Hens Bullying all the sudden - bad injury - what to do to control

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Angler1, Jul 2, 2016.

  1. Angler1

    Angler1 New Egg

    Jul 2, 2016

    I had a flock of 9 chickens, all hens, ordered as chicks and received early June one year ago. These include a Golden Laced Cochin, Buff Brahma, Golden Comet, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, 2 Easter Eggers, and 2 White Leghorns.

    All of them grew up and got along fine, and have been living in a nice coop and run I built, since about August of last year when they were mature enough to be put outside. This is our first flock and they also enjoy free ranging our large fenced back yard occasionally.

    Memorial day this year in the morning, we found our Plymouth Rock dead in the run. I examined her carefully and she had no signs of any trauma. It was exceptionally hot the day before and overnight, so I speculated she might have had a heat stroke problem, but not sure if it was just a random thing since all the other birds where fine. The same day however, I purchased and mounted a thermostat controlled farm fan in the rafters of the run to provide a breeze to the corner of the run. The rest of the group seems to like it, and they will relax and sit in the breeze on a hot day now.

    I had a small fan in their coop blowing out from day one, and I since this issue, I ordered a larger axial fan, thermostat controlled, to vent the coop if it got hot. This won't kick on as much since it takes a while for the sun to heat the inside of the coop up, but is pretty noisy when it runs and sounds like a vacuum cleaner. The chickens use their nesting boxes and enter in and out and the noise doesn't seem to bother them.

    In the last week of July however, all the sudden, we find our one easter egger and one leghorn badly bullying the second biggest chicken in the flock, our buff brahma. The buff was experiencing increasing stress and would often hang out in the coop while the others would hang out in the run. I'd often find the buff panting real bad in the coop by herself.

    This bullying got worse, where the easter egger, and/or the leghorn, would hop on the buff's back and rip open skin on the back of her neck. The buff would just flatten out on the ground and let them do it. She is very docile, and also seems to become very broody as she'll hang out on everyone's eggs for long periods.

    Since this behavior we penned the two bully's together in a dog crate within the run for several days, and the Buff's stress level definitely seemed to drop as she mingled in the run with the rest of the birds. After several days with the bully's in the dog crate, I let them out a couple nights ago all together, and everyone seemed fine. It was evening and they started to roost so I let them out all night.

    The next morning they seemed fine, but from the house around 10am, we saw the Buff getting attacked again. This time they really got her and ripped a good 1" square of flesh off the back of her neck right below her head. It was deep and bloody down into and through muscle. I was going to stitch her up, but there was flesh missing to pull it together, so instead we just cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide and it is scabbed over today. Her behavior seems okay, but we have isolated her in our house as she heals. And it is so deep, I'm concerned secondary complications might develop. We are adding Neosporin to the area also.

    I'm writing all this detail in case some chicken whisperer on the site can give me an idea of what is going on in the flock, and how I might stop this without culling/losing bully's or the victim.

    Our plan now is to let the Brahma heal for a week or so isolated in the house. Then isolate the bully's out of the flock for maybe a few weeks, and in this period re-introduce the Brahma to the flock. And then later, re-introduce the bully's.

    Reading many posts, we have done some other things such as adding a bale of straw to the run, hanging treat blocks, etc., in case they were just getting board, and to provide more shelter for the Buff.

    Anyway, if anyone has some insight or advice for this particular situation, please let us know.
  2. AustralorpsAU

    AustralorpsAU Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 20, 2016
    Down Under
    Hi. Sorry to hear about your chooks. Not sure exactly about whats going on so i hope somebody will answer soon.

  3. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    It sound like you have a decent plan. Hay bale is great. Maybe add more feeding and watering stations.

    I am not sure how I would react, most likely with culling (pot or re-home) since I can't stand bullying and yours is very serious. It seems as though it's their life or hers! In society, the victims can't even get police protection with a restraining order until the aggressor has actually caused harm. Then they get out on bail and go do the same thing. Sadly the law is set up to protect the offenders not the INNOCENT. If dealt with properly in the first place,.... No problem!

    If your reintegration plan works, Awesome! I have a feeling that if the victim was no longer there, they may move on to the next one.

    When you put your injured girl back in, maybe try blue cote to hide the injury from other birds since they will naturally try to peck it.

    Alternatively, I have heard of people using Peepers, which may help. I would try them at reintegration on the bullies just to give the Brahma a chance.

