Our hen attacked my two young kids

doughouse

Chirping
Apr 14, 2020
70
155
63
Boston, MA
Hi all,
Need some advice on correcting some unacceptable chicken behavior.

We have a small flock of five hens, and this past weekend one of our hens (she's #2 in the pecking order) squared up on my one-and-a-half year-old and threw her feet up into his face, just as a rooster with spurs would (she doesn't have spurs, thankfully). He wasn't tormenting her or anything, just walking calmly and cutely through them and giving them gentle pets as he passed. Her back toe baaaaaarely made contact with his cheek--didn't break the skin or anything--but NO WAY is that sort of behavior going to be tolerated. Once I made sure my kid was okay I scooped him up and chased that hen around the backyard, "pecking" at her with my fingers. When she went to hide under a large, low tree where I couldn't reach her I got the long stick we use for our firepit and continued to gently peck her with it. Hopefully the fact that I was holding my son drove home the fact that she is NOT above him on the pecking order.

Then this morning the same thing happened with our seven-year-old. He had crouched down to give her a pet and she threw her feet up into his face, this time lightly scratching his cheek. I immediately instructed him to chase her and "peck" her, and then when she hid under that same tree I had him continue pecking her for a bit with the stick. After I took him inside and washed his cheek very well with soap and water I went back out with some treats, and made sure all of the other chickens got some, "pecking" at the offending chicken whenever she got close. I think it would have been more effective if my son was the one denying the treats, but at this point I was just pissed at her, to be honest.

So my question: is this just "testing the pecking order" behavior? Or is the fact that she's rearing up and attacking with her feet indicative of something else? And is there anything else I or my kids need to do to quell this misbehavior? Thanks in advance.
 

humblehillsfarm

Crowing
Mar 27, 2020
1,934
3,337
281
Southwestern Pennsylvania
I like trying behavioral correction first. I wouldn’t be advocating this if it hadn’t worked for me and my rooster with a superiority complex. If he hadn’t straightened out, he was going to be the most expensive meal we’ve ever eaten since he was a $20 blue copper Maran.

For hens I’m even more unwilling to eat them since I’d rather be eating their eggs. With that said, it’s your chicken, your kids, and your decision, and no one will fault you for whatever you decide.
 

Trisseh

Duck-duck-chicken!
Premium Feather Member
Jun 21, 2019
1,066
3,083
221
NW Ontario, Canada
Well, you can just not have the kids in with the chickens if you’d rather not cull the bird. A lot of the time it’s the not so obvious cues the kids give out, by no fault of their own. Most of the time there’s factors leading up to a behaviour before it manifests that we don’t necessarily realize. Your little one, no matter how quiet and well behaved he is, is still small and will move differently than an adult. Your 7 y/o was down on her level and the perfect height to flog. Don’t give her the opportunity.
people shouldn’t be part of the pecking order, period. 🤷🏼‍♀️
If she were mine, with no small children involved, I may be more inclined to try some behaviour modification, but honestly she (and you!) may be better off going to another home, whether that’s with a new owner or with a date with the stewpot.
 

ChocolateMouse

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 29, 2013
4,509
12,853
597
Cleveland OH
I would give the behavioral correction some time to see if it works and feel free to try whatever within reason. I like hitting naughty animals with water from the hose myself, but the pecking at them option is certainly a fair one. You can also try isolating her from the flock and then reintroducing her. My absolute favorite is picking up naughty birds, carrying them about in fun and affronting positions, and fussing with their beaks and toes and wings and doing health checks as punishment. :p You'll find out in a couple weeks if she'll learn or not.

If you're a few weeks to a month in and she's still flipping out, well, you have some really great coq au vin in your future, or could possibly rehome her to a child-free house with full disclosure. I'd take a bird like that, but that's because I don't have kids.
 

doughouse

Chirping
Apr 14, 2020
70
155
63
Boston, MA
Behavior modification is far-and-away our preferred option, since the chickens are pets and we're all super attached to them. "Rehoming," whether to another flock or to a stewpot, would be devastating for the kids especially.

That said, we do have family with a farm about two hours away who'd likely be willing to add a pullet to the flock if it came to that.
 

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