Killer Attack Flock and a Traumatized Young Hen


7 Years
May 2, 2014
I need help with an issue we've never encountered before. We have a mixed flock of 12 mature australorps and wyandottes. This spring, we mail-ordered and hatched out 5 chicks. They were kept separate from the flock and weren't introduced until 10 weeks. We did everything you are "supposed" to do when introducing new chicks (they lived side-by-side in a split run for weeks, then were put together at night, given feed and treats in various areas, etc), but within a matter of days, 3 of the young birds were killed by the flock in the night. Two were, for some reason, never bothered (one turned out to be a rooster, and the other hen was his buddy from the start. Maybe that's why?). Those two have gone on to become normal members of the flock, though they prefer to keep to themselves when let out to free range.

While this was happening, one of our hens became broody, and we allowed her to sit on 6 eggs. She sat on them for over a week, when one day, we went in and she was out of the nest and another was sitting on the eggs. The original broody hen showed no more interest in sitting, so we allowed the other one to take over. That was fine for about another week, but then, one by one, eggs were pushed out of the next box (and broken, obviously, with developing chicks inside), until there were only 2 eggs left. From there, she sat on those two, and only one hatched. Cute, healthy little chick, which we moved with the mom to the brood pen (which has a wall of wire on one side to allow interaction with the other birds. Anyway, after only about a week together, the mother chicken stopped taking care of the chick and wanted nothing to do with it. She would roost on the waterer at night, leaving the chick alone, and otherwise, just try to be wherever the chick wasn't. Once the chick was fully feathered, we decided to let it and the mother hen out into the yard with the other chickens for an afternoon. Big mistake. The chick ran back to the henhouse, and the mother hen went back to the flock. In one day, she began to attack the chick whenever we tried to put them back together, so we left them apart.

Since them, that chick has grown beautifully, and we have tried to introduce her to the flock twice. She's always been able to be next to them, so we hoped that she'd fit right in, but that hasn't been the case. On both occasions, we've had to save her from being attacked, each time resulting in her head being completely pecked to the point of no feathers and lots of blood. After each instance, she's gone back into her isolation pen (still within sight of the flock) to heal. And now here we are. She is TERRIFIED of the other birds. When allowed out of the pen to go into the yard, she cowers in the corner of her pen and won't leave. If we physically take her out, she runs back inside immediately.

Currently, we are trying to slowly introduce her to the flock by expanding her pen to include the young roo & hen from our spring hatch (first paragraph). They don't mind her a bit, but she is still afraid of them. They do roost together at night, though with some distance between them, so that is promising I guess.

ANYWAY, after that book, I guess my questions are:

A) What's up with our mature hens? They have plenty of room, nest boxes, food, indoor and outdoor space, occasional roaming of our yard, etc. So why do they keep trying to kill nearly every new bird introduced?

B) Are we doing the right thing with our little hen? Is there any hope in her being rehabilitated and a part of the flock, or has she been too far traumatized by being alone and then attacked?

C)If you think there's hope, how should we go forward?

Thank you so much in advance for any responses. I'm just at a total loss with what's going on.

Outpost JWB

5 Years
Mar 31, 2014
WOW! I feel so bad for all the trauma you and your chickens have gone through. We are totally lucky. Never had anything to that extent happen. We did once have a chicken tractor with 17 roosters in it. They dumped their water & ate all their food & honestly, they were overcrowded. When I came home from work that day the roosters had ate each others' tail feathers off and most were bloody. We lost one out of that batch & learned a lot that day. I put corn starch on the blood spots because if they see blood on another chicken, they will attack.

You seem to be doing everything I would do. I would definitely keep your little hen separated until she heals 100percent and probably 4-5months old at least. We also have australorps and they generally don't bother each other or the other breeds. Not sure what advise to give you. Sorry. Good luck.

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