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One chicken being banned from the coop

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Clearly, Feb 18, 2015.

  1. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi there!

    First, I'd like to express how much I've loved this community, and have regularly referred to it for the last year. I'm very excited to finally join, especially now as I'm about to embark on hatching my own eggs next week!

    But I have a problem that I cannot seem to find any answers to. I currently keep six hens in a raised coop with a 12ft run. They're so very happy, free-range my yard all day, follow me around, and produce fabulous eggs. There is an obvious pecking order, as my little blue Wyandotte tends to be missing tail feathers, and that's a way of life.

    But it's been over the past month that at night, when my chickens walk themselves into their coop, they are barring her entry. When I go outside to lock the run and coop door, there is poor Violet on a beam in the run, all alone. I have been diligently grabbing her and sneaking her into the back door of the coop with the others every night.

    I guess I'm wondering if there is anything more I can do, perhaps something to correct this behavior? I get the pecking order, I hate seeing her picked at and feathers missing, but I get it. That being said, this has to be crossing a line, no? They shouldn't be barring her entry at night. Is it hopeless? Poor girl.

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I'm on year one of chicken keeping, and there hasn't been one minute of regret. It's a complete joy! And thanks in advance for your advice!
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Welcome! Glad you finally joined us!

    Violet is probably a timid sort, and is having such a rough time of it when it comes to roosting time, she has given up. In order to attempt to solve this problem, you need to spy on them when they are vying for position on the perches to see exactly what's going on.

    As you push Violet through the pop hole, run around to the coop entrance and watch what Violet does, and what the others are doing to her. My guess is they are knocking her off the perch or pecking her painfully on the back of the head as she tries to settle in.

    Sometimes you can add another perch to make more room. People underestimate the amount of space needed on a perch for chickens to settle in. If it's not long enough, flapping wings of a hen hopping up onto the perch may knock chickens off that are trying to settle in. A longer perch could solve this.

    If it's a personality conflict, a bully not liking Violet to roost anywhere on the perch, sometimes you can hang a few curtains from the ceiling to create partitions along the perch so hens with differences can roost next to each other without having to look at each other.

    But the first step is to watch and see exactly what's going on that has poor Violet so discouraged she's given up on trying to roost in the coop in the first place.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wow! You know? Not once did I even consider the idea that maybe is was her choice (her fear) to not enter the coop at all in the first place. My general assumption was that they were just blocking her way, as they tend to block her from treats I sprinkle on the ground. Because I can't be at the door of their coop as the sun is setting, I definitely guessed wrong.

    Really, it's just one: the gold Wyandotte, who bullies her. The others are indifferent. It's only the gold that pecks at her over treats. The only reason I haven't removed either of them is that I'm operating under the idea that this is nature, if it wasn't them, it would be others, etc.

    I will make an effort over the next few days to observe the inner coop behavior. My partner is a techie; he would love an excuse to put a camera in there for a few days since he works, and I teach piano out of our home, so I can only check on them out of the windows as they run the yard.

    Either way, I'll be sure to do some serious observation, and will update as I know more. But changing my way of thinking about the problem; that she has given up, is life saving, and makes me want to work even harder for the poor thing.

    Ahh, the tragedy of seeing chicken pecking orders in reality. No books really ever prepare you for it, and how much your heart hurts for the one at the bottom.

    Thank you so much! I'll update and am still very open to all advice and suggestions!
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The instinct to roost when night comes is very powerful and simple bullying would not prevent a chicken from seeking cover unless it has reached the point of giving up. That's why it's easy to reach that conclusion.

    Pecking order is a powerful force on behavior, but so is temperament, and each chicken has their own personality, with the limitations that imposes. As a chicken keeper, you can just let nature take its course, or try things to mitigate the problems the weaker ones are having.

    Depending on how you see your flock, as livestock or pets, some of us will go to extreme lengths to help the ones with limitations. It's our own choice, and one approach is as valid as the other.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Alright, I've watched awhile, first by physically putting poor violet in the back door with a flashlight on inside a nest. The other chickens didn't seem to mind that she was inside; I waited a half hour in the light rain to see if they'd harass her. Everyone just stayed put.

    Later, I tried to watch as they entered. Amelia always goes first, and that seemed routine. My buff Orpington was last, and she just stayed at the door. Not that violet tried for it; she again just jumped up onto a roosting bar and was done.

    So behaviorally, I agree, she is making an active decision NOT to go in. I don't blame her, she is picked on by my gold laced Wyandotte. I think maybe I should share a picture of her, and one very close up of her tail. She has missing feathers, but has NEVER had as much as a scratch to her skin. No blood. And I look at this bald spot at least twice a week. Once a week I put "Peck No More" all over the bald spot.

    Should I find her a happier home? Part of me wonders if maybe this IS excessive, but the pecking order is natural, no? There IS someone at the bottom, no matter what. Or should I get rid of the culprit: the gold laced Wyandotte? Or do I just continue to do my best, which I am doing. I'm a good chicken mama. :)

    Pics.....

    [​IMG]

    This is Violet just on my back steps.

    And now, her poor rear end:
    [​IMG]

    And a much closer look in DETAIL of that rear end, as you can see I've spread out the feathers that normally cover this so every detail is clear:
    [​IMG]
    It's only the size of a quarter, though I recognize how grotesque it looks up close. :(

    Please help me help my poor girl. She was a favorite as a chick, the friendliest hen I have, and quirky in her curiosity. I love her. I Need help.

    Edit: my flock is six hens.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    When I was first faced with a hen getting her back ravaged by bullies, a larger area than Violet's, I ran down all my options, and chose to protect the victim. I felt it had the best chance to succeed, the other options being more drastic and harder on the various players.

    So I designed and sewed a saddle apron for my victim that covered her bald spots. She even had bald shoulders which I designed shoulder ruffles coming off the top part of the saddle and covering the top part of her wings. The saddle was so colorful and unique, it was selected by a publication on hens to be included in it.

    Saddles can be purchased over the internet and there are many different sizes and styles. They're very easy to sew, though, if you're handy with a sewing machine. That was the best solution and it worked out extremely well.[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2015
  7. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could try separating the bully from the flock for a few days to knock her down a knotch or two and upset the pecking order.

    Another option might be to get a couple of teenage pullets and integrate them into the flock, Violet could easily become friends with the newcomers and then she won't be lone man out.
     

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