Hen to Hen Attacks

WIMIke

In the Brooder
Apr 22, 2020
18
27
41
Fair Warning… there is a lot going on here. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

My flock consists of 9 hens (1 RIR, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Ameraucana, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Blue Langshan, 1 Buff Brahma , and 1 Dark Brahma, all 33 weeks old. All but the Dark Brahma are laying. 1 Barred Rock is the bossy one at the top of the pecking order. They all WERE getting along fine, however at times the Bossy Barred Rock will push others away from the food. Anytime I am petting another chicken she attacks that chicken as I am petting it. She also refuses to let me pet her at all. Now for the past four days I have noticed that my tallest chicken (Blue Langshan) has been spending most of the days in a nesting box alone. This Blue Langshan is one of the birds that if I give any attention to, the Bossy Barred Rock attacks. Today I was in the coop with the chickens and I was trying to coax the Blue Langshan to come out of the nesting box and when she hesitantly came out, a full on attack from the Bossy Barred Rock ensued, and the other Barred rock joined in the attack as well. I actually had to break it up with a broom at first and then I had to get down on the coop floor to get them off her. It honestly shook me to the core. I now have the Blue Langshan separated from the flock in the coop but they can still see each other. Any help with this Christmas Horror Story would be appreciated. I have listed more information below:

*Coop is a 9’ x 12’ Nantucket Shed, proper ventilation and windows, Assorted Roosts and 4 nesting boxes.

*Outside Chicken run is also 9’ x 12’ connected by an automatic door with roosts as well

Plenty of fresh water and food all day, Too many treats (that I will drastically decrease to 10% of their diet)consisting of scratch grains, fresh vegetables, meal worms, (corn and sunflower seeds now that the nights are in the 20’s and 30’s). I know protein is important they get 18% protein in the pellets and a little more in the meal worms. I have been noticing them filling up on the treats and less food being eaten due to the treats or could it be the Bossy Barred Rock not allowing others to get at it?

The Blue Langshan is pretty docile and I don’t think trying to move up in the pecking order, she is not sick, not blood or cuts anywhere. I originally thought she was broody being in the nesting box all that time. I also have noticed that there seems to be more than usual downy feathers around from different hens, and unless its me being paranoid I think some of the hens are looking thinner. Maybe not being allowed to go near the food by the Bossy one? Or is it possible for them to molt this time of the year in the cold???

I do not think its boredom as I give them things to occupy their time.

Should I have separated the Blue Langshan from the flock or removed the Bossy Barred Rock?

Thanks for any help.
@HeatherKellyB
I've heard "juvenile molt" referenced before, but I'm not sure what age this refers to.

Good question. As they grow in size chicks outgrow their feathers, so they replace them. Can you imagine how silly a grown chicken would look if it still had the same feathers it had at five weeks of age? These molts are called juvenile molts.

Some people seem to believe that every chicken in the world regardless of breed or mix of breeds or mutts, climate, time of year, how they are fed, or how they are otherwise managed go through juvenile molts at exactly the same age. That has not been my experience. Some go through these juvenile molts earlier, some later. I butcher my cockerels to eat, it is pretty easy to tell if feathers are growing back from a juvenile molt or not. From what I've seen most are over their juvenile molt by about 4 to 5 months of age. At 33 weeks that's not a juvenile molt.

As to when they go through their first adult molt. Some people seem to believe that every chicken in the world regardless of breeding, climate, time of year they were hatched, how they are fed, or how they are otherwise managed go through their first adult molt at a specific age. Again, that has not been my experience. Many pullets will skip the molt their first fall/winter and continue laying until the following fall, even if you don't extend lights. Some go through a full-fledged molt their first fall/winter. Some seem to go through partial or mini-molts.

The main driving force behind an adult molt is the days getting shorter. That's the one most of us thing about. But other things can cause a full molt or a mini-molt, usually some kind of stress. This can be at any time of the year and any age. Stress like running out of water for an extended period of time, adding or removing chickens so the pecking order changes, moving them to a new location or making changes to their current quarters, maybe a predator attack or some event that really stressed them. Broody hens have been known to molt out of season when raising chicks. Stress can cause them to stop laying for a while without molting but sometimes it starts a mini or full molt.

@WIMIke finally more to your questions.

