Isolated hen

Tango2

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 8, 2016
5
5
53
This past summer I purchased several new chicks, one of which turned out to be a rooster. When I assimilated the new chicks in with my older hens, my lead hen did not take kindly to the interlopers. She never hurt them, but never really liked them and the two groups remained totally separate except at night when they were in their coop together. Even then she would squawk at them until dark. My chickens always free range.

Fast forward to what is now a full grown rooster who has taken on all the hens as his special project, except my one lone, previously dominant hen. He beats up on her and she will no longer mingle with the flock. She stays in the coop all day and I often find her in the nesting box, which is I think a safe haven for her. She is starting to look rather bedraggled and sad. If she does try to come out and the Rooster sees her, he chases her back in. I’ve been ignoring this, hopingt would work it’s way out but it’s been a couple months and there is no change in behavior.

Have any if you seen something similar and if so, how did you resolve it? The hen is a Silver Tipped Wyandotte and the Rooster is a Rhode
Island Red. Other then his behavior towards that one hen, he is a nice Rooster with no aggression noted.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
25,374
38,444
1,142
Colorado Rockies
What you are seeing with this young cockerel and older hen is similar to what happens with an abusive boy friend and a girl friend that is no longer interested in him. It can get ugly when he refuses to take no for an answer.

If you would tell us the ages of all your chickens involved in this story, it would be helpful. But I will assume the "rooster" is a cockerel under a year old. He may be equipped with a full set of hormones, but it doesn't mean he has any manners or finesse when it comes to persuading an older hen to accept him and his attentions.

Even an older rooster can sometimes end up being dangerously aggressive with an older hen who wishes to avoid him mating her. I had an older hen that enraged my younger rooster by refusing him, and he chased her and trapped her in the coop where she couldn't escape and he tore the skin off the back of her head, leaving the bloody flap of tissue hanging by a thread. Some roosters actually end up killing a hen that refuses him.

So, this is a situation where you must intervene or your hen risks injury from this aggressive cockerel. Even rooster that are well behaved can pester hens all day long and wear them out. Some degree of separation is helpful when you have a rooster, if only to provide a little peace for the hens during the long day.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,055
22,741
907
Southeast Louisiana
I've seen something close but with a big difference. Like you I had a cockerel and some pullets grow up with the flock. When he finally matured enough to take over as flock master the dominant hen was having none of it. They fought and he won. For two days he did not allow her anywhere near the rest of the flock. He'd attack her, trying to peck her head anytime she got close. Like Azygous's cockerel he went for the head, that's where they can do the most damage and even kill.

This went on for two days, pretty vicious. But somehow she signaled that she accepted his dominance, he accepted that submission, and the fighting stopped. They became best buddies, hanging out together. She had been the dominant hen and still was but she had also been the dominant flock master and did not want to give that up. He took that from her and after two days she accepted it. That transition has happened before but this was the most violent and vicious I've seen by far.

But yours has been two months, not two days. That is a long time. You can keep doing what you are doing and hope something changes as long as no one is being injured. I would not after two months, as Azygous said you risk injury to her.

One option to try is to lock him up in isolation for about a week. Keep him totally away from the flock. The idea is that flock dynamics will change without him. When he comes back he will again become the dominant flock master but the other hens' relationships may have changed. That hen should not be the dominant hen any more so they may get along. Sometimes separation works, sometimes it doesn't.

The only other solution I can come up with, other than permanently setting up two separate flocks, would be to decide which one you want to keep the most and get rid of the other. I always try to solve for the peace of the overall flock, not for any one individual. Penning some in one flock while letting others free range is an option that I think accomplishes that. Eating one of them is an option. So is rehoming one, selling or giving one away. I don't know which is best for you.
 

Tango2

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 8, 2016
5
5
53
Thank you both so much for your reply. I have been stumped with this behavior and while I figured it was d/t some form of dominance display I had no clue how to respond to it. It sounds like some kind of separation might be a start, though I don't know how I'm going to catch that darned rooster. At night I guess. He can live for a bit in a separate pen and I'll see what happens.

The Rooster would now be 9 months and the hen would be two this spring, so the ages work. He is actually a nice Rooster, though I'm not one for handling my birds. He does a good job guarding the flock and for the first time I've not had any losses to foxes. He keeps an eye on any one who approaches his girls, but has never gone after any of us. He backs away when we get too close - so all and all I'm happy with him and really don't want to cull him. I call him my accidental rooster, since he was supposed to be another hen. I also don't want to cull the hen, though that would be the logical step. I apparently need the rooster and don't need the hen. She stopped laying a while back.

This might sound odd to those of you who have had multiple birds over many years, but I am concerned for my hen's mental health as well as her physical health. Chickens, like many herd/flock animals are social beings (I got that much at least) She has to be suffering psychologically, even if physically she looks to have nothing more then the loss of feathers. Interestingly, last night when I went out to lock the coop, I found her on the top rung of the roost, next to her old buddy who is a Gold Laced Wyandotte, the rooster was under her, so I'm guessing she has not made the decision to relinquish her control yet. This might be a battle to the end.

Thanks again and I'll try to update as we work this out.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,055
22,741
907
Southeast Louisiana
This might sound odd to those of you who have had multiple birds over many years, but I am concerned for my hen's mental health as well as her physical health.

That's why I suggested two separate flocks as an option. With my goals and set-up I'd eat her but my goals are not yours. Lots of people on here would figure out a way to keep both, even if she is not laying.
 

MissMonty

Songster
5 Years
Sep 12, 2015
497
986
186
Dayton, OH
I like the idea of trying to separate the rooster for a bit and re-introduce him back to the flock a bit later as the flock dynamics will have changed. Your last post really makes me wonder if its worth it tho, is it worth the headache and continued stress for you and the birds involved?

Being her age and you mention she stopped laying for me I'd have to make some hard decisions unless she's a pet. I'd probably consider culling her at this point as she's obviously causing some issues with the flock and stress to you AND she's no longer productive. Trying the separation and reintroducing the rooster is always an option but you could do all that work of separating only to end up with a chance of the same problem happening.
 

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