One of my roosters is killing one of my hens -- help!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tuesdaylove, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. tuesdaylove

    tuesdaylove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I desperately need help figuring out what is causing some problems in my flock, and any ideas on how I can solve it. I'm including a lot of detail and some pictures in this post so it may be long, but I figure the more details I give, the better advice y'all can give.

    The basic problem is that one of my roosters has been attacking only one of my hens for weeks, and he's refusing to let her eat or drink at all, and she's nearly dead now. I've separated her. The only reason I waited so long was to see if it was just a flock-reorganizing thing, but I now think it's not.

    The details...

    I have eleven chickens split into two flocks. One flock consists of a bantam rooster (Georgia) and two standard hens. They're fine, no problems there. The problem is in my other flock, which consists all bantams, three roosters and five hens. In this flock, which I'll call JD's flock since JD is the leader, consists of leader JD, Alex (the rooster beating up the hen), Spearow (third rooster, who I plan to rehome), four hens who are not really involved in the problem, and Mykerion, who is the hen being beat up.

    Mykerion has always been the lowest-ranked bird in the flock. Right now she and the youngest hen alternate being lowest, but the other hen isn't getting picked on nearly as bad as Myk is. I've seen the difference between the way Mykerion is normally treated, and the way Alex has been treating her lately. I'm gonna go back a bit. It used to be only Alex, Mykerion and one other hen. Alex and Myk were very close then, and there was one period of time where he and the other hen attacked her for a bit, but it was over in about a week and the violence was not bad. Then I believe they were just establishing order. Alex and the other hen had five chicks last year, some in May and some in August. In May they had a son, who grew up to be much bigger than Alex. This son is JD. He took over as flock leader, when Alex previously was, and this is when Alex started picking on Mykerion a little bit, but not bad. Now JD is almost a year old. I'm explaining all this in case it's JD's taking over the flock that has made Alex aggressive. I know three roosters and five hens in a flock isn't ideal, but again, I'm re-homing one. I would really like to work out something to keep JD and Alex if possible.

    This seems completely different from the normal way she is picked on. Normally, the other chickens let Mykerion eat and drink last, but they're not attacking her. Alex literally spends all of his awake time chasing her. I rarely ever hold her so I didn't realize until today when I pulled her out of the pen, she's skin and bones. No fat on her body. I'm amazed she's alive. I now believe Alex must not be letting her eat at all. Her egg production has dropped from one every day to one or two a week. She has cuts all over her face, all the feathers are ripped out of the back of her neck, most feathers are gone on her head. She's got some cuts on her body that look pretty irritated. This is way beyond any hierarchy fighting I've ever seen.

    I'm also considering that this may be a space issue that's just now coming up, since all the chicks are just getting grown. Where I live, my chickens cannot free-range, since the woods are right behind my house and a big highway is out front. We have coyotes, foxes, snakes, weasels, possums, and raccoons, and I've lost many chickens to these predators from trying to free-range in the past. I have two pens where I'm able to keep chickens.

    JD's flock is in a 10 foot by 10 foot dog kennel, 100 square feet, where they've always lived. None of the chickens have ever fought over space or resources in the past, so I don't know if overcrowding is a problem now. Again, three roosters and five hens live here:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Georgia and his two big hens live in a pen I built a few years ago. I don't know the measurements but it's definitely bigger than the kennel, about the same height but more floor space.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    (^ Couldn't get the whole thing in one picture where it was visible, so this is two halves of the whole pen.)

    So, with all this information, what do you all think I should do?

    I also want to ask, should I switch the flocks into the other pens? I've thought about this, but I don't know if 10x10 feet is too small for two huge hens and a bantam rooster, but it would be much more space for problem flock.

    Should I try putting her in Georgia's flock? I'm really hesitant to do this. Georgia grew up in a flock of bantams, but he snapped one day and attacked them, nearly killing all of them. He had to live alone for a long time, and now he lives with hens twice his size because they're big enough that he doesn't attack them. He's super people aggressive, so I'm afraid he too would attack Mykerion -- though he is Mykerion's father.