Anytime I am petting another chicken she attacks that chicken as I am petting it. She also refuses to let me pet her at all.

Should I have separated the Blue Langshan from the flock or removed the Bossy Barred Rock


I don't pet and cuddle my chickens so I have not seen this type of behavior. I've had a chicken take a real dislike to another chicken to the point of trying to kill it. But I have not seen that to the point where they attack any or all other chickens. It's hard to know what is going on in that chicken's brain, that don't use the same logic we do. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that she sees you petting them so they are submitting to you. Since she is the dominant one they should only submit to her so when they submit to you they must be punished. Usually I'd expect her to be attacking you, not the other chickens, but they don't all always act the same. Each one is an individual.

I think some of the hens are looking thinner. Maybe not being allowed to go near the food by the Bossy one? Or is it possible for them to molt this time of the year in the cold

Again, I butcher chickens to eat. When you remove the feathers the actual body can be pretty small. Some more than others, especially thick feathered birds. When they molt and lose feathers they can look like they have lost a lot of weight when really is it only feathers. With feathers flying around and them looking thinned I'd think it is a molt.

Now, what to do. I try to solve for the peace of the flock, not for any one individual chicken. Since I eat mine I have an easy solution for girls as well as boys but you have other options. My first attempt would be to isolate that bossy hen for a week or so, no contact at all with the flock. When you bring her back she might change her ways. I have had some success and some failures with isolation. It's worth a try.

If the problem were only between two specific chickens I'd consider removing the other hen, not necessarily the boss. If everyone gets along great without her then she is probably the problem. I've done that before with success. It's not always easy to know where the problem is. With that other BR joining in the attack I'd think about this. But with that hen attacking other hens when you pet them I'd think she is the problem.

If separation doesn't work you can continue as you are. It's possible no one will be injured and they will eventually work it out. I think another option is to permanently keep them separated, build a second coop and run. Have two flocks. Or sell or give one of them away. Getting rid of one does not necessarily mean killing or eating it.

Your coop and run seem to be big enough. I don't see anything in how you are feeding them that would explain this behavior except you might try separate feeding and watering stations. Widely separated like one outside and one inside so she can't keep them away from both at the same time.

Good luck! These things are not always easy to resolve but a peaceful flock is a lot less stressful to you and the chickens.
 

WIMIke

In the Brooder
Apr 22, 2020
18
27
41
@HeatherKellyB
I've heard "juvenile molt" referenced before, but I'm not sure what age this refers to.

Good question. As they grow in size chicks outgrow their feathers, so they replace them. Can you imagine how silly a grown chicken would look if it still had the same feathers it had at five weeks of age? These molts are called juvenile molts.

Some people seem to believe that every chicken in the world regardless of breed or mix of breeds or mutts, climate, time of year, how they are fed, or how they are otherwise managed go through juvenile molts at exactly the same age. That has not been my experience. Some go through these juvenile molts earlier, some later. I butcher my cockerels to eat, it is pretty easy to tell if feathers are growing back from a juvenile molt or not. From what I've seen most are over their juvenile molt by about 4 to 5 months of age. At 33 weeks that's not a juvenile molt.

As to when they go through their first adult molt. Some people seem to believe that every chicken in the world regardless of breeding, climate, time of year they were hatched, how they are fed, or how they are otherwise managed go through their first adult molt at a specific age. Again, that has not been my experience. Many pullets will skip the molt their first fall/winter and continue laying until the following fall, even if you don't extend lights. Some go through a full-fledged molt their first fall/winter. Some seem to go through partial or mini-molts.

The main driving force behind an adult molt is the days getting shorter. That's the one most of us thing about. But other things can cause a full molt or a mini-molt, usually some kind of stress. This can be at any time of the year and any age. Stress like running out of water for an extended period of time, adding or removing chickens so the pecking order changes, moving them to a new location or making changes to their current quarters, maybe a predator attack or some event that really stressed them. Broody hens have been known to molt out of season when raising chicks. Stress can cause them to stop laying for a while without molting but sometimes it starts a mini or full molt.

@WIMIke finally more to your questions.

Anytime I am petting another chicken she attacks that chicken as I am petting it. She also refuses to let me pet her at all.

