How much pecking is normal?

sandrap

In the Brooder
May 28, 2020
8
24
18
Hi guys!

I rescued three hens a few days ago. They have been laying eggs for a year, thus they're about 1.5 years old. Breed brown nick. They're curious, starting to learn how to chicken, as they've never been outside nor walked on grass.
They can be outside all day long (they have our entire yard), I've placed food and water outside - I prefer if they sleep in their coop during summertime and do everything else outside. The yard is securely fenced and my dog guards them all day long.
I noticed that when they all go inside in the evening, one of the hens starts attacking both of the others - to me it looks rather bad and vicious, but - she doesn't draw blood and I have not noticed any large amount of feathers to be plucked.
My question is - how much of this "aggression" is normal? If and when should I stop this hen? If they are establishing their pecking order - how long does this behaviour last? One of the hens gets most of the beating, I feel so bad for her :(
 

Carvermaier Farm

Hatching
May 28, 2020
6
5
8
I have found that "factory" hens can be quite aggressive to one another, sometimes having different breeds or more hens can help things. if the hen is not bleeding and is fine during the day (only picked on before bed) she should be fine, if you see blood separated immediately and treat her, chickens will continue to peck if there is blood as they think it is food.
 

sandrap

In the Brooder
May 28, 2020
8
24
18
Yes, they were factory hens. They weren't kept in cages, but we're "free range" (most of the hens looked awful though).

Okay, I'll check all of them daily for injuries and will separate injured one(s) if needed.

During the day they're fine - a few pecks here and there, but I guess this is how chickens communicate - they have plenty of feeders and drinking stations, lots of stuff to do, lots of space, grass, flowerbeds to wreck.

I do have other chickens as well, but they are still babies (less than 2 months old - silkies, cream legbars and marans) and will be introduced to the bigger hens later on.

It just really breaks my heart to see them beating each other and one of them taking most of it. I really just want to take the hen indoors into my bed and let her sleep peacefully. I guess I just have to let them do their thing. They've been here only for 5 days.
 

sandrap

In the Brooder
May 28, 2020
8
24
18
I couldn't look at the night-time beating any longer. Last night I took the hen that was beating the others up, placed her in a cardboard box (turned it sideways, covered part of the opening with a towel) and she stayed there sleeping. Did the same thing tonight. I don't care if she poops there and later on goes there to lay eggs. I'll clean the box in the morning. I'll just give them some time. When they are outside - communication between them is nicer and nicer every day. Less pecking, more "talking" with body language and sounds :) They're also starting to figure out that there is plenty of food and room for everyone, no need to fight for everything.
I also heard that a rooster could calm things down - my roosters are still about 1.5 months old, so this will take some time.
 

Finnie

Crowing
6 Years
Oct 27, 2014
2,659
3,049
386
Indianapolis
I couldn't look at the night-time beating any longer. Last night I took the hen that was beating the others up, placed her in a cardboard box (turned it sideways, covered part of the opening with a towel) and she stayed there sleeping. Did the same thing tonight. I don't care if she poops there and later on goes there to lay eggs. I'll clean the box in the morning. I'll just give them some time. When they are outside - communication between them is nicer and nicer every day. Less pecking, more "talking" with body language and sounds :) They're also starting to figure out that there is plenty of food and room for everyone, no need to fight for everything.
I also heard that a rooster could calm things down - my roosters are still about 1.5 months old, so this will take some time.
Sounds like you have the situation well in hand. I was going to suggest that sometimes if you isolate the top hen that’s causing the problem for a few days or a week, she loses her top hen status, and when she is reintroduced to the flock, she becomes the bullied instead of the bullier. That could even the playing field for the rest. But it sounds like what you are doing is working.

And yes, a rooster will not usually tolerate fighting amongst his hens, so when your cockerels grow up, that should help. As the cockerels grow up together, their pecking order will be naturally worked out. Just make sure you don’t keep too many roosters for your number of hens. I usually try for 5-6 hens per rooster, but that isn’t always enough. You will have to deal with that flock dynamic when you get there and see how it is playing out.
 

sandrap

In the Brooder
May 28, 2020
8
24
18
Thanks for the idea. I'll see how it goes and if she still attacks others for no reason and tries to drive them out of the coop, I'll separate her for a few days. It's kind of funny, that every evening, I have to put the top hen "to bed". She is not separated from the others, I just place her in the box she likes to sleep in and that's it, she settles there nicely and stays there for the night. I have a camera in the hen-house that records, so I can check what happened during the night.
I do think that the factory hens are not "normal" hens. They don't roost, their first interaction with me was them attacking me and the food I tried giving them and it took about a week to see one of them taking a nice sand-bath outside.
I've checked all of them every morning - no feathers are being pulled out, no one is injured.

Currently I do have too many roosters growing up, but once they're old enough to go outside and are capable of standing up to adult hens, I'll rehome the extra roosters (hard to do, since most of my babies are sweethearts, social, curious, like to be pet and held and like to hang out with me).
 

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