One new girl being bullied?! Any ideas?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by andrewmrichards, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. andrewmrichards

    andrewmrichards New Egg

    Apr 9, 2016
    Hi all

    We've kept hens for a few years, and never had any problems. We've only ever had a maximum of three birds, however, and now we've moved to a new house with more room, decided to get some more.

    We have one hen that we've had for a couple of years, and her friend sadly passed away a couple of weeks back, so we went and got 3 new birds, all aged around 16 weeks. They all got on really well, and are always friendly to us and each other.

    Now we've got another 6 birds - one aged around 20 weeks, the other 5 around 16 weeks. There's a bit of chasing and pecking as you'd expect as the new pecking order is established (the 4 we already had are definitely stamping their authority!). But there's one of the new girls - the smallest, a (we think a Black Rock, though the guy we got them from said it was a French Marron Cuivree) who is really being pecked badly by the others.

    They're all sharing a pen of around 17 metres (55 feet) by around 8 meters (26 feet). There are two hen houses - the small one that the original 4 were sharing and a larger one for up to 12 birds that the new ones went in last night. There's plenty of shrubs and small trees and leaves for interest / bug-hunting.

    For the moment, we've put the little one in the plastic crate that we use for transporting animals (it's big enough for a large dog) so that she can see out, and has wood shavings and food and drink, but is safe from the others, but I'm concerned about what happens next week when we go to work.

    Anyone any ideas about the best way to handle this? Or anyone any experience of encouraging girls to get along better?

    Thanks a lot
  2. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 25, 2015
    Is she bleeding.If she isn't bleeding then their just doing the pecking order.
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Sounds like quite a circus you've got there. It's the pecking order in action, for sure.

    In the pecking order, someone always has to be at the bottom, and your little black pullet is it, sad to say.

    So, what determines who gets to be at the very bottom? Several things. Size, appearance, and temperament are all very decisive factors. Your little black girl is the smallest, I'm assuming, and is she also the only black? If so, she stands out as being decidedly different, and chickens sometimes fixate on the one who is most different. It's how they roll.

    And last, if your little black girl is timid, then the others are picking up on that, too. If she runs away from those picking on her, she's always going to be at the bottom until she gains some self confidence.

    A long time ago, I had a Buff Brahma who was different, being the only Buff in the flock, but she was also very timid. She naturally fell to the bottom of the pecking order and took a lot of abuse. Finally, I couldn't stand watching it anymore and I put her in the "jail pen", which was at one end of the run, and quite roomy and comfortable.

    She contentedly spent her days in the pen, and I took her out each night to roost with the others since no one is much interested in causing trouble at roosting time. She spent three weeks in the pen, and when I finally let her back with the flock, she had gained self confidence, and began to behave that way, not taking the abuse like she used to. The others left her alone! She had gone through a personality change during her "vacation" from the pecking order.

    So, you can try that and see if it will work for your black. The other thing you can try is to get several more like her so she won't stand out as being the only different one. Chickens quickly lose the focus of their interest when you diffuse it with several more of the same kind.

    I remember a movie of decades ago, called "The Boy With the Green Hair". This little fellow woke up one morning with green hair. He was shocked, but the kids at school were even more shocked and outraged. They picked on him and he became an outcast. Until one morning when all the other kids woke up with green hair, and he stopped being the different one.

    That's how chickens are. If you have one black one that all are picking on, make more black ones, and you'll get some peace instead of the circus.
  4. andrewmrichards

    andrewmrichards New Egg

    Apr 9, 2016
    Thanks for your thoughts - that's really helpful, just to be reassured.

    Things have calmed down a bit over the past couple of days. We kept the little'un in the crate for the rest of the day, and then when, towards dusk, we opened it (actually just to give her some more water) she pushed past me and darted out into the garden with the rest of them!

    She's still being occasionally chased by the others, but things seem to have settled down, and she's come out the past couple of mornings on her own and happily pottered about pecking at stuff.

    Thanks a lot


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