Older hens beating up younger hens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by tracyork, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. tracyork

    tracyork In the Brooder

    Jul 12, 2009
    Tillamook, Oregon
    So I know this is a story older than time, but it is new to us, and I'm having difficulty figuring it out. We have 6 hens in one coop. Two are younger than the rest, only about 1 year old. They are Ameracauna's, and are smaller than the others that are more standard breeds. They have both been picked on periodically, but nothing more than a few lost feathers and no blood - until now.

    We also have 4 young pullets, about 4 months old, that have been kept separate until now. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to integrate the pullets with the rest of the flock. We let both groups free range around the yard, although they generally stayed in separate groups. After a few days of this approach we moved the young pullets into the hen house after dark one night. We watched them for several days, and things seemed to be going OK. The pullets were definitely lower on the totem pole, and roosted on lower rungs at night. By day they separated into two distinct groups, but we didn't see a lot of picking other than the occasional swipe.

    Here begins the trouble. So we went out of town and had housesitters stay and take care of things. The first or second day, they found one of the young pullets hiding in a corner behind the waterer totally bloodied. They used the word 'cannibalism', although I was distant and didn't see it myself. They immediately separated that chicken into their prior accommodations, and then shortly after that the rest of the pullets went back to that location as well (on their own, after free ranging, but without any additional damage). We returned from vacation to find thing appearing to be normal, except everyone living in separate houses. The injured pullet had a large scab on her back, but otherwise seemed to be doing OK, however she then subsequently died. All I can figure is that it became infected. The rest of the pullets remain separate. I figured I had better keep an eye on them just in case it was something else.

    Meanwhile, back in the main coop, the big girls must have gotten a taste for blood or something, because they have now suddenly gone after both of the Ameracaunas. One is just bald in the cushion area, but the other one was not only bald but bloody (mostly superficial), and seemed to be giving up and letting them go at her. So we separated her, and applied Blu-Kote, to try to prevent a recurrence of the previous outcome. I also applied Blue-Kote to the other one, as a protection and deterrent in the absence of the injured bird. The injured bird was not happy, and very agitated, so after a few days, I decided to go ahead and let her return to the flock. As soon as I let her out, she bee-lined right back. So I have spent a bit of time today watching to see what will happen. The older hens have taken the occasional snipe at her, but not too bad. Then all of the sudden, she (the injured hen) runs in front of them and does the 'crouch', totally exposing her injured area to their attack. What is up with that? They only took a couple small pecks, so I'm hoping that the B-K is doing the job as a deterrent, but this behaviour is very concerning to me.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    You could try knocking the older hens down a peg or two by pulling them out of the coop for a few days.

    Chicken jail might help

    Good luck

  3. LeezyBeezy

    LeezyBeezy Songster

    Mar 13, 2010
    Lancaster PA
    weird, huh? good luck, amd let us know what you do. I am new to chickens, but I think let the little pullets and ameracaunas together, and put the offenders in chicken jail.

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