Low-ranking hen flees from the flock and hides

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Petra Pancake, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Songster

    I seem to have a problem with flock dynamics: my lowest ranking hen Marble has left the flock and is spending the night in a crack underneath our house instead of in the coop. It's the second time she's been doing this. First time, last week, she had a bleeding pecking injury and I isolated her from the flock. She fled from the isolation cage and hid herself for two nights in that crack under the house. Then she came back and was loitering near the run door, so I shooed her back in and reunited her with the others - her wound had healed in the meantime.
    Today, when my chickens had their late afternoon "free range hour" in the garden I threw them some treats and Marble got pecked sharply a few times when trying to get at the treats. She then ran away from the others and went straight to the crack under the house which she apparently remembered from last week. When the rest of the flock returned to the coop at sunset; she didn't join them but stayed in her hiding place.

    She doesn't seem to be broody (she was last fall but then she stayed in the coop and was all puffed up, now she isn't). She does seem to have a problem with the rest of the flock - even when she's in the coop and the run, she usually keeps away from the others. When they are in the run she's alone in the coop and when they are in the coop, she's sometimes alone in the run.The rooster doesn't mate with her. While she clearly is the lowest ranking hen, she has pecked the rooster a few times and he actually avoids her. He literally jumped out of her way today.

    Marble is 14 months old and was one of my first three chickens. Half a year ago I expanded the flock and added a hen with her two chicks (they've grown up and are layers themselves now) and later on I added a rooster.
    The two other "old-timer" hens tolerate her, she even seems to be sort of friends with them. The three newer hens (mother and two daughters) can't stand her at all and peck her whenever they can. They seem to hate the sight of her, even from a distance. The rooster, as I said, avoids her.

    What should I do?
    Leave her to lead a dangerous solitary life outside the run and coop and hope she doesn't get eaten by a predator?
    Force her back in with the others every time, if I can catch her?
    Re-home her? (but how would she get along in a new flock? Also, I'm somewhat attached to her, she always reminds me of my worst teenage years, lol)
    Get rid of the three hens that can't stand her? That's half my laying flock.
    Any recommendations?
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Is your set up big enough to support the birds you have in it? There's always a bottom bird, sometimes she hangs out with the other bottom bird and sometimes they are alone.

    It can help to have enough room for everyone to get away from each other, 5-10 feet seems to be the minimum distance. It can help to have places for bottom birds to go up, or under, and to break up the line of site.

    You will have to decide whether you wish to round her up nightly or not. Whether you are willing to lose her to predators or whether you want her to continue to get picked on by forcing her into the coop.

    I personally wouldn't rehomed her, and I would choose to round her up or to let her do her own thing. Around here all my chickens are allowed to make their own decisions, so I would let her go and do what's she's comfortable with.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
    1 person likes this.
  3. egg0

    egg0 In the Brooder

    Sep 11, 2015
    Long Beach, CA
    You could try to separate the three trouble making hen for several weeks and then re-introduce them back to the flock. This should drop them down the pecking order a bit and give Marble some time to build back her confidence.
  4. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Songster

    @egg0 thanks for the advice. Separating the three bullies sounds like a good idea but unfortunately I don't have enough space or material at hand (it's expensive here) for building another coop/run and a dog crate seems too small for 3. Maybe if I can get my hands on inexpensive building material one day I'll build a spare coop for broodies or sick birds.
  5. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Songster

    @oldhenlikesdogs, thanks, I think I'll just let her do her thing in the meantime. She's survived a few nights out there already and anyway it's impossible to drag her out of her hiding place, it's too narrow for humans to get in. Regarding space in general, my coop is probably a bit small but I let them into the run when I can and have started to let them "free range" in the garden in the evenings (sort of supervised).
  6. egg0

    egg0 In the Brooder

    Sep 11, 2015
    Long Beach, CA
    You don't necessarily need to build another coop/run. If your run is big enough you could try getting enough building material to section off a part of the run. You could just place a box or crate in there for temporarily egg laying for the three.

    I can empathize with you're situation. My favorite hen ran into the same situation when newer flock members began moving higher up the pecking order. She spent most of her time away from the flock or having feathers bleed from the pecking. She also began losing weight. However, I got lucky by coincidence. I had reduced the flock from 25 to about a dozen as I wanted to introduce some new chicks into my flock. I had gotten rid of the less friendlier hens. I decided to try to reintegrate my favorite hen back into the flock. This would have been my last and 4th attempt in the last 6 months. I had her isolated everytime she had been injured and at this point had someone line up to take her. Fortunately, it worked and she's happily integrated with my current flock of 25 right now.
  7. MasAhora

    MasAhora Songster

    Nov 20, 2016
    An idea might be to separate 2 of the 3 "trouble-makers" if you can from the main flock.
    I recently split a little gang of 5 young siblings who were far too bossy in my mixed age flock of 17. I kept 3 of them separate from the flock for a few weeks -mostly to give a younger solo newly weaned chick/pullet a break from them. I am very happy with the results, the gang when split lost a bit of confidence and now that they are reunited the solo pullet pulls rank even though she's still smaller.
    Perhaps they will not need to be separated too long, even a few days can upset the pecking order. They may not enjoy their confinement (my little mafia thugs were not impressed with me) but I am glad I did it as they're quite special to me.
    You could experiment a little, if you only have a dog crate maybe put the 3 in there for 24 hours. Then release one and keep the other two in there for longer, then release one more and hold the last a couple more days. They'll hate it but I am learning they also get over it pretty quick.
  8. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Songster

    @egg0 and @MasAhora, thanks. I'll look into it and try to isolate the two main trouble makers for a while in a corner of the run or maybe in an extension of it. Odd thing is, Marble now takes her frustration out on the rooster, more and more. Today she gave him a really sharp peck on the neck -he screeched and jumped a foot high and then ran away from her... maybe I should split my flock into two in the future, Marble and her two old friends on one side and the rooster with the rest on the other side and maybe add a hen or two for the roo. But what would happen when the two flocks meet while free ranging in the garden?
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Not much you can do to fix problems from lack of adequate space....except to make more space or reduce your population.
    Have had too many bird in to small a space, it stinks(figuratively and literally-haha!)
    Reducing my flock size was a huge relief.
  10. haileyeverhart

    haileyeverhart Songster

    Sep 21, 2014
    I mean you could get a new bird. then she might befriend her. My two lowest hens stick together.

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