    You could just rehome the bullies if adding them to the stew pot is off limits. Life is too short to put up with that kind of aggression! Especially since (other than maybe being your pets) there is NOTHING special about those 2 breeds. They are practically a dime a dozen and sold at every feed store. Just my opinion.

    Good luck, to you and your flock, including the current predators (that's what they are now).

    I hope you do get more helpful advice. I always pay attention because I never know when I might run into the same situation.
  4. I had a Buff O hen hatch 8 eggs the end of February. Momma and chicks were brooded in a coop and pen that at the time was in the main run so there was plenty of exposure to the adult flock members.

    Momma went back to the flock when the chicks were 2 weeks old, but they did fine and stayed in the 'grow out pen' within the main run so once again there was plenty of exposure. At 6 weeks I let them out with the main flock and things seemed to go well. Even so, I stayed close and kept an eye on things and when I was sure no blood was going to be shed I left them alone but checked in periodically.

    The next Morning I noticed my little BO/Welsummer cross pullet was staying on the roost in the coop. Unusual. So I caught her and to my horror, she had a wound that was very similar to the one your youngster suffered. A good inch square of skin and feathers were torn from the back of her neck along with a flap wound where there was skin dangling. I figure that the wound happened the night before and when I closed up the coop, she was already on the roost and I didn't see what had happened to her. I cleaned and dressed the wound with antibiotic ointment and then with blue kote. I trimmed off as much dead skin as possible and kept trimming away the dried dead skin until viable flesh showed up. I kept the wound clean and dry and it healed well with the exception of a scar and a little skin flap where there was a 'V' tear wound that I couldn't do anything with.

    The biggest thing I did was PUT THE YOUNGSTERS BACK IN THE GROW OUT PEN. It was a hard way to learn that they were not mature enough to be with the older flock. I waited until they were past the week point and tried again. This time there was no problem with bullying. The two flocks merged without difficulty. The only remnant of the attack being that Seven, the victim, is now very skittish and timid. Still she gets along fine with the other chickens.

    I don't think removing the bulliers is nearly as important as removing the youngsters until they are old enough to handle the stress of being merged. If you remove them for a few weeks, put them back and keep an eye on them I think you will probably see a difference in their interactions. The important thing is to keep them together but separate so they can see one another.

    So sorry that you suffered such a heart rending loss and injury. I know what you are going though.

    I have three week olds that nest week will be transferred to a grow out pen. This time I won't even think of merging them until they are at least 7-8 weeks of age if not older. Some on the forum even recommend 10 weeks of age. I think they are probably correct.
  5. Angler1

    Angler1 New Egg

    Jul 2, 2016
    Thanks for your response. I'll have to watch the bully's and see if they behave aggressive to any others while the buff is isolated. That would help with what to do. The buff brahma is probably at the bottom of the pecking order even though she is twice the size of any other bird except the cochin. The buff is very docile compared to the rest, and always has been a little more of a loner. The cochin I think is at the top, but she doesn't start fights, just reacts with firm pecks to anyone intruding her space and never retreats to anyone. The bully's do act like un-disciplined teenagers all the time. First to rush out the run when we let them free range, first to the treating, etc.
    It is scabbing over pretty good, and is generally covered by her neck feathers, but yes I have read about that blue spray and plan to pick some up before trying to integrate her back in.[​IMG]
  6. Angler1

    Angler1 New Egg

    Jul 2, 2016
    Thank you. These birds are all the same age though. They grew up together and this behavior just started out of the blue.
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    That is what I thought I had read. I do agree with keeping them in sight of each other. It will lessen pecking order re-establishment when reintegration begins. It might be stressful for the Brahma to see them, but it might be better.

    Tough decisions. Go with your gut.

    She is lucky to have you. [​IMG]
  8. chickengr

    chickengr Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 29, 2014
    I resolved this problem by giving them some chopped bacon, cooked meat or fish might do as well. it is obvious they are missing something in their diet. even if you feed them well they still might need something different.
  9. Angler1

    Angler1 New Egg

    Jul 2, 2016
    Thank you. I have thought about adding protein to their diet, beyond what's in their feed, and see what happens. I didn't think the two bully's might be doing this for the sole reason of "eating" the Brahma, however. Is that something chickens would do?

    I've read that they will cannibalize, but I imaged this in the context of the flock pecking on open wounds, and not the flock actually eating one of their peers for actual food.

    Anyway, adding protein is something I will definitely try. Thanks
  10. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Protein does help if feather picking is a problem. But I think your issue seems like it goes beyond that. It's worth trying though.

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