I have a bitchy hen

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by brantchickens, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. brantchickens

    brantchickens In the Brooder

    I have a Rhode Island Red hen, and she's been in the coop for about 3 weeks along with my 3, 12 week old barred rock pullets. I was just out in the barn making sure my flock had water and feed to last until I got home from work tomorrow evening, I noticed my barred rocks were huddling together getting ready to go to sleep for the night and the Rhode Island Red was pecking at all 3 of them. I figured by now that they should have already established a pecking order. Would this be because the weather has finally warmed up and she's getting ready to start laying eggs or should I separate her from the rest of the flock? I don't want to see the rest of my flock get injured because of her

  2. wolf-hen300

    wolf-hen300 In the Brooder

    Apr 16, 2016
    she might be broody if she is seperate her and if you want to hatch eggs give them to her
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    she is not broody unless she is in a nesting box.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Are your Barred Rock pullets up on the roosts. How old is that Rhode Island Red? Older than 12 weeks obviously. I don’t know how big your coop is or how the roosts are laid out, but what you are seeing is a difference in maturity. I’ve seen that before but my flock is not that small. I’m not sure how it’s best for you to handle that.

    My chickens are hardly ever brutal to each other but mine have a lot of room during the day. The one time I do see behavior like that is when they are settling down for the night on the roosts. With mine it’s usually a fairly low-ranking adult hen going out of her way to be brutal to immature chickens that are trying to roost. It’s as if she is trying to protect her spot in the pecking order, low as it is. But occasionally a high ranking hen will do something like this.

    A more mature chicken will outrank a less mature chicken in the pecking order. For most it’s not that big a deal, if the lower ranking invades the private space of a higher then the more mature will often peck them to drive them away. But as long as they are separated she ignores them. That’s why younger chickens form a sub-flock that avoids the adults when they can. They don’t like getting beat up so they just avoid the problem and life is good. But if they are forced to be together on the roosts the only way they can avoid is to not roost. I put up a secondary roost, lower than the main roosts and horizontally separated but higher than my nests to give the immature chickens a safe place to roost that is not the nests. You might try something like that if you have room and al this is taking place on the roosts.

    But you have another problem that I have no experience with, you only have one older chicken. Chickens are social animals and want to be with other chickens. You may have a conflicted hen. She may very much want to be with the younger pullets because she is lonely yet when she gets there she starts bullying them. Other people on the forum have had that type of thing happen before. I don’t think showing her episodes of Dr. Phil or even bringing out the big guns, reruns of Oprah, will get her through these conflicting emotions. I have some suggestions but I really don’t know how serious the problem is.

    Since you just happened to notice this, you don’t know how long it has been going on. It may not be all that dangerous to start with. A very common recommendation on here is that if blood is not drawn, stay out of it. The pecking order sometimes involves pecking. I don’t know enough about your physical layout or where this is taking place, I don’t even know if you have a roost. That’s my first thought, monitor the pullets for damage but as long as there is none, let them work it out.

    My second thought is if your space is confined where they can’t get away, what can you do to give them more room. If you have one of those tiny 4’x4’ coops probably not much. But if your coop is big enough to give you some flexibility look at where this is happening and see if you can add more roost space, hopefully separated, so they can get away from her. If she is lonely that may not help but it is worth a try.

    If you do see damage, isolate that older chicken. My pullets are normally mature enough to force their way into the pecking order about the time they start to lay themselves, though my current batch are even slower than that. They have been laying a month and some still use that juvenile roost. Yes, she will be lonely but she’ll get over that. Try housing her where she can see the others but can’t get to them to hurt them. You can try keeping her like that until the pullets heal up (or a couple of weeks) and let her go to see how she behaves. Sometimes confinement like that will alter their behavior, sometimes not. The problem is not that they have not established a pecking order, they have and she is the boss at least until those pullets mature. They are integrated, she knows the others are part of the flock. The problem is that a lot of chickens are just bullies when they get the chance to be. Not every chicken is like that but some are. Unfortunately you hit the jackpot.

    I wish you luck.
  5. brantchickens

    brantchickens In the Brooder

    The red is about 2 years old, my mechanic gave her to me because he can no longer care for her, my coop is a 10' x10' horse stall that I converted into a coop. The barred rocks were nestling on the floor of the coop so they were nowhere near the roosting bar. I moved the red into another stall which I'm slowly converting into a second coop and she seems to be enjoying herself in there.

  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Don’t be surprised if the BR pullets start roosting soon now that the older hen is out of the way.

    A lot of the time this integration stuff goes pretty easy, but sometimes it just doesn’t. But it sounds like you have plenty of room so eventually it will work out. Just be patient. I think you made the right move.

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