Should I have separated the Blue Langshan from the flock or removed the Bossy Barred Rock


I don't pet and cuddle my chickens so I have not seen this type of behavior. I've had a chicken take a real dislike to another chicken to the point of trying to kill it. But I have not seen that to the point where they attack any or all other chickens. It's hard to know what is going on in that chicken's brain, that don't use the same logic we do. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that she sees you petting them so they are submitting to you. Since she is the dominant one they should only submit to her so when they submit to you they must be punished. Usually I'd expect her to be attacking you, not the other chickens, but they don't all always act the same. Each one is an individual.

I think some of the hens are looking thinner. Maybe not being allowed to go near the food by the Bossy one? Or is it possible for them to molt this time of the year in the cold

Again, I butcher chickens to eat. When you remove the feathers the actual body can be pretty small. Some more than others, especially thick feathered birds. When they molt and lose feathers they can look like they have lost a lot of weight when really is it only feathers. With feathers flying around and them looking thinned I'd think it is a molt.

Now, what to do. I try to solve for the peace of the flock, not for any one individual chicken. Since I eat mine I have an easy solution for girls as well as boys but you have other options. My first attempt would be to isolate that bossy hen for a week or so, no contact at all with the flock. When you bring her back she might change her ways. I have had some success and some failures with isolation. It's worth a try.

If the problem were only between two specific chickens I'd consider removing the other hen, not necessarily the boss. If everyone gets along great without her then she is probably the problem. I've done that before with success. It's not always easy to know where the problem is. With that other BR joining in the attack I'd think about this. But with that hen attacking other hens when you pet them I'd think she is the problem.

If separation doesn't work you can continue as you are. It's possible no one will be injured and they will eventually work it out. I think another option is to permanently keep them separated, build a second coop and run. Have two flocks. Or sell or give one of them away. Getting rid of one does not necessarily mean killing or eating it.

Your coop and run seem to be big enough. I don't see anything in how you are feeding them that would explain this behavior except you might try separate feeding and watering stations. Widely separated like one outside and one inside so she can't keep them away from both at the same time.

Good luck! These things are not always easy to resolve but a peaceful flock is a lot less stressful to you and the chickens.


update: Still need Help.
So I have seperated the bossy barred rock from the flock she is out of site from the others. at closer inspection quite a few of my other hens have been picked on and feathers pulled out some worse than others. So the bossy one has been removed from the picture for now. However the blue langshan that i mentioned in the first post that has been attacked by the bossy barred rock and another barred rock is hiding out in one nesting box for days . I am not sure if she is hiding out or broody?
 

WIMIke

In the Brooder
Apr 22, 2020
18
27
41
update: Still need Help.
So I have seperated the bossy barred rock from the flock she is out of site from the others. at closer inspection quite a few of my other hens have been picked on and feathers pulled out some worse than others. So the bossy one has been removed from the picture for now. However the blue langshan that i mentioned in the first post that has been attacked by the bossy barred rock and another barred rock is hiding out in one nesting box for days . I am not sure if she is hiding out or broody? Here what I am noticing with the langshan, other hens are laying eggs with her in the box and she sits on them, i remove them. While the rest of the flock are in the run i shut them off for a few minutes so I can check on the langshan. I hand feed her, i remove her from the box, does not attack me. but does not want to put her feet down and her back end is always up. eventually(5 minutes) she stands up shakes it off and starts walking around the coop stretches out, jumps on the roost and hangs out and poops the biggest smelliest poops i have ever smelled. she then seems lighter on her feet and jumps into the nesting box even after i remove the eggs that others have laid. I am not sure that she has laid an egg in days. when i open the door back up from the coop to the run i see no attacking of the langshan in the box( I dont see any fight , it seems she pretty much ignored except for 2 americaunas that get in her box and lay their eggs around her. Please Help. If she indeed is broody, would that bossy barred rock have attacked her last week?
 

BGcoop

Crowing
Aug 5, 2018
998
2,495
256
Yes it sounds like she is broody. if You don’t want her to hatch eggs it is best for her health to break the broodiness. As for her being broody having any bearing on the attack from the BR, that I’m not sure.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,035
22,664
907
Southeast Louisiana
It sounds like she could be broody. My test to see if a hen is truly broody is that she has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of sleeping where she normally does. You have so much going on I'm not sure how well that test would work though. Maybe for that barred rock hen.

