low hen on the totem pole

paulette p

In the Brooder
12 Years
Jul 31, 2007
My little black chicken (I'm thinking an Australorp?) is being picked on by the rest of the flock. Most of her tail feathers are gone, they push her out of the way so she doesn't get much to eat and because of all of that, she is a loner. I bring her in every night to our indoor 'playpen' and give her food and water to ensure she is eating enough. She digs in like she is starving. I bring her out every morning to add her back in with the other girls. They seem fine with this & so does she...is there anything else I'm missing? Before I started doing all of this about a week ago, she had very few poo's, was standing in the middle of the yard with her head tucked under her wing and generally acting lethargic. She's better now. I don't mind the nightly feedings but, I'm wondering if she will ever be anything other than bullied by the other chickens? The bullies are my Orps...
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12 Years
Dec 16, 2008
Northern Nevada USA
There is always a low hen on the totem pole...or pecking order. And by removing the hen you may be disturbing the flock dynamics even more. Instead, I would increase the feeder space or provide more than one feeder. When I have a bunch of new pullets integrating with the flock I put out an extra bowl or two each day for the first few weeks until the older hens are treating the new girls like good neighbors.


11 Years
Apr 16, 2009
Conroe, Texas
I definitely agree with providing more feeders. that worked for us recently integrating a new hen into our tiny flock of three. the dominance really comes out at feeding time and when they all had a food tray available- there was more peaceful, eating calmly beside each other. It was more work, putting out three trays instead of just one. But I found that she(the new hen) would just spend all her time running back and forth between the two trays if I only put out two, being chased off!

I also agree(tho I am FAR from an expert) that they will most likely accept her as "one of them" more if she sleeps out in the coop with them at night. that is their "homespace" and they will get used to her being there and being "one of the flock" if she sleeps out there with them more, I would think.

of course, proving as much space for them to forage around during the day is a great idea- more space just seems to = happier chickens in general!

With our tony flock of four, it has taken about a month, but they are all calmly, cooexisting now. The "new" hen is definitely still the lowest on the totem pole but she isnt being harrased or chased off or pecked at like she was when we first introduced her.

goood luck with your integration!


Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
I urge you to integrate her back into the group. She should adjust. If she's still young, she'll learn.

The two pullets at the bottom of the pecking order in my flock usually hang back at roosting time to eat in peace after the others have all gone inside. During the day they sometimes go inside the coop to eat from the feeder in there while their mates are busy outside.

The flock's behavior evolves over time, and you might see the pecking order change also.
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Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Nov 27, 2008
Glen St Mary, Florida
I also recommend getting a head of cabbage, cut it in half and suspending it in their coop using a small rope or clothesline. It will distract the hens higher on the pecking order and the lower ones will have a chance to eat. Also cabbage is good for them and eventually the hens at the bottom of the pecking order will get their share also. I put a half head of cabbage in the coop this afternoon and came back 3 hours later and it had disappeared! Needless to say, I put the other half out there at sunset so they'll have it for tomorrow.


11 Years
Jan 19, 2009
I had EE that way, she really got ripped open! I took her in to heal, and put her right back out there. A couple of weeks later same thing. I let her heal again and took her out. She wouldn't come out from her little hidy hole the whole time. After 4 days I took her in, she was sooo hungry, and I kept her in the house for the year and tried it again the following spring. Now she will not take any crap!

All I can say is do what you think is best for your chicken. Sometimes it doesn't always work. If they are just picking feathers, I wouldn't worry too much. Mine her back was cut open, you could see bone and stuff.

The fun part having her in the house was she started acting like a dog. lol I swear she barked instead of bawked! lol Maybe that is what made her tough, All my dogs was afraid of her! lol

Good luck!


9 Years
Feb 12, 2010
Central Valley, California
You can also try watching them to see who the ringleader is and separate THAT hen for a couple of days. This should bring her down a notch or two in the pecking order and the one getting picked on will usually move up in the order and get less picked on.


Staff PhD
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
13 Years
Jan 25, 2007
Everett WA/Corvallis OR
I agree, put her with the flock and increase feeder space. Taking her out for the night, especially if she can't push her way into a roost spot with the rest, just confirms in the top chickens heads that this "loner" really doesn't belong. If anything, take out the top hen for a few days to toss up the pecking order. I've had low hens, but they usually got their fill on food as soon as the top hens were stuffed and runing out and about away from the feeders.

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