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Pecking Order Effecting Who Lays?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by FiFiFeather, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. FiFiFeather

    FiFiFeather In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2011
    North Washtenaw County
    I have a small flock of 6 layers. 3 are 21 months and 3 are 8 months. Only 2 of the 8 month birds are laying now.

    All 3 new birds used to lay in early fall but one of my 21 month hens (Raquel) started going after the new layers pretty aggressively. I didn't separate her and now one of the 8 month old hens (Niagara) is acting very timid, her comb looks dry & pale (like a full-molt hen).

    Last September, I didn't think too much of the aggression (which never got too bad) until one day Raquel rooster-jumped the timid Niagara. The Niagara stopped laying after that & really separated herself from the flock (she is a barred rock & the biggest, softest hen I have-good energy, appetite, etc). Raquel, the aggressor, is starting to molt. Hope that takes the wind out of her sails. Raquel also continually challenged the previous top hen (FiFi) for her preferred night-roosting site. Raquel's a good layer, but she's gotten more pushy as she gets older.

    How can I change this? CAN I change this situation? As the pecking order has been set, I don't see any more aggressive behavior. Should I add another nesting box for the hens? I used to have 3 but they preferred to make their own nest so I took out the boxes. I can put them back or make more & put them in. Something, anything! Help!

  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    If you want to shake up the pecking order, remove the top hen for several days then return her. She should then be at the bottom of the pecking order.

    When a hen in an all-hen flock takes over the dominant role, or the role of rooster, which is what the mounting behavior indicates, they sometimes also stop laying.
  3. FiFiFeather

    FiFiFeather In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2011
    North Washtenaw County
    Thanks, Judy, Great idea! Should Raquel be able to see the flock during the day (through a fence) or not?

    Hmm, I thought Raquel had stopped laying because of molt, but she hadn't really started until recently--it was probably her dominance stuff. I will shake up their order and see what happens. Fifi was a much more egalitarian hen leader, but Raquel deposed her when the new hens came in.

    What do I do about the nesting competition? They began to refuse to use the nesting boxes and only an nest they made of straw (this happened when the new hens started laying). This caused some competition over who was in the boxes & when. Any thoughts on that aspect of the problems?
  4. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Songster

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    To shake up the pecking order with the separation, it works best if they are out of sight and hearing, thus allowing the others to reform the order with out the influence of the removed one.
    Try putting fake eggs in the boxes to lure them into using them. If they see an egg in the box they ten to think that is a good place to lay.

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