Is this the right thing to do?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Patoot, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So I have a pecking problem that I have not been able to solve. I have 4 RI Reds who I got last August and are all about the same age give or take a few weeks. Everything was great until about 4-5 months ago when a feather picking problem started. Long story short...I got them aprons, I upped their protein, they have plenty of space, clean coop, etc, etc. The aprons helped until I noticed they were picking bums instead of the covered backs. Also the tops of the wings. Then the aprons kept falling off. So they now have new aprons from Crazy K farms with shoulder pads. Those stay on very well, but I still have the exposed bum problem. Two of the hens look good, but the other two look bad. Those two have totally exposed bums and hardly any feathers on the tops of their wings. One is particularly bad with almost no tail. Of the two good looking hens, one has definitely had some picking on her bum, but it's not bad. The other has no picking on the bum and maybe slight picking on the shoulders, but it could just be from herself or from molting.

    The other day I heard a huge commotion and run outside to see one of the picked ones getting attacked while she was in the nest box by the other fairly picked one. Let's put it like this...I have 4 hens and in order of picked-on-ness (with 4 being the worst), number 4 was being pecked aggressively by number 3. Like very aggressively until I saw blood. I had to stand there and shoo her away and she kept coming back. I finally put the door on the coop to keep her from getting to number 4 and she tried jumping through the screen. I've never seen this before and I actually think maybe she was in a panic to get to the box because once Number 4 was out, she went into the box right away.

    I have seen number 1 chase number 4, but I've also seen number 1 pick on number 2 while number 2 was just sitting in the dirt. Number 2 just sits there and lets number 1 pick her feathers off. Most of the time, the picking I see does not appear aggressive, but sometimes it is as I see them chase number 4 away from food.

    I have 2 food dishes and two water bowls and number 4 often goes in the coop to eat instead of sharing the bowl with the other girls. I have tried 2 nest boxes but they won't use them. Today, 3 went into one at the same time. The nest boxes look exactly the same and I traded bedding in them to make it smell the same and stuff...nope...they will only use one.

    So I decided to separate the girls to try to allow them to grow feathers back and maybe change up the pecking order. At first I was going to separate number 4, but then today I really looked at the girls and saw that number 1 is really not picked at all so maybe it's better to separate her. Ironically she is my sweetest girl and follows me around like a puppy. I can pick her up and call her and she comes to me. Anyway, I sectioned off part of the run so she has her own space, but everyone can see everyone. She has her own nesting box, food dish, and water bowl with about 30 sq feet to herself. I can make her a makeshift coop if needed, but the nights are very mild here and it hasn't rained in like 2 months (New Mexico). If she needs a coop, I can go get a dog crate or something, but I was thinking of only keeping her in there for a few days and then putting her back.

    What do you think? Should I put the bald butt (number 4) one in there instead so she can heal? I would get a crate for her since it would be awhile before the feathers grew back. Then I would add a friend with her and introduce them both back to the pack.

    Sorry so long. Any help is appreciated!!
     
  2. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

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    I think you are on the right track with separation. When chickens start to really pick on each other, it becomes contagious and they will all join in. My suggestion is to figure out who is really the instigator of the group. Who starts all the commotion and would separate the aggressive bird out. Keep her away from the others for at least 2 weeks. That way the pecking order changes a bit, and gets all of them out of the groove of picking on each other.

    If this doesn't solve it with the particular hen, maybe you can rehome her. If they are all out of control, then you may have to keep some of the separate like the above for a several days to a few weeks. At this point, it is not going to stop and is only going to get worse. You may lose a hen over this aggression.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011

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