How can I resolve gang bullying in an established flock?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ChickaD, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. ChickaD

    ChickaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 6, 2008
    central Vermont
    Our established flock of 7 older hens who have been together at least 4-5 years, has started acting brutal towards one poor hen. They pick on her mercilessly and seem to take turns running her off the roost, etc. When they free range, she stays off by herself and hates to come back in at night. This didn't always happen. The picked on bird, Jewel, and the worst offender, a nasty white bird, Pearl, are both originally refuges from a neighbor's flock, who joined ours years ago. Two things have changed in our chickens' routine lately: we added a small flock of 5 week old chicks to the smaller fenced-off half of the coop (where some of the older gals used to enjoy roosting, etc before the chicks needed that space); and we have reduced the amount of free ranging for our older flock since we have had a coyote kill and a hawk attack recently...now they are in their run more often and only free range when we're nearby.

    What can you suggest I do for the poor tormented bird? I haven't seen any bleeding or wounds. She appears to be heavily molting, which is odd, since no other hen is molting. Perhaps the others pulled out some feathers, and now they are growing back in? We don't have a separate part of the coop for this hen, except for the entrance portion at night. During the day, all the hens would need to go through that area to access the coop.

    Tonight I caught the main offender, Pearl, and held her calmly for quite a while, talking quietly to her, holding her in front of all the others.......then set her down on the coop floor, standing over her, where she just sat/lay quietly, unheard of for her. Normally, she doesn't allow anyone to catch her (I suspect neglect/abuse in her earlier life before we got her) Do you think I should keep doing this, if she's the alpha female?

    In 9 years of raising chickens, we've never had this kind of bullying. Help, please! [​IMG]
     
  2. Omran

    Omran Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2008
    Bagdad KY
    Hi,if I was in this situation,I will bring a small gage and lock the meanest hen(peareel) in the gage may the others will see her and think that what gonna happen to them if they were mean.then in few days I will reliese her from the gage and watch her what she is going to do.
     
  3. ChickaD

    ChickaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 6, 2008
    central Vermont
    Omran, thanks for your helpful and speedy suggestion! That's just what I'll do: make a cage area in the coop and gladly put Pearl in it for an attitude adjustment. I think we should have named her something other than Pearl, don't you think?
    Just a thought: why, oh why, doesn't the coyote, hawk or even dog ever seem to catch the nasty bird in the flock? [​IMG]

    Anyway, I appreciate your help.
     
  4. spaka74

    spaka74 Out Of The Brooder

    it is annoying that the dog never dose go after the nastiest hen in the flock, even my dog, bruno, will only go after his favorite bird, cha chi too, who sadly is very low in the pecking order to make things harder for her,

    but your problem is you introduced those chicks and sealed of a bit of there hutch..... this is bad as all hens have there own ideal sleeping places,
    so i guess you little one, slowly had its place, moved around till it was gone....
    and pearl, who is only a chicken wont think twice and leave her be...
    thats why, when i got my seremas for my allready established flock, i split the hutch into sections, they could get in all of these sections, but this way, they have at least a wall beetween eachother... it really helps.... dunno, if it will do the same for you, but eh, its worth a shot....
    also.... they need a large area to free range, and run away from the people high in the pecking order, i did this as well, with my seremas, but seeing as i live in england, theres no cyotees, or oblivious birds of prey....
     
  5. ChickaD

    ChickaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 6, 2008
    central Vermont
    So, Spake74, you have no coyotes or active birds of prey? Wow!

    Thanks for your ideas......and yes, I'd done what you did, with the coop separated in two for many years with fencing...this sudden problem was worrisome as I didn't want them to draw blood. Yesterday I made a restraining area in a coop corner and now big bully Pearl is "doing time in the pen" as they say. That should take her down a few pegs in the pecking order. I should have named her Attila the Hen! Wait 'til she finds out she also misses out on free ranging for a few days. She may have a nervous hen breakdown! [​IMG]

    Thanks so much for your help!

    Since no one else is using this thread, it probably doesn't hurt to go off-topic and ask what part of England you live in...I have a friend whose BF is in Yorkshire.
     
  6. rebecca10782

    rebecca10782 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 24, 2008
    Send them to church [​IMG]
     
  7. chickiebaby

    chickiebaby Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 2, 2008
    western mass
    If things don't change pretty fast, I'd just give away the meanest hen - like when the FBI prosecutes the leader of the gang. She'll likely have a low spot on the pecking order if she joins a friend's flock. Just warn them first so they can keep on eye on her. We gave away mean ol' Coconut and she has caused zero problems in her new flock.

    hope all goes well. . . .
     
  8. ChickaD

    ChickaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 6, 2008
    central Vermont
    That's a possibility, Chickiebaby...let's see who my real friends are - lol. I could send her packing with a chicken recipe hanging around her neck. I actually thought I could "punish" Pearl with a daily session of hugging & then back in the cage - probably drive her over the edge. It was something to see two of our hens standing outside Pearl's holding pen, as if to say, "We don't know how to spring you out of there.........and we're lost without someone to beat us up!"

    Rebecca, what a cool idea - sending them to church! We should have brought them with us this morning. (It really would have been a pew.) Then they'd have to watch out for birds of pray! [​IMG] However, she is NOT the "Pearl of great price". [​IMG]
     
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I agree that this was probably brought on by the changes in their environment. Maybe when things go back to normal this behavior will stop, or your bottom hen will be able to avoid Pearl more?

    Do you have a rooster? My roosters always seem to be able to deflect this type of bullying. I'm wondering if one had the time, if you could kind of monitor the action each day for a period of time and pull the "alpha chicken" routine on Pearl each time she starts to bully and pick. Nice limber switch aught to do it....and just give her a little sting each time she does her thing.

    If all else fails, eat Pearl! [​IMG]
     

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