There are two typical broody behaviors that I'd look for. I think you described both of them. When you remove her from the nest and put her on the coop floor a broody will often just sit there, sort or flopped on the floor for a time. Might be a few seconds, usually not a full minute but when you are waiting a full minute seems like a long time. Then she jumps up and eats, drinks, poops, and may even takes a dust bath before returning to the nest. The other is that when she walks around she often fluffs up her feathers and makes a constant bok, bok, bok sounds. These do not totally absolutely mean she is broody, I've seen some hens do things like that when they were not truly broody, but they are real good clues.

When they truly go broody they stop laying eggs.

Would another hen attack a broody because she was broody? I've never seen that but some people on the forum say they have. I would not consider that to be normal behavior but some hens can be brutes. Most can be bullies in certain circumstances so that is normal, but a hen that attacks another hen because she is broody would not be welcome I my flock. That goes beyond pecking order stuff and I would consider it disturbing the peace of the flock.
 

WIMIke

In the Brooder
Apr 22, 2020
18
27
41
It sounds like she could be broody. My test to see if a hen is truly broody is that she has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of sleeping where she normally does. You have so much going on I'm not sure how well that test would work though. Maybe for that barred rock hen.

There are two typical broody behaviors that I'd look for. I think you described both of them. When you remove her from the nest and put her on the coop floor a broody will often just sit there, sort or flopped on the floor for a time. Might be a few seconds, usually not a full minute but when you are waiting a full minute seems like a long time. Then she jumps up and eats, drinks, poops, and may even takes a dust bath before returning to the nest. The other is that when she walks around she often fluffs up her feathers and makes a constant bok, bok, bok sounds. These do not totally absolutely mean she is broody, I've seen some hens do things like that when they were not truly broody, but they are real good clues.

When they truly go broody they stop laying eggs.

Would another hen attack a broody because she was broody? I've never seen that but some people on the forum say they have. I would not consider that to be normal behavior but some hens can be brutes. Most can be bullies in certain circumstances so that is normal, but a hen that attacks another hen because she is broody would not be welcome I my flock. That goes beyond pecking order stuff and I would consider it disturbing the peace of the flock.
It sounds like she could be broody. My test to see if a hen is truly broody is that she has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of sleeping where she normally does. You have so much going on I'm not sure how well that test would work though. Maybe for that barred rock hen.

There are two typical broody behaviors that I'd look for. I think you described both of them. When you remove her from the nest and put her on the coop floor a broody will often just sit there, sort or flopped on the floor for a time. Might be a few seconds, usually not a full minute but when you are waiting a full minute seems like a long time. Then she jumps up and eats, drinks, poops, and may even takes a dust bath before returning to the nest. The other is that when she walks around she often fluffs up her feathers and makes a constant bok, bok, bok sounds. These do not totally absolutely mean she is broody, I've seen some hens do things like that when they were not truly broody, but they are real good clues.

When they truly go broody they stop laying eggs.

Would another hen attack a broody because she was broody? I've never seen that but some people on the forum say they have. I would not consider that to be normal behavior but some hens can be brutes. Most can be bullies in certain circumstances so that is normal, but a hen that attacks another hen because she is broody would not be welcome I my flock. That goes beyond pecking order stuff and I would consider it disturbing the peace of the flock.
Thanks for your input. The langshan has been in her nest for five days, she has stopped laying eggs and she does those two broody behaviors exactly like you describe. Today i took her out of the nest and placed her in a crate with a mesh bottom and no bedding and raised off the floor on bricks. . she has access to food and water. she is close to the main coop but out of site from the rest of the flock. any other suggestions? how and when introduce her back to the flock. I also have the bully barred rock seperate away from coop in chicken jail for 5 days. How and when do I try to introduce her back to the flock? what if she attacks again? Thanks for any input.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,035
22,664
907
Southeast Louisiana
how and when introduce her back to the flock.

I leave them locked up for 72 hours. That usually breaks them. If not, they go back in for another 48 to 72 hours. Keep trying until it works.

My broody buster is in the coop, I just open the door and let her come out.

I also have the bully barred rock seperate away from coop in chicken jail for 5 days. How and when do I try to introduce her back to the flock?

That is harder to answer. When? That's probably long enough to try, so whenever you can be around to observe. How? I'd just dump her in the run.

what if she attacks again?

Then I'd think it did not work.
 

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