Pecking Order- Flock attacked one girl

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kerusnak, May 1, 2016.

  1. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've researched on the forum but I'll ask since my situation seems different. We were outside today and heard a commotion in the coop/run and saw 5 of our BSLs attacking our 6th one. I ran in the coop because she stuck her head into the hole of a cinder block and wouldn't move. When I picked her up one of her wattles was a bit bloody and her comb seemed droopy. I put her back down and immediately two girls chased her and one grabbed her comb clamped down and tried to rip it off. She went up on a roost and they left her alone. I moved her into the segregated pen and cleaned her bloody wattle. I left her in there because I was afraid it would keep bleeding and they would go after the blood. The girls were raised as chicks and we've had them for a year so no new flock members and they are all BSLs. She is one of the 4 that look identical. Her feathers seemed fine and it seems they only wanted to peck her comb and wattle. I am guessing she might have cut herself and they just went for blood but I'm really not sure and it was a tiny cut. The comb had no cuts but it seemed droopy compared to the others, I wasn't sure if it was just from the attack. It is a bit pale too so I started thinking maybe it was worms but I might be paranoid because nothing else is wrong. She ate and drank and laid an egg after being separated. My husband is now worried that because she is separate when we put her back they will want to attack even more. If it seemed to be one attacking I was going to separate that one for a few days to see if it helped.

    Any advice or ideas of what caused this? We had a really bad storm that caused flooding in our area. The coop isn't flooded but it's wet. They have sand in the coop.
     
  2. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well I just went and checked on her and her color is no longer pale and her comb is not droopy anymore. I inspected her poop anyway but nothing in there and it looked great.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Perhaps it was just a pecking order issue and it's been resolved. By the way, Blu-kote or Blue Lotion is an excellent first aid that also disguises raw wounds. Paint it on even the tiniest cut.

    Your BSL may have been having temporary health issues and the rest picked up on her vulnerability and attacked her, which often happens in Chicken World. That may explain the pale, droopy comb, which is a sign of ill health.

    Watch her for other signs such as being non-vocal and ruffled feathers, and droopy tail. Also thin, watery poop laced with green chunk
     
  4. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the response! I tried putting her back with the flock this morning. At first no one cared or noticed and then after 10 minutes as I was leaving they all ganged up on her and were ripping out feathers and pecking. I ran back in and grabbed the first one I saw go for her and held her separate for a few. The targeted one got on a roost to hide and after a few minutes another one jumped up with her, sharpened her beak then started attacking on the roost. Another one jumped up and attacked from the other side. I had to push them off her with a stick and grabbed her and put her back in the separate pen. It is really strange because she looks healthy to me, her poop looks great, she's clucking, eating drinking and laying eggs. She has no injuries from the morning, just a tiny scab on the edge of her wattle from yesterday.
    I am stressing a ton about this!
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    What age are your hens, how big is their set up and what are you feeding them? For now I would keep her separated but where everyone can see her but can't get to her.
     
  6. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They are about 1 year old. Their coop/run is about 15x25, they eat layer feed, veggie scraps, and sprouted lentils. One small section of the coop is separated and there is chicken wire between so they can see each other. Here are some pics of the coop before they moved in.

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  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    This is just some things I noticed about sex link hens; they often need a higher protein feed than layer, especially if anything extra is added to their diets. Our backyard chickens are often supplemented with all kinds of good things to eat, but most things are lower in protein and often cause a deficiency in hens, especially high production hens like sex links. The few I have owned have either become egg eaters or feather pickers on layer. I now make sure to feed all my hens a higher protein ration like a non medicated grower or an all flock to off set the extras, I've also cut down on some extras.

    It is possible your hens are craving protein, so I would switch feeds and maybe add some higher protein treats like cottage cheese or scrambled eggs to get them some fast protein.

    If it isn't dietary than it's from boredom. If you aren't allowing any free ranging they could have built up Entergy from not enough mental and physical exercise. If you can't allow them out than you need to give them things to do, and stuff to pick and scratch at. Things like flock blocks, grass trimmings, weeds pulled with the dirt attached, said clumps, things to climb on like logs and my favorite digging them fresh holes in their run or putting down rocks or boards which are turned over periodically for fresh bugs.

    From my experiences sex links fall into the nervous flighty group of chicken breeds that need more in their lives and aren't content sitting around. I suspect if nothing ends up wrong with your pecked hen after a week or so than it could be one of the things I've mentioned. I would keep her separated for a week or two while upping the protein, than try letting her out with them. If the attacks start again I would put the instigator is the separation pen for a while to see if that helps knock her down a bit.

    Edited to add, nice set up.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  8. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Thank you so much for the detailed response! I am buying some higher protein feed to start on now. They are not free ranging and although they have a very large coop there is just sand and not much to forage for. We have been thinking about adding another large run to the coop behind the shop for them so DH wants to start that this weekend. I think because of our recent rain they roosted most of the day for 4 days and may have caused this upset and increase in boredom. We will still keep our girl separated for a few weeks but she looks healthy to me. She seems anxious and scared to be alone but much more scared when she was with them. I tried moving the instigator but then two more just started at her from both sides. My husband seems to think she is just the runt and that is why they target her. He has this idea if he teaches her to fight then they will leave her alone.
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Your husband is going to turn you hen into a prize fighter, lol. The smaller hens are often on the bottom of the pecking order and will be the first target often in a gang attack. I have seen the vicious side of chickens, mostly due to unexpected or prolonged confinement. Mine actually killed a polish rooster by pecking his crest open. I believe it has to do with driving out members when territory is too small, but of course in confinement the one being attacked has no where to go, a switch get turned on and the taste for blood will drive it after the initial attacks. So whether protein or boredom is the cause it can be hard to tell, so I'm glad you will address both issues. I have choose to totally free rang my birds since and haven't had any behavioral problems since. The more room you give them the better they will be.

    I like to compare chickens to people. If you were to be put in your bathroom with 5 other people and that was it, how long before you are trying to kill each other. Give you the whole house, add another ten people, you are a bit happier, but some still will have problems, give you your whole house and a yard, add a few more people, now your life is a little more tolerable. That's my analogy anyways, chickens get just as bored as us humans, they just can't tell us.

    I would make a separation pen within your coop or run for the pecked one to get back to being part of the flock, but still where she can't