How to deal with bully hens; pullets are not laying yet

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by deborah, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. deborah

    deborah Chillin' With My Peeps

    114
    0
    129
    Oct 22, 2007
    Chelsea, MI
    We did a major cull of our flock this fall. Pending the cull, I sold 4 older hens and our 5 year old rooster. We had been thinking we might not have a rooster anymore, but once the rooster was gone, decided one was a good idea.

    We hatched 11 chicks this summer. 5 female and 6 male. In the fall we culled 8 hens and 5 of the excess cockerels. That left us with the 5 pullets and 3 1 1/2 year old leghorns. During the summer, when we still had our 5 year old rooster, we noticed he seemed mean to the leghorns, keeping them at bay when we threw out kitchen scraps, while the old hens ate them.

    Now that he and the older hens are gone, those leghorns rule the roost! They don't let the younger pullets eat at all. They are finally letting the rooster eat, but we've found the pullets with empty crops in the evening.

    We recently got 10 inches of snow and the flock is staying in the coop. The pullets are being terrorized. Yesterday we chased the leghorns out into the snow for an hour so the pullets could eat.

    Right now, we are still getting 3 eggs a day from those 3 leghorns. One pullet is 30 weeks old, and the others are 24 weeks. NO eggs from them yet. I was worried they might have been laying somewhere else, but they've been confined to the chicken coop 3 days now and only 3 white eggs per day.

    Has anyone experiences similar problems? How do we get back to a harmonious flock?
     
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,748
    1,393
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I have for years raised chicks under a broody hen at her whim, so I get chicks more early to mid summer, vs early spring. What I have found is that pullets that are NOT laying before the long nights of winter, will not start laying until mid to late January. That is for me in SW South Dakota. I would expect about the same time frame for you at a somewhat similar latitude.

    Until they start laying, they are lower in the pecking order than the laying hens. But once they start laying, the pecking order should shift again. Now, leghorns can be aggressive, and may always rule the roost, but I am thinking in another month, it may change, depending on the bread and personalities of your birds.

    I think by the end of January, this should settle down.

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2016
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,452
    3,536
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    do you have more than one feeder?
     
  4. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

    29,793
    18,211
    666
    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Knowing the size of your coop would help (sq feet). It could be a contributory factor, as could your weather conditions not permitting your flock to perform their instinctive habits (foraging, dust bathing etc). I agree that multiple feed stations, perches where the pullets can get out of the way of the hens, and any other things that you can think up to "entertain" your birds (e.g. hanging a cabbage for them to peck at) could all possibly help the situation. I guess building a weather-proof run would be another possible option (a tad more expensive than a cabbage, though [​IMG]).
     
  5. deborah

    deborah Chillin' With My Peeps

    114
    0
    129
    Oct 22, 2007
    Chelsea, MI
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Last evening 3 of the pullets had empty crops and the other one had about a marble sized ball. I'm concerned they are not getting enough to keep warm. There is a heater in the hen house that turns off when it gets above 32 degrees and there is a heater under the water.

    Our chicken coop is 8X20. Hen house is 8X8 and predator-proof run is 8X12. The run has a roof, but is not weather-proof. The hens haven't gone in since the snow fell except if we push them in. They've been primarily hanging out in the hen house since the snow fell.
    Earlier today we forced the leghorns into the run, but I'm not sure how much the pullets ate while they were out. They just seem very scared to do anything.

    There is one large feeder in the middle of the floor and my husband placed cardboard in 2 of the nests and put some food on top to encourage the pullets to eat without the leghorns bossing them around.

    The cockerel is a Black Copper Marans. The 4 pullets are 1/2 Copper Maran and 1/2 Easter Egger. We had a 5th, pure Black Copper Marans pullet, but lost her to a hawk last week. :-(

    It took our old rooster until he was about 1 1/2 years to take command of the flock. This current cockerel is 30 weeks old, not even 1/2 way there.

    I'm just worried about losing some of the pullets before things get settled in the flock again.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  6. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    I do not see many leghorns in your picture...WHAT WERE THOSE?


    Cheers!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    34,664
    7,886
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Multiple feed and water stations set as far apart as possible would be a very good idea.
     
  8. deborah

    deborah Chillin' With My Peeps

    114
    0
    129
    Oct 22, 2007
    Chelsea, MI
    3 leghorns. When I first opened the henhouse to take photos, 2 were on the floor and one was on the roost to the right. When I stepped in, the 2 on the floor went out into the run.

    Normally we put out 2 feeders. One in the run, and one outside that is taken in at night. Once we got the snow, the hens weren't going into the run, so we moved the feeded from the run into the hen house. The outside feeder hasn't been used since the snow. I think we will try putting it in the run so there are feeders in both the hen house and the run.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    34,664
    7,886
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I would put 2 feeders and 2 waterers in the coop in opposite corners.
    Hopefully the LH's won't tag team and 'defend' both stations from the pullets.
     
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Long trough style feeders work best for making sure everyone gets feed and only feeding once per day helps too. When they only get fed once per day, they are so busy stuffing their beaks with food before it's all gone, they don't really have time to keep others off the feed. Young birds and those low on the totem pole manage to edge in and get food at the other end or the opposite side of the trough when the older hens are still eating. They can't guard the whole trough.

    The advice about the laying status is true...whatever birds are laying rule the roost at that particular time, so when the pullets start laying their status will go upwards in the hierarchy of the flock. Just give it time.

    Noticed your nest boxes are about the same height of your roosts...that's something you may want to change as time goes along. Could be you'll get birds that sleep in your nests as they are currently situated. That makes for poopy eggs.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by