Hens attacking another hen?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by MaggieRae, Jun 12, 2010.

  1. MaggieRae

    MaggieRae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2009
    North Texas
    I recently got rid of my rooster (about 2 weeks ago) because he was just tearing up the hens as well as attempting to spur me. I had no trouble dealing with him, but I didn't like the girls having bare backs and bald heads. He also made them hide under the coop whenever I walked in there, which they never did before he "aged up". The day after getting rid of him, the girls would walk up to me and ask for pets/treats. I had left their saddles on so that their feathers could at least grow back enough to cover their backs.Today I took off saddles on two of the other girls that had to wear them. While Rhonda was sitting down sweetly, waiting for me to take the saddle off, Ginger walked over and violently attacked her head! It looked just like Lucifer did when he was "learning". Then Cleo walked up and did the same thing! Rhonda, in her fright, took off without me removing the saddle. All the girls chased her and attacked her head. It was the awfullest thing. She lapped the run twice, then went up into the coop. I shut the door to keep the other hens out, even though Cleo and Ginger tried to go in there a few minutes after.
    I caught Rhonda and took her saddle off, then left her in the coop and opened the door so she could go out, but I'm curious, what could make the hens act like this? Why are they so violent to one of their flock? Did pulling out the rooster screw up the flock dynamic? How long until they straighten it out?
    Thanks.
     
  2. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    MaggieRae, I hope you find an answer but I think you will just have allow time to run its course.

    Chicken relationships are all about dominance. If you held down Ginger, and, especially, if you pulled one of Ginger's feathers -- Rhonda might very well have come up and started pecking at Ginger.

    The dynamics have certainly changed because the roo is no longer in the flock. That is probably for the better. Obviously, he was all about violence. I had a roo like that once. He was given to me -- I gave him back.

    Try to approach things this way, I think it will help: You are #1.

    Nobody is allowed to beat up anybody while you are around. Treat them all gently, as I'm sure that you are inclined to do. Don't give them the idea that you are picking (or pecking) on anybody. However, your foot or your broom or your cardboard box breaks up all fights - period. There's no need to punish. There might be a need to separate, just for safety but when the 1 or 2 rowdies are back with the group, no violence is tolerated.

    Having places in the coop and pen for the lower-rank birds to hide will help. A piece of plywood leaning up against the wall provides a good hiding place.

    I once had a number #1 hen down in the yard because she was sick. The number #4 hen tried to beat her up. I have seen roosters show the worse possible behavior imaginable in situations like that. Action, reaction, instincts . . . there's not much more going on. We tend to apply uniquely human notions to all behavior and, for the most part, few animals are capable of coming anywhere close to living up to those standards.

    Stay involved and here's wishing you and the birds, a peaceful future.

    Steve
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  3. MaggieRae

    MaggieRae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2009
    North Texas
    Thanks for the response! It was really just surprising to see them turn so violent so quickly. I would expect that from the rooster to me (but not to the girls, he was just overzealous. Great protector and had I been willing to free-range them, I would definitely have kept him.), but not from the girls to other girls. The problem with breaking up fights is that they go under the coop, and I just can't get under there. [​IMG] I wonder if they were just bored, so I've been trying to keep them busy...
    I've spent the past 10 years with horses but I know next to nothing about chicken behavior. I'll have had these girls 1 year in 10 days.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    When you remove the rooster (or any other member of the flock), the social pecking order has to be re-sorted out. This will go on and on, until everyone is "happy" with their place and doesn't want to challenge anybody else, any more.

    Also, when you hold down any chicken or confine it in the presence of the flock, everyone else except maybe the closest buddy will jump in to hammer it's head and body. This happened to me, today, in fact. I put everyone back into the run around 6pm, because our family was going out for the evening. Every bird, except one, decided to follow the treat cup into the run. I couldn't get the last bird inside, so I waited until the run was closed, then followed her around and under the trees until I got close enough to catch her. I carried her to the coop, and put her inside the front door, whereupon she was attacked by the rest while she was still in my grasp. I snatched her up and tried to save her head, but they were ferocious and as I held my hand over her head, they hammered my hand furiously. It was painful, and I was SO shocked, I screamed. The little hen, I was trying to protect, screamed too. It was horrible. I don't think she was badly hurt, thankfully, but I wondered afterwards how I could have handled this better. ?? Anyone? Is this what happens, in stories on BYC, where people go to their coop and find one of their hens dead on the floor, blood spattered everywhere?
     
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Those sudden attacks on a flock member do happen but there is probably more to it than we see.

    Here again, I wonder if I am reading more into their behavior than what is there but chickens so seem to "carry a grudge" just as they seem to have "buddies."

    It may be better to abandon the bird that needs protecting, if you can do that safely, and "go after" the attackers. You are #1 in the flock, remember. If there is any pecking to be done, you will be the one doing it - harumph!

    Think of how the rooster would respond, or how you would hope he would respond in protecting one of the hens. He may get between the attacker and the victim but he tolerates no aggressive behavior directed at his magnificent self!

    Now to go back to my notion that they "carry a grudge" -- you may not want to be seen as playing favorites. Miss Goody Two Shoes may get the stuffings knock out of her when you aren't around . . .

    Steve
     
  6. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    Seattle
    Thanks Steve. I think you're right on about my defending her. It seemed to make it worse, in retrospect. And, especially because she's the lowest on the pecking order, I think it aggrevated the whole situation. I was in a rush and not thinking very clearly, because we had to leave the house and I was late. But, I will be more cautious next time & try to get them inside the coop earlier if I have to leave for the evening - so I can better deal with her straggling behind. I don't want to be the reason she gets even more hammered than she already does.
     
  7. MaggieRae

    MaggieRae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2009
    North Texas
    I haven't seen anymore behavior like yesterday's. I let them out to free range, and that seemed to help. I do think that I'll just give it some time.

    Off topic, but does anyone know when they're going to molt? I'd expect all their feathers (that they lost to the rooster) to grow back when they do, so I was just curious how long I'll have to wait.

    Thanks for all of y'all's help! Feathersnuggles, you'll have to let us know how it goes with your girls.
     
  8. ryanhodapp

    ryanhodapp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 5, 2010
    St. Louis
    I have 2 RIR that are laying eggs. They have been with me for about a month. I also had 3 chicks about12 weeks old. 2 of them got into the neighbors yard and needless to say, I only have one 12 week old chick.
    I also have 4 7 week old Easter Eggers. Now the 12 week old, Brownie, seems to be miserable. She hung out with those other 3 chicks and now she doesnt have a place.

    She wants to go with the 4 Easter Eggers, but she pecks at them and they all run for a corner and she stands guard so they dont move.

    I dont know what to do with her, keep her with the big girls or the little girls.
    any suggestions.
     
  9. ryanhodapp

    ryanhodapp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 5, 2010
    St. Louis
    anyone help me, my poor chick looks so sad by herself.
     
  10. MaggieRae

    MaggieRae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2009
    North Texas
    I really have no clue what to tell you. Is it possible you could find a playmate her age? At least put a stuffed animal in there with her? Something to keep her company. I've never had to integrate chicks into flocks. [​IMG]
     

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