How I can I help an alienated hen

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by nwgirl, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. nwgirl

    nwgirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Last summer I had, what was once a friendly hen, Myrtle, viciously attacked another hen, Baby, in the flock. Myrtle had twisted neck months prior to the attack. She was separated for several days until she recovered. When I placed her back with the flock she moved up in the pecking order.

    Months went by and then out of nowhere, Myrtle attacked Baby. There were roaming free when it happened. Baby wanted to fight back but I got into the middle of it because I truly thought they were going to kill each other.

    There were four hens in the flock and they were all raised together from chicks and they have always gotten along (they will all be seven years old this year). The attacks continued. Myrtle would go out of her way to bite Baby. Even Baby's best hen friend, Cinnamon began to alienate her. Sadly, Cinnamon passed away last Fall, so now there's only three hens in the flock. Weeks later I removed Myrtle from the other two hens for a few days thinking that the dynamics of the flock would change once I reintroduced her, or at the very least, Baby and Bella would become closer. The two did become closer but once I placed Myrtle back in the flock, Baby was alone again.

    Baby spends much of her time alone. She roams the yard alone, roosts at night alone.

    Is it possible the three can be friends again? Please, any suggestions on what I can do to make life better for Baby would be greatly appreciate.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I don't think they will ever be friends, with only three in the flock you have left her no friends. The middle bird will always align with the top bird. Us humans don't like the pecking order often but it gives each bird her place. I always let my birds work out their differences, troubles only arise if there's not enough room for the loser to get away. Your only hope is to add a few more members than the bottom bird will have some below her to pick on.
     
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  3. nwgirl

    nwgirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am trying to be more optimistic. My three hens have plenty of room but the mean bird will run 15-20 feet just to peck at Baby. Baby will just be minding her own business, sitting there chatting with me and then get attacked for no reason.

    The only thing I know to do is try removing the mean hen for a longer period this time. The mean hen used to lay her beak on my chin and go to sleep but now she doesn't want anything to do with me either and it's sad, I miss her and the bond we once had.

    This time I am considering bringing her inside to live with me for a week. She and the other hens won't even see one another and it will give her and I some quality time. It will be more work actually having her in the house but at least I will be able to put those chickens diapers to some good use :)

    I am still open to any other suggestions anyone might have.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2016
  4. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have a similar situation, I think. My two red hens are closer to each other than they are to my black one. Thankfully (with the exceptions of squabbling over treats, and one bedtime squabble, both initiated by the top hen), they seem to get along fairly well so far. I would love to hear any advice you have for keeping the peace and also helping the bird on the bottom of the pecking order. Adding a fourth one would not work without getting a new coop, as our coop is a tight fit for the three that I have). NWGirl, I hope you are able to get your hen back to living peacefully with the other two.
     
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Agreed. Adding flock members is the only viable thing i can think of - none of us need an excuse for chicken maths problems, but this is a perfect rationale for getting more chickens! [​IMG]

    CT
     
  6. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    If my understanding of pecking order is correct, it sounds like there would always be a hen on the bottom. Do certain combinations (even numbers, large groups) work better than others?
     
  7. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    I'm really not sure if there are any "magic numbers", but with more chickens, the greater the likelihood of sub-flocks forming and hence one chicken not being alone.

    CT
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    They're 7 years old and may be reaching the end of their lives.....
    ......the bird who is being attacked may also be weakening with age and that my be why she's being attacked.

    Do you have younger birds?
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I think one key to keep the peace it to respect the pecking order, the OP, say she's feeding and talking to the bottom hen when the dominant attacks. The key in this is all things must go down through the dominant hen first. You can show the bottom ones affection but it should be on the sly, don't sit down with a bottom hen and start paying her attention where the dominant hen can see. The dominant hen should get first choice of everything. To ensure everyone gets something spread your treat out and talk to all, stop favoring the bottom hen in a noticeable fashion. The top hen will than have to remind the bottom girl who's boss.

    Us humans dislike the pecking order. To us it looks like bullying and we often step in when we should leave it alone. Chicken keeping requires you to honor the animal and not try to put our human emotions into it. My two bottom hens, in a flock of about 50, should have a rough time, but they and I understand how it works. They have taken it upon themselves to sit inside a hundred gallon trough used to feed hay in. I toss their share of treats in there where no one can see them enjoying themselves. They also have other places to get out of the way. Chickens need the room to get away from each other. If there's no room for a bottom hen to get out of the way she's going to get pecked. When pecked enough it becomes a bad habit that is hard to break.

    So respect the pecking order and don't crowd your birds.
     
  10. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Old Hen Likes Dogs,

    I found your post interesting, because the one potentially dangerous attack that I've had (pecking hard enough to draw blood), happened when the middle hen got down from my lap. It really surprised me because I'd never seen the dominant one act aggressive towards her before. Also, it's a rare treat when the dominant one lets me hold her (she's the most flighty one of the bunch), so I couldn't imagine why she'd take exception to me holding the other hens. The other two have become more timid about letting me hold them since.

    I did wonder if Red (the dominant one) was taking exception to my paying attention to the middle one, but decided I was probably reading too much into it. After reading your post, I think my first reaction may have been correct. If so, how would I go about fixing that (other than always giving Red the first turn at being held)? Also, is taking one of the birds for a walk outside of the run (where the others can't see) a bad idea?

    Thanks
     

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