    Any and all help and advice is very hugely appreciated. I don't have space to keep any more chickens separated, so something has to be done to get Mykerion living with others again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  2. Hillaire

    Hillaire Chillin' With My Peeps

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    hello, sorry you have a girl being picked on, I would separate her for a bit since she is skin and bones as you say. I honestly think there are a few issues here, one is you have 3 roosters for 4 hens. I have 2 roosters to ten and that isn't ideal I am actually going to either sell or cull my one rooster because he is young and just wants to do his roosterly duty to the same girls causing feather loss. In your situation you really need to get rid of more than 1 rooster. Your hens need a break and I have a feeling when you separate the one hen the others will start getting the attention of the subordinate rooster. Also the coop may be a tad small doesn't look like a lot of space for your girl to get away from the meany. It stinks having to get rid of roosters especially ones you have grown to like but in this case if it were me I would extend the size of the coop and downsize the amount of roosters and probably increase the amount of hens. Plus having sons with mother hens isn't ideal, it encourages inbreeding
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I would remove all but one rooster. Even with just one roo, there may not be enough hens to keep him from over breeding them. But, you have opportunity to remove him to a roo pen if he gets out of hand. Your only other option is to move all the roos into one pen and put all of the females in an other pen. He is starving her out. In addition to brutalizing her. Not a humane situation at all.
     
  4. tuesdaylove

    tuesdaylove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for the advice!

    About the inbreeding... Well most of this flock is inbred already. It was an accident. The first hen Alaska and Alex the mean roo are mother and son. The eggs she lays and the eggs Mykerion lays look the same, so I let them hatch some eggs hoping they were Mykerion's, but turns out mom and son had the babies, so the other 5 chickens are all inbred. They've had no health problems and now I know better than to assume eggs belong to just one hen.

    I've separated her for now, she's in a small kennel, but I don't have anywhere to keep her long-term. :( Nor am I really able to extend the dog kennel. If space is an issue, what do you think about putting this flock in the bigger pen, and bringing my flock of three to the kennel?

    I can possibly get more hens if needed, but with not having much space I didn't know if I should. I'm very attached to Alex and JD, but I guess I can let one go if I have to.
     
  5. Hillaire

    Hillaire Chillin' With My Peeps

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    how many chickens are in the big pen? Because if you switch them out and you have about the same amount you are just going to have the same problem eventually. I would not get more hens if you're not able to extend remember chickens need 3 square feet per bird maybe they are bored? Maybe adding some chicken toys and a roost bar or 2 in the run will help keep them occupied. The nice thing here is you could totally extend it all you would need is two more pieces of kennel and just put plastic mesh across the top to cover it that way one portion is open the other is covered... just a thought
     
  6. N F C

    N F C dem crazy bones Premium Member

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    Maybe I'm missing something...but why keep an aggressive rooster at all?
     
  7. tuesdaylove

    tuesdaylove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Will the roosters start fighting with each other if I put them together in a pen, with no hens? I've never tried keeping several roos together. I had to keep one rooster completely alone in the past and it was horribly sad. He was self-mutilating until I gave him some new hens.

    I have thought about maybe the hens were being overbred, but all of them except Mykerion are in great shape. No ruffled or missing feathers and no wounds. It's just her.

    Three chickens (1 roo, 2 hens) in the bigger pen. I like your idea to extend it! Yeah they don't have very much in their pens... What are some things I can add?
     
  8. tuesdaylove

    tuesdaylove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Until he started picking on this hen, this rooster was sweet as can be. He is the son of my favorite rooster I ever had, who passed away, and I want to keep him because he reminds me so much of his father. I totally understand why others cull aggressive birds, and I've been tempted to many times! But I just don't have it in me. I bred and raised these birds, I love them like I love my dogs and cat. They're family. I will try all other options before killing, and I would love to keep him if possible, but I would consider re-homing if I have to. I am now re-homing one rooster so it will only be those two, and the roosters get along with each other.
     
  9. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am having the same issue with a cockerel and what used to be my alpha hen. Separated her until she was healed. Put her back with the others again and he immediately attacked her. She is now separated from the other hens and the cockerel. Finally the snow is melted enough that I can get into the clean out door in the back of the coop. Sunday evening my honey doesn't do karaoke. When they are all roosted and asleep I'll go in and grab the cockerel's legs. My honey sharpened his axe specially for what's going to happen next. Hopefully the hen can be reunited with the other hens on Monday morning.

    Someone replied to the thread I made about this. They had the same problem. It was also their alpha hen. Was thinking maybe the alpha hen refused to allow him to mate or maybe she picked on him when he was young. Either way, I see no reason to keep him as I have 3 Salmon Faverolles male chicks coming in just a couple weeks. Hope to raise Salmon Faverolles as they look so cute.
     

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