Need advice and insight about my runt Buff Orpington


Jun 25, 2018
Northern MI
I am a new chicken owner and have 9 hens and 1 cockrel all born 6/5/18. 2 of the hens are BO's and one is very small in comparison to the other one, who I think is very large for her breed. Anyway, the smaller one "Sunny" has always been the smallest of all of them, and now I am noticing she must be low on the pecking order because of where she roosts, and also because she seems very afraid of the other hens/roo. Tonight I brought them fresh water as theirs was icy in the coop, and she was too afraid to get a drink :( If i throw down some scratch for them, she is too scared to try any. She is adorable and sweet and it bothers me to see this. Is it possible she is a bit stunted because the others are not letting her eat?? Her comb is also much smaller than all the other hens. Is there any type of intervention I could or should do?


Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
Yes, there is an intervention you can do. Also, I want to commend you on your intuitive insight that Sunny's size and behavior could have something to do with being bullied away from food.

I wrote this article because this is such a common problem that can have chicken keepers frustrated and stumped as to how to deal with it. This method I came up with has had 100% success every time I have used it, the most recent being just this month.

I'll tell you about it so you can see how well it works to treat the victim of the bullying while not worrying too much about the bullies.

Ethel is a three-year old EE. She's high strung by temperament, but she's been a basket case since she started a very hard molt. I first noticed something was wrong when I was seeing runny green poop in the morning on the poop board where she roosts.

I brought the problem to the BYC community and we tossed around ideas, but during one visit to the run to check on the chickens and dish out some food, I noticed Ethel going up to the food but when another chicken walked up, she ran away without eating. I stuck around and watched for a while. The same thing happened again and yet again.

I got a dish of food and put Ethel in the "jail" isolation pen in one corner of the run. She wouldn't eat right away, but once the other chickens lost interest in why she was in the isolation pen with her own dish of food, Ethel tore into it not coming up for air for a solid fifteen minutes. That told me all I needed to know. Ethel had been starving.

So Ethel got two days in the safe pen, never leaving the flock, but she had peace and safety and all the access she needed to food and water so she was able to regain her strength. I've seen before how a chicken that is weak will also be withdrawn and timid. It doesn't take long to build back up a malnourished chicken. Ethel herself signaled to me she was ready to go back into the flock with the others, and she's been just fine ever since, getting all the food she needs, and even trampling others to get at treats first, snatching the food out of other beaks when she feels she deserves it more.

The key to the success of this system for rehabilitating a withdrawn chicken is to keep them in the flock but protected so they can relax and trust themselves again. The first time I isolated a timid hen that was being severely bullied, I couldn't believe the personality change that took place. When isolated but still able to feel part of the flock, a timid chicken is able to recover their self confidence and compete normally again for necessities.


7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
Big Bend of the Tennessee River's Right Bank.
I forget the correct length per bird but there is a recommended amount of feed trough length per bird in chicken agriculture. The idea is for every bird to have as much space at the feed trough as they need in order to fill their gut.

There is also the danger that too many feeding stations placed too close togather will result in the top chicken in the pecking order running from pillar to post trying to keep the more timid chicken(s) from eating. When this happens then there are two chickens starving instead of only one.

Remember that nothing fattens the calf as well as the eye of its master. Therefor take the time to watch and learn about chickens and their society or social structure. It will make chicken keeping so much more enjoyable.


Jun 25, 2018
Northern MI
Thanks everyone. I have been keeping an eye on them and I do have 2 feeding stations. I did have 2 watering areas but only one in the coop now since it's so cold. I don't really have any way to separate Sunny, and I do think it is chicken shyness (if that's a thing) that started this dynamic. I am not seeing any overt pecking of her, it's just that she is so shy and afraid of the others and some have chased her away from food. Just makes me sad.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom