New bullying, egg eating

Possum-Pie

Songster
Jun 23, 2022
128
197
111
Pennsylvania
Hi, all! I have 4 hens (and a rooster). The hens have been together since birth and always got along. About 10 days ago The Buff Orpington started behaving like she was broody. Sat on the nest all day unless I pushed her off. But when she went outside the Barred Rock bullied her pecking and chasing her back inside. I didn't want her to brood so I put her in the coop in a dog cage for 2 days. Seems to have broken the broodiness, she is outside with the others, but the Bard Rock still bullies her. The Barred Rock also bullies the smaller Australorp but leaves the bigger Australorp (alfa hen) alone. The other strange thing (related?) is egg production dropped from 3/day to 1 or none/day. I thought it may be anxiety about the fighting, but I've found 3 eggs broken now with the contents eaten.
Does this all seem related? I broke the broodiness and eggs are being laid in the nesting boxes, but still finding broken ones. I was hoping the bullying would stop eventually, but am worried about them getting in the habit of egg eating. No physical injury from bullying, no bleeding. They have all gotten along fabulously since birth so this is distressing to me.

-No change in feed lately (Layer Pellets + Mealy worm treats)
-Plenty of room to roam (Coop 10' X 12') run 10' X 40'
-Rooster is younger than hens (hens 18 months, rooster 12 months) He was introduced this past spring before he was old enough to mate, but was accepted by hens.
-Rooster is an "aggressive" when mating and hens have some missing feathers on their backs, but he is protective of them and not violent. They are not afraid of him.
 
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This happened once in my flock too, I recommend giving away that barred rock so there won’t be anymore bullying. This happened in my flock too and after one of my roosters attacked the other I gave him away then the flock was peaceful.
 
Thanks for your response Chooken Owner. I will get rid of the Barred Rock as a last resort. I know they have a genetic predisposition to be aggressive, but for the first 2 years, she has been fine. I'm thinking it is something I can resolve without drastic measures. As I mentioned they grew up together without any fighting. The large Austrolorp is definitely alpha female, but the rest seemed to all be on the same level...until now. I put the Barred Rock in the dog cage all day today to perhaps "bring her down a notch or two" but when she got out she went after the Orpington when she got too close.
 
My guess is when the Orpington went broody your Barred Rock thought she could step in and take her place in the pecking order. Then when separated your Orpington to break her broodiness that gave your Barred Rock the exact opportunity she needed to do so. If it was my flock I would be tempted to remove the Barred Rock for a couple of days and let the pecking order re-establish then re-introduce her. As far as the broken eggs go is there any dried egg goo/contents around where you are finding the the shells or are they picked bone dry? Are your hens in a completely secure coop/run or do they free range?
 
My guess is when the Orpington went broody your Barred Rock thought she could step in and take her place in the pecking order. Then when separated your Orpington to break her broodiness that gave your Barred Rock the exact opportunity she needed to do so. If it was my flock I would be tempted to remove the Barred Rock for a couple of days and let the pecking order re-establish then re-introduce her. As far as the broken eggs go is there any dried egg goo/contents around where you are finding the the shells or are they picked bone dry? Are your hens in a completely secure coop/run or do they free range?
Good idea. I perhaps should put the Barred Rock in an extended "time-out" for a few days. The Buff Orpington was not higher on the pecking order than the Barred Rock that I could see, but perhaps she was.
As for the eggs, I find partial shells in the nesting boxes, contents eaten but the partial shell remains. They are in a completely secure fenced-in run, no free-ranging.
 
UPDATE:
Things are slowly going back to stable as there was little fighting today. BUT the egg-eating continues. It's always the Left-most nesting box, and it occurs at approx the same time/day. I go out multiple times, before lunch, I get an egg, after lunch, nothing, mid-afternoon There is a broken egg in the left-most nest box. I can't tell who is doing it as I have 4 hens
I put a jar in the box so nobody can use it, and in the other boxes I put a golf ball to perhaps help. Any ideas?
 
Thanks for the response, Hoped it didn't have to go that far, but I may have to. I hope to find the reason for the sudden egg-eating and resolve whatever caused it rather than just prevent it. It could be stress from the recent bullying.
 
UPDATE:
So the pecking order seems re-established. Barred Rock moved up Orpington moved down.
Still having some trouble with eggs. I blew out 2 and put mustard in them. Someone ate the shell leaving most of the mustard. Apparently, they don't "hate" mustard as much as people think! The other hens have begun laying in a nest in the corner floor of the coop and whoever the egg-eater is doesn't seem to be touching those eggs. Shells seem frail compared to last year's eggs, I'm using layer pellets same as last year but have never supplemented with oyster shells. Maybe that is the next step.
 
A couple weeks old... but...We feed back the shells. It's supposed to help with calcium. If they're eating the shells it could be that's why. Perhaps if you start tossing them the shells then they'll stop eating their eggs...?
 

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