Outright Attack on Older Hen...The Chicken Drama Continues......

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lunachick, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. Lunachick

    Lunachick Chicken Slave

    Mar 19, 2007
    Brick, NJ
    I have three 3 yr old hens and three pullets. Something happened during a recent snow storm where they all had to bunk together (finally!) They were fine, until today. Yesterday we had heavy rain that washed 2 ft of snow away. Today was 50 degrees, sunny and beautiful, so I let the chooks out. I hear squabbling and ran out thinking there was an attack from above. One of my pullets started brutally attacking an older hen that NEVER showed any aggression towards anyone! The pullet - Tallulah, was pulling feathers and jumping on her and picking on her comb until it bled.

    The older hen - Pearl, is the sweetest hen and the second in command with her buddy Ruby, my other original hen. What happened? Four of my hens were bunking together until the snow came and shut off the smaller coop that's attached. For 4 days all six roosted with no problems. I had to interfere with the fights, because Pearl was feeling a little poorly lately and I'm not sure why, but I had my eye on her. Could this be it? Do they foresee a problem with this older hen and are trying to reorganize? She was so put out that she hid in a corner of the yard until dusk, and I had to go out and make sure she went to the coop. And when she did her older buddies made sure she got in and roosted at the top with her. [​IMG] Thank goodness. The three younger ones managed on the lower roost. I'm hoping this is a good thing.

    What the heck happened? Are they reorganizing? Is the younger hen feeling her superiority and going for the #2 slot? I felt so bad for Pearl, I spent the afternoon being the referee and stopped a couple of brutal fights, should I have? The other hens were sort of waiting to see what would happen. And when I stopped some of the fights, I know Pearl looked grateful.

    I'm sure they know what they're doing in their hierarchy of chickendom, and if I hadn't noticed maybe it would have been OK ?? But I did notice and I interfered for the sake of Pearl.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009

  2. Rafter 7 Paint Horses

    Rafter 7 Paint Horses Songster

    Jan 13, 2007
    East Texas
    What I think is:
    Pearl is feeling poorly and one of the pullets wants to move into a higher ranking position, so how does she accomplish this....beating up on Pearl, who is in no condition to fight back.
    The bad side of this is that she may kill Pearl in her quest to a higher ranking. Chickens can be very vicious. You may have to move either the pullets or Pearl.
    This is a natural thing for them, but it can become fatal if you don't intervene.

  3. Cindiloohoo

    Cindiloohoo Quiet as a Church Mouse

    Dec 19, 2009
    Southwest TN
    I agree with the above post. But, also, Pearl needs to be thoroughly checked out if she has already been feeling poorly. Chickens know things we do not pick up on, Pearl may be seriously ill. I'd seperate her and keep my eye on her. How old is she?
  4. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    It's pecking order and they can be vicious.

  5. phrank

    phrank In the Brooder

    Mar 19, 2008
    If one chicken is ill, will the others just alienate her, or would the take it to the extreme of killing her ??
  6. Lunachick

    Lunachick Chicken Slave

    Mar 19, 2007
    Brick, NJ
    Quote:That's what I was afraid of. [​IMG] Ruby, Pearl's buddy since I got them, usually protects her. She does come by and offer companionship as well as the other 2 pullets after an attack. But that's all. I didn't hear too much commotion this morning........but now I'm at work chewing on my fingernails hoping I don't find something horrible when I get home. Pearl does have hiding spots in the run, just in case. I just hope she uses them.

    I'm going to bring Pearl in when I get home and check her head to toe to see if I find anything out of the ordinary. And they were all getting along so well! [​IMG] Thanks for the feedback everyone.
  7. SilverPhoenix

    SilverPhoenix Bantam Fanatic

    Dec 15, 2009
    Penn Valley, CA
    I agree with the above posts for the reasons for the attack, but I just want to suggest you perhaps bring Pearl inside and keep her indoors (or in a garage or something) in a cage for a few days until she feels better. That seems to help birds who are ill to recover, and that way she won't be having to deal with the others picking on her. Good luck, I hope she feels better soon and the attacks stop!

  8. Uzuri

    Uzuri Songster

    Mar 25, 2009
    I agree with SilverPhoenix -- bring her in the garage and observe her for a few days and give her a chance to rest. All you need is a little dog crate and chick feeder/waterer for a single chicken. I had a pair in my garage for 3 weeks recently, and they do just fine. The got a bit of a shock going back out today though, and landing in 2" of snow [​IMG]
  9. Lunachick

    Lunachick Chicken Slave

    Mar 19, 2007
    Brick, NJ
    I came home a little early today and let them out around 1:30 this afternoon. It was cold and windy, and I wanted to see how they were going to do. I figure a little space and fresh air couldn't hurt. I noticed that there was about half of the amount of torture today. Pearl would come to the back door and I would hand her a special treat (freeze dried meal worms) and she would wait there for me [​IMG] I made sure the others did not see us. We do not need the extra drama right now. BTW the torture wasn't terrible considering other horror stories I've read about......but the sound effects sure make it sound like holy bloody murder!

    I kept watching them through windows here and there to monitor the situation. I even cracked a window so I could hear if anything was amiss. I only heard 3 occasions to look out and it was over before I saw anything. That's hopeful. If anything Pearl seems to have picked up with her energy. She was dragging for months......and now she's seems to be perkier, maybe to fight back? ROCKY....ROCKY....ROCKY...!!! [​IMG]

    I went out with the intention of grabbing her and bringing her in to do a look over on her, but she did this wing flapping I'm OK kind of thing and I didn't want to bring attention to her with the other chickens. So a little later when I was scooping the poop in the coop she peeked into the pop door and cooed at me. So we chatted and she perched on the higher roost. I told her she was a fine chicken and no matter what I would protect her. It's amazing how a chicken will look at you like they totally understand where you're coming from.

    She had her lonely moments in the back yard though. I would look out wondering where she went and what the others were doing. A lot of times I would see Pearl hiding in a corner pecking here and there but she was also enjoy some time out. Every once in a while 2 of the other pullets would come over and chat with her, then they would be off with the others. Ruby, her best bud would show up near the end of the afternoon and stay with her.

    Around 4:45 it was dark enough to close up the coop. So I go out and check on them, the 3 pullets (including Tallulah the Terrible) were still scratching around the coop & run, but the older girls were bunked up already. What a nice thing to see, with my flashlight, Pearl in the middle on the top roost, Ruby on one side and Dorothy on the other. Her support team!

    The younger ones were on the lower roost and settled in for the night. MAYBE this won't be so bad after all.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009

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