Hens picking on each other, serious problem, help appreciated.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RachaelLJ, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. RachaelLJ

    RachaelLJ Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2012
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    I have a very small flock of RIR's, 5 hens 1 rooster. They used to get along fine, but a while back one of the hens (who was at the top of the pecking order) got in a tangle with a puppy and was injured around her rear end. Her feathers have never fully come back in, so she gets a bit of a sun burn on a small patch of her rump and looks a little funny due to the missing feathers. (This happened, like, 2+ mos. ago and still no sign of feathers coming in. I am guessing the wound was too deep for feathers to grow back?) When she was healed up after the incident we put her back out with the other hens, and she was then at the bottom of the pecking order, due to being away for several weeks/looking funny I guess.
    Anyway, I've never seen the rooster pick on her, he's a gentleman! But the other hens chase her away form the rest of the flock, the food, etc. And they have recently started pecking her where she has healed up, usually not enough to break skin though. But today I found she has been ripped back open over the previous injury and I'm certain it was one of the other hens.
    I cleaned her up and am considering keeping her in a kennel inside for a while, but we have a 1 yo son and not much place to put her...my question is, what can I do to alter their behavior towards her? It isn't like they are pent up in a crowded coop for long hours or anything. They are in a coop at night only and completely free range all day. I am feeding them layer's pellets and they get kitchen scraps/egg shells plus whatever they scavenge.
    Help appreciated!
     
  2. dreamcatcherarabians

    dreamcatcherarabians Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Is it all the hens or just 1 of them? If it's all of them, I'd rehome her to someone who wants a pet chicken and doesn't want a flock. Chicken politics is pretty rough stuff. If it's only one hen picking on her, then I'd rehome the bully before she teaches all the others her bad habbits.
     
  3. RachaelLJ

    RachaelLJ Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2012
    Newton, Alabama
    Thanks for the response. That's what I was afraid of if she's not going to get back to looking normal. I am considering taking the 2 who I think are bullying her and isolating them for a couple days, then putting them back in to see if that balances the pecking order a bit. Any comments on that?
     
  4. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Yes, that is exactly what I would try. Might even make it for more then a couple days, maybe more like a week. And watch her carefully with the others while the instigators are in jail to make sure nobody else is doing the same thing.
     
  5. dreamcatcherarabians

    dreamcatcherarabians Chillin' With My Peeps

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    From what I've read it will take weeks for the pecking order to be reshuffled and it may or may not work. I've read that sometimes it works for a little while but doesn't last, sometimes it does last and sometimes it just plain doesn't work. If your hen is never going to grow back the missing feathers, I'm going to lean toward not working at all because she'll be 'different'. I had some Polish birds in a mainly EE flock and one of them kept getting his poor little head pecked bloody constantly. I kept trying to get him healed and re-introducing him but it was just a NO WAY kind of situation. He was a sweet little roo, and I hated that he got run right out of the flock but they just never accepted him. At the time I had 50 birds and only 2 roos, so it wasn't territory squables, it was just different looks. As soon as he was gone, they started on the hens, so I rehomed them too.
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    You could try removing the aggressors. Won't hurt to try. But I agree if this hen is different and perceived as weak by the rest of the flock they can be brutal with the whole survival of the fittest mentality. If we humans didn't keep intervening, chickens would ruthlessly cull each other until they were the healthiest animals on the planet!
     
  7. RachaelLJ

    RachaelLJ Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2012
    Newton, Alabama
    My husband and I talked about it and looked her over well. We think that it is possible she hasn't gotten her feathers back in yet because the other hens (or 1 bully hen) has been feather picking them off as they come in. We are going to isolate her for a while to see if her feathers will come in. If not, we will rehome her, or at least put her up in a different place at night, as we believe the pecking is happening in the coop.
    I guess if she does get her feathers in, we can put her back with the others and if they still bully her, try isolating the bullies to knock them down a notch in the pecking order. I really don't want to rehome her. She is my favorite hen and I believe she's our most clever girl as well. So sad for her :(
    Thanks for the advice.
     
  8. dreamcatcherarabians

    dreamcatcherarabians Chillin' With My Peeps

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    At the risk of sounding really trite, I'm going to quote my daddy here, "You do what you can and the rest will have to take care of itself.". I've found that it's pretty darn true. Try everything you can think of and then..it will fix itself one way or another.
     
  9. RachaelLJ

    RachaelLJ Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2012
    Newton, Alabama
    So I realized that, the way the skin is torn downward from her rump and how severe it is, it probably wasn't just pecking, but the rooster mating her. I think his claw probably tore the skin since there were no feathers there protecting it. So I sewed her up a saddle/apron from a pattern I made from her measurements, and it works great! Covers the whole bare area, including the wound, but doesn't lay on the wound/touch it much due to it being a stiff canvas material. Should help with both the mating and feather picking issues, and give her a chance to get those feathers back in. :)
    We're even gonna try keeping her in the regular coop with the others at night, see how that goes with the saddle on.
     

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