???

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ChicknLittleLexi, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. ChicknLittleLexi

    ChicknLittleLexi Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 24, 2011
    Sonora, CA
    Two out of three of our laying hens have been having some issues for the last 6 months, at least. They're missing the feathers on their backs! We couldn't figure it out, and since we didn't have a rooster, we just assumed that the hen NOT missing feathers was being a bit sassy and asserting her dominance in a not-so-nice fashion.

    My husband came in to tell me that he has FINALLY figured out what is going on - he caught the little rat in the act.

    Apparently, this dominant hen has been standing on the other hen's backs and SCRATCHING THEIR FEATHERS OUT WITH HER FEET. This makes my back hurt, and I don't have feathers. *shudder*

    So, what do we do? We have a chicken coop that is built for 4-6 hens (and we used to have 4, but one "wandered off" one day never to return) and so now these three ladies live a life of luxury in their coop. They have plenty of food, water, and a small run underneath the coop they can scratch in.

    I am wondering if this is boredom due to the lack of "run" space? We used to let them free range, but when the missing hen went...well, missing...we decided that probably wasn't the best idea and haven't been able to come up with a suitable run solution since then. I am not so sure that it's a space issue though, as the dominant hen has been doing these even when we DID let them free range!

    So...suggestions? Do I have to turn miss sassy into dinner? Because I will, but I don't wanna.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. BethChick78

    BethChick78 Out Of The Brooder

    I too have one dominant hen but I've discussed this at length with others and the trouble with 'getting rid' is that this puts more stress on to the remaining hens. They feel that they need to take her place and all that happens is that you are one hen down and another one takes up the mantle.

    Try introducing some things to relieve the boredom if you aren't free ranging anymore. Lettuce heads suspended from the coop or a seed block and see whether that works.

    Some others may recommend putting her in the 'naughty box' for a few days. Keeping her by the others but not together. Personally I'm not sure that works but it might be worth a go.

    Good luck
  3. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    Distraction may work but I think this is a case of dominance run amok. She isn't just mounting but adding the scratching the back not a normal dominance act. Separation to reset the pecking order to might work, with only three hens its not a guarantee. If you separate to shake up the order it must be complete isolation. If it is not, the dominate hen can remind the others she is the top hen just by her presence.

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