My rooster is killing a hen!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by bearrocksbirds, Dec 10, 2014.

  1. HI Friends,

    I'm new here and have an emergency. Last night, I found one of my hens with some injuries on her head. A little blood and her eye looked injured. I put them all to "bed" in the coop, figuring she would feel better in the morning and I'd be able to check her out in the daylight. Well this morning we found her nearly dead in the corner of the coop and the rooster strutting around with a beakful of her feathers. He's battering her head badly - she may not make it - and some feathers on her back are also torn out.

    What would make a rooster suddenly turn on a hen like that? '

    Some background: He's a cockerel, about 7 months old, and we've had this hen for about 4 months. She's integrated into the flock, along with several of her "sisters" and there have been no problems up until now. The hen has a little larger comb than the others, and my son mistook her for a rooster at first. But she has no saddle feathers or long tail feathers and has never crowed, so I can't be mistaken about her henliness. Can I????

    I don't have a photo and she's beyond photographing now.

    Please, if you can shed any light on this, let me know. Also, we're considering doing away with the cockerel because of this. Opinions? He's not aggressive with us, so we like having him around, but I can't have a henicidal rooster!!!

    Thank you in advance for sharing your wisdom with me.

    KatDawson likes this.
  2. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    Hello there and welcome to BYC from Ohio! That is something I've heard happening before. I have to say, sometimes a rooster just takes a disliking to a hen. You just never know why. Is the poor bird dead?

    I think, if she doesn't make it, then I'd keep an eye on the rooster, and if it happens again, I would make him into a nice soup. Sometimes roosters are just very rough with the hens and they rip feathers out and do damage when they're trying to mate. Then when the hen runs away, that really enrages the rooster, causing more damage to the poor hen.

    Sometimes it's just one particular bird, and that can be a hen or another rooster, that a rooster just doesn't like.

    If your hen is still alive, I would take her out of there and put her in a comfortable cage or cozy area where she can heal and relax. If your rooster is good with all the other hens, then I would just find her a new home.

    I'm sorry that happened! I have a really nice lavender orpington rooster, and he's just such a gentleman. I've had another rooster, he was a black copper marans, and he was as mean as all get-out! He was fantastic looking though, and only mean to people, so I sold him with a warning.

    I hope this is just one of those isolated incidents! Good luck!
    ShanasCastle likes this.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I don’t know how old this “hen” is, maybe 4 months, maybe older. Al I know is that you have had her four months.

    I’ve had chickens at 4 months that I had trouble being sure if they are male or female and I’ve been doing this a while. On rare occasions I can tell at hatch just by posture or attitude, usually around 5 weeks a lot of traits start showing up that makes it fairly clear, but occasionally some are extremely hard to tell until they are a few months older. Some have some indications of male but other indications of female for a long time. Some are runts and extremely slow to mature. Some males are “hen-feathered” and never develop the saddle and hackle feathers. It is quite possible that the “hen” is a male just reaching puberty and just being seen as a rival to the older cockerel.

    On rare occasions a rooster will turn on one specific hen. I’ve seen it once. That was a cockerel trying to gain flock dominance and the dominant hen would not accept his dominance. He would force her to mate and was not very gentle about that. He also would occasionally just peck her, normally around the head. In a few days she accepted his dominance and they became best friends.

    Others have reported that a rooster attacked a hen very viciously, often a fairly young one. Some people not used to chickens think normal flock dominance/mating issues are pure brutality and in reality they can be pretty rough. But enough of these reports are graphic enough that the rooster attacking a hen goes beyond normal behavior. For some reason that rooster decides he does not want that hen in his flock. Maybe he sees her as weak or diseased, not worthy of being in his flock. Maybe a wire is crossed in his brain and something about that hen just sets him off. I would not tolerate that behavior. He would soon be gone.

    The only reason you need a rooster in your flock is if you want fertile eggs. Anything else is pure personal preference. It’s up to you to decide if you want a rooter or not.
    ShanasCastle likes this.
  4. missypebble

    missypebble Songster

    Mar 11, 2011
    I agree with Ridgerunner. A rooster that is attacking a hen to the point of severely injury a hen is a great concern. And as Ridgerunner said, if you want fertile eggs, then that is when you need a rooster. I've read on this forum MANY stories about roosters attacking hens and it's really, really sad to read/ see. If I was in your position, you should either lock the rooster up for a bit, let the hens roam around on their own, then let the rooster mingle with the ones he's ok with, and lock up the one he's usually attacking. There is no need for those unfortunate hens having to put up with a rooster like that. If that's not possible for you, I think you should seriously consider give the Rooster another home. Whatever you decide to do, please think of your hen's safety and health first.
    ShanasCastle likes this.
  5. Thank you Chicmom, Ridgerunner, and Missypebble!

    The hen lives! (FYI: She's a Jersey Giant, a little over a year old. The young roo is an Ameraucana.)

    Her eyes are swollen shut, but she was on her feet when I checked on her. I have her in the "baby coop" by herself with food and water. She'll be safe there as she heals or dies. The crazy cockerel is behaving normally with the rest of the flock, which includes a younger - maybe 4 month old - cockerel. I'll have to watch him carefully now.

    The attack is really surprising. We had 13 cockerels hatch out this past summer, and we kept him because he was the mildest mannered. Our last rooster was aggressive with our family; he's in the freezer now.

    Ridgerunner, the idea that the cockerel was upset by the dominant hen not accepting his dominance is an interesting one. Nothing I thought of before. I'll have to watch him more with the other hens to judge his behavior. I'll be rid of him instantly if there's another inkling of a problem. Roosters are a dime a dozen around here; you can't give them away.

    If you know of any home remedies I can use to nurse her a little or a special herb or food I can give her to help her wounds heal, please let me know. I have some comfrey and may wipe her with a cloth dipped in comfrey tea.

    Thanks again!
    ShanasCastle likes this.
  6. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    You are so welcome! I hope your hen heals.

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