One hen in flock suddenly becoming very aggressive

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by shelleyjoy, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. shelleyjoy

    shelleyjoy New Egg

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    Hi, all! So, I have a small flock of four hens. They are two years old. Each is a different breed: one Easter Egger, one Barred Rock, one Buff Orpington, and one Delaware. They free-range in our large backyard all day. They have all always gotten along exceptionally well (so well that it often surprises me). They never show aggression toward me, and aside from one light peck here and there when getting treats, never bother each other. Then, today, the Easter Egger started aggressively chasing and attacking the Buff Orpington. The poor Buff, named Donna, was frantically running away and trying to hide in some bushes. I tried to break it up and hold the aggressive hen down for a while. As soon as I would let go, she would attack again. I finally picked her up and locked her in the coop alone. She's being very vocal and is clearly agitated. The other three are now calmly pecking around the yard like normal. Any ideas as to why this hen who normally gets along with everyone would single out one bird and keep attacking her like this? Is it good that I separated her? Should I keep her separated all day, or just try it for an hour or so and see what happens when I let her back with the others? Any other ideas or tips? Thank you for any help or advice! - Shelley
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    How big is your coop, exact dimensions? Where do these 2 birds fall in the pecking order? My thoughts based on what you have described: Coop is too small. (4 s.f. minimum recommended per bird) Pecking order is going through transition. The hen who is being chased has a physical ailment that you have yet to be aware of. The birds are lacking in protein.
     
  3. shelleyjoy

    shelleyjoy New Egg

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    Thanks for the reply! The coop is 4-by-10 feet, but it's open all day to the yard, and they spend 99% percent of the time in the very large backyard. So they have plenty of room to roam. In terms of the pecking order, the aggressor in this situation is at the top, and the Buff is third. I do feed them dried mealworms for extra protein, but that is an interesting point. Could you say more about why you think that might be the issue? Thanks again!
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Feather picking can be from lack of protein.
    What is the protein percentage of their regular feed, and what other foods/treats do you give them?

    This doesn't quite sound like that tho......if it is as sudden and violent as you describe.
    A top bird might 'drum out' a weak or ailing bird, the theory being that they can be targets for predators.
    Have your birds molted this fall?

    Separating the bully for a time....that time can vary, can take a day to a couple weeks...can put the bully low in the pecking order.
    It's good that you separated the attacker....what happens next could be tricky.
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    TY aart. Well explained.
     
  6. shelleyjoy

    shelleyjoy New Egg

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    Thanks, aart. That is helpful. They eat an organic feed from a company called Scratch and Peck that is 16 percent protein. Yes, they have been molting. They started several weeks ago and are most of the way through the process. Since molting started, I've been supplementing their feed with mealworms and sunflower seeds for extra protein. Maybe I should be giving them even more of these things.

    Update about what happened later today: I ended up leaving the bully in the coop for a couple of hours. Then, I gave her treats while in the coop while I gave the other three hens treats right outside the coop. I kept distracting them all with the treats and slowly opened back up the coop door so they could all be together. And what happened? Nothing. Nada. They just all acted normal like the crazy attacks from earlier in the day never happened. They all calmly pecked around the yard together and took dust baths this afternoon and went to bed with no drama. Phew! Maybe it was a freak thing and it won't happen again. I'll keep a close eye on Donna (the one who was attacked) to make sure she isn't exhibiting any health issues.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Could have been a one off, let's hope so, maybe she got a feather up her butt...
    ....but....
    Good moves on your part, KUDOS!
    Treats thoughtfully distributed and good to get them back together sooner rather than later,
    which can create similar yet slightly different problems.
     
  8. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    In a nut shell...Chickens are always trying to move up in the Pecking order.......Fights happen.....I do not think you have a sick Bird....You have normal pecking order taking place.....


    Cheers!
     

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