My RIR Hen Went Psycho and Attacked Me. Looking for Input.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Cynthia707, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. Cynthia707

    Cynthia707 Chirping

    Jul 28, 2014
    Hi chicken people,

    I've been reading this forum for a couple of years, but just joined today so I could ask this question.
    My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip. This morning when I approached the chicken coop after letting out my 3 girls, my Rhode Island Red hen Bernie full-on attacked me. She came running at me from 20 feet away, jumped on me, and started pecking very aggressively. You would have thought she was a rooster going after a bobcat. I managed to grab her and hold her for a few minutes, finally letting her down when she seemed calm. Then she came at me again, this time even more aggressively! She actually drew blood on my wrist and hand. She BIT me and then held on! I have a huge welt with broken skin on my wrist, about the size of a dime. I had to pry her beak apart to get her to let go. It was insane. So I held her down again, this time for about 5 minutes, and when I let her go, she fluffed her feathers at me and then strutted off. She later attacked me two more times in the yard. I carried her around for about an hour and I think I have finally gotten her to realize that I'm not going to fight her, and she's not going to be able to challenge me. But now she won't come near me and runs when I approach her (though she'll stop, posture, and give me a threatening glare from a distance.) She won't even come for dried meal worms, her absolute favorite snack.
    This hen is the omega in a small flock. She's always been a little "off", including chasing down and attacking my dog, and just being generally derpy and developmentally delayed. But she has always been very sweet towards me until now. She is two years old exactly.
    Oh and she's giving the other two hens a wide berth and is not attacking them at all. It's just me.
    Other thoughts:
    Three weeks ago, two of my other hens were killed by a predator and this hen watched it happen. Could it be delayed stress?
    We have confirmed that this is personal, as I'm the only human she is attacking (weird because I'm also the one with the most interaction with the hens...i.e. "mom".) Could she be challenging me in the pecking order? Maybe she wants to establish someone below her, and I looked like a good candidate.
    She apparently hasn't laid for 10 days, according to our house-sitter. I've considered that she's going broody, but isn't showing any other signs (no interest in the nest whatsoever.)
    She was also VERY docile, almost sedated, with the house-sitter. Could she be mad that I'm back, because she liked Jen more than me?? I've always felt badly for her because she's a loner, while all my other hens are paired up. Wondering if she bonded with Jen (house-sitter) as a "mate"?
    No rooster in my flock.
    I've also considered that she's possibly sick, and it does seem like she's eating less than normal. Her crop feels almost empty. But other than that and her attacks on me, she seems very healthy.
    I nursed this hen back from being egg-bound twice and hand-raised her from the time she was 3 days old. I'm pretty heartbroken that she's turned on me. I'd love some insight, thank you for reading!

    Here's a photo.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    It sounds to me like she has taken the role of flock leader, which a hen will often do in the absence of a rooster. They can even do a sort of crowing, and climb onto other hens as if mating, in a show of dominance. They sometimes also stop laying. Since you are the human most familiar with them, it makes sense that she is trying to demonstrate that she, not you, is the flock leader.
  3. swamperkk

    swamperkk Songster

    May 8, 2014
    we had roosters attack my wife,next day,rooster stew,that was the only one who attack but i never had a hen act like that,if it would hen stew,hope your hen settles down,u cant have it attacking you everytime
  4. familyfarm1

    familyfarm1 Crowing

    Jun 9, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    Yeah I think its trying to show dominance.
  5. Summertime7921

    Summertime7921 In the Brooder

    Jun 12, 2014
    Since you mentioned her not laying in 10 days, I'm wondering if she's actually stashing eggs somewhere and going broody.
  6. smarsh

    smarsh Songster

    Aug 19, 2009
    lexington, KY
    I believe she has been demoted in the pecking order (thus the giving the other hens a berth) and is trying to assert herself on you. If she was going broody, she would be clucking and not just picking on you. She sees you as one of the flock.

    but i am guessing
  7. Mac14

    Mac14 Songster

    Jul 21, 2012
    Northern California
    To me it sounds like all the things you said, combined together, is making her react like that. Maybe everything just made her go 'over the edge'. I'm glad you were able to react so quickly to her attacks, and showed her your higher position. Have the other chickens shown any weird behavior too?
  8. Cynthia707

    Cynthia707 Chirping

    Jul 28, 2014
    Thanks for replying, Mac.

    The other two seem perfectly normal, business as usual.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  9. Cynthia707

    Cynthia707 Chirping

    Jul 28, 2014

    Thanks for the reply Judy!

    Is flock leader the same as alpha? If so, she's definitely not that. She's at the bottom in a flock of three. (The alpha and beta are joined at the hip and totally shut her out.)

    The other two seem perfectly normal, business as usual
  10. Cynthia707

    Cynthia707 Chirping

    Jul 28, 2014
    That's an interesting thought. She has definitely stashed eggs in the past. The only thing is that she's not showing any other signs of broodiness besides the aggression and lack of eggs. If she is broody, she's not spending much time with her eggs, because she walks around the yard all day.

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