Long story but....Any suggestions for a hen that's being picked on?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by BrittsChicks, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. BrittsChicks

    BrittsChicks Hatching

    Jan 11, 2015

    So I have six chickens that are all 4 months old and have all been raised up together since they were a day old. (3 different breeds, 2 of each). They have quite a nice sized coop, 6' deep x 5' wide and 5' tall as well as a fenced yard approximately 15' x 10'. Today when I went outside to fill their waterer and feeder I noticed 5 of them picking on one! I sat there with them and watched and then scolded them when they tried to pick on her again. They would stop while I was in there but as soon as I would walk out of the fenced area they would pick on her again!

    I read a bunch of information on the internet for some ideas and learned about how people will remove the biggest one or two bullies...but in this case pretty much all five of them are bullying her....so I can't really remove the one or two main bullies because they're ALL doing it! I even followed someone's advice that I found on here from years ago and pinned one down on it's side for about a minute as soon as it tried to hurt her and told her to peck her back! (she didn't peck her back, she just looked at me as if to say thanks...but no thanks)

    So she's been hiding in the corner of the yard all day because they keep chasing her over there as if to tell her to stay in her place. It's making me so mad....I'm thinking of ditching the 5 meanies and getting her some new friends. I don't want to keep a bunch of bullies and reward them for picking on her by removing her from the herd....this all reminds me of that movie 'Mean Girls'. (the little punks)

    Anyway, I put them all to bed tonight and watched them closely through the wooden slats on the coop door...(some of them saw me as I gave them the evil eye as if to tell them that they'd better be good or it would be a new home for them!)....But it was so sad! She would be in the corner all alone and then would slowly walk over to them a couple of times (and then one would get up and scare her to her corner) but then finally she succeeded to get closer to them yet kept a good 2 foot distance while they all snuggled together;.... all the while she would make eye contact with me through the wooden slats as if she were asking....why doesn't anyone want to be friends with me anymore?!

    Well I couldn't stand it anymore...it was too depressing... so I opened up the coop door and picked her up and put her in a nice cozy cage in the garage where there are space heaters and no one can pick on her.....

    I'm just wondering if anyone has any suggestions....should I ditch the other 5 terds? I am so frusterated because they are all so SUPER tame and I've spent 4 months raising them up to just give them away?!

    Some more info: Her name is Cookie, she is 100% healthy, and she is the largest and most full feathered hen that I have! I really don't understand this nonsense....maybe they're all being mean to her because they are female and they're jealous that she's the prettiest chicken.....

    I'm out of ideas....I'm about to either give the 5 away or.....let her be free range and get her a brand new friend to run around the yard with....

    Pecking orders suck! I gave away 10 chickens that I had raised up since they were one day old because they were picking on these 6 chickens!! (the 6 chickens that I have now were two months younger and the big ones were trying to kill the little ones)...My philosophy with my animals has always been.....get along or GET OUT!
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Is the bullying mostly happening around feeding? Multiple feed/water stations can help.

    Maybe put one or two other pullets with her in the garage......
    .....lose the heaters tho, may cause more problems than it solves.
    If they can get along, merging the two groups again later might work out to make a cohesive flock.

    Space might be an issue, the 16 birds you had in that space is crowded and might have been the problem from the get go. Lots of space and hiding place, multiple feed/water stations are very good tools for integration.

    Learn about chicken behavior, the pecking order can look violent but it's what they do...they are not humans and don't feel jealousy of beauty, but are strongly territorial. Understanding their behaviors will help you manage it.

    Read up on integration, might give you some tips to try.

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.
    See if any of them, or the links provided, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens into flock.

    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders.

    If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.

    The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
  3. ChickenLegs13

    ChickenLegs13 Songster

    Sep 4, 2013
    Lower Alabama
    As a small time egg peddler I want a calm, peaceful flock. Any disturbance is dealt with quickly, whether by removing the bully hen or the one being bullied. I used to have a lot of mean dispicable hens and actually maintained 2 pens; a pen of "nice" hens and a pen of mean ones.

    I have large spacious pens with multiple feed & water stations and obstacles they can duck under, jump on, and run behind to break the attacker's line of sight to help prevent bullying.

    In my experience removing a abusive bully hen doesn not "reset" her attitude. When she is returned to the pen weeks later she takes up right where she left off. Bully hens are not necessarily high on the pecking order, most of the time it's my low ranking hens that are bullies. It's not that they're trying to work their way up the social order, it's just that they're naturally mean & pecky hens.

    My first thought when a chicken suddenly starts getting bullied by the rest of the flock is that it's sick, so I move it to another pen or cage till I figure out what's going on. A chicken can look fat & healthy but drop dead the next day for no apparent reason. The other chickens can tell when one is sick, even when we can't, and they try to drive it away from the rest of the flock.

    Being that yours are young it's probably just a pecking order thing. Unless you're willing to get rid of 5 hens just to keep 1, I'd move her to another cage or pen until she matures more and gets her confidence up or you figure out what their problem is. They will scalp & kill her if they see blood.
  4. BrittsChicks

    BrittsChicks Hatching

    Jan 11, 2015
    Thanks so much for the advice and the links! They were very informative! I put another feeder in the coop, but unfortunately it didn't help..... The bullying really wasn't happening during feeding time...it was just more of a constant issue. You are probably right about the space issue when I had 16 in there....but everyone was relatively young and small at the time so I thought it seemed like ample room for at least a month until I moved them to a larger coop/yard..... but it just wasn't worth the stress in the end. I kept the younger 6 because I had spent more time "taming" them and I was more attached to them.

    I don't do well with bullying in any way, shape or form even though I know that they're chickens and that's just how "chickens do". I just can't stand to watch it...it makes me want to have chicken and waffles for dinner when I see it, with the meanies being the guests of honor. :)
    And I know Cookie wasn't being bullied because she's beautiful...that was just a joke. :p

    So, on that note...I removed Cookie and I chicken-napped another one, (Mustard) so that she could have a friend and put them in a pen in the garage. I kept the space heaters....I have a four car garage and even with the heaters it's only about in the low 60s in there. (Don't worry the chickens are far away from the heaters). I also have 9 rabbits and I keep their hutches in there during the winter so that I can keep them safe from cold temps and predators; that's why I have the space heaters.

    I tried setting them up in a very nice coop outside with a heat lamp, fresh hay, feed and water but they just followed me right back into the warm garage so now they have become my two spoiled pet chickens. They are now in a pen with fresh hay, feed and water and very cozy. They are quite content. It's pretty adorable.

    Thanks for the advice, info, etc.. it was really helpful. :)
  5. BrittsChicks

    BrittsChicks Hatching

    Jan 11, 2015

    LOVE the idea of two pens btw... I might even take 'Big Red' out of the meanie pen and put her cozy in the garage with Mustard and Cookie....so it would be a 3-3 ratio when I attempt to put them all back together some day....

    All of this nonsense has had me reevaluating my chicken keeping situation....I am thinking that I will let them free range during the day...(we have a lot of grass backed up to a creek) and then keep them in a big barn at night....

    When I had a huge ranch in CO I had over 50 chickens kept free range that would all sleep together in a 6 stall barn and NO ONE EVER picked on each other...NOT ONCE!!! So this is all just crazy to me....it has to be the yard confinement business....I mean I had all different breeds, all different ages, pullets, roosters....no fighting ever...I guess it just all boils down to space....

    This makes me want to get a bunch more chickens so that we can have one huge chicken party again in a big ol' barn that I just built but after reading aart's articles I'm scared to introduce grown chickens to the flock now! Before I was adding chickens of all ages and breeds at any time...for no rhyme or reason other than for the love of chickens and no one ever got sick, or came down with any diseases or anything....I guess I was really lucky!

    But this time I think I'll raise em up from chicks so that we don't bring in any diseases....but I'm waiting until Spring.....because it's just too darn cold right now!

    Thanks again y'all!! I really appreciate all of your help. :D
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on the situation and the experience to handle it.
    I like the idea of the 3 and 3, good move. Sometimes just some separation like that can shake things up enough to solve pecking problems.

    The quarantine articles are worst case scenarios...everything with a grain (or many grains) of salt...but good to be aware of the possibilities.
    It boils down to personal 'risk management' preference and experience with spotting health issues plays in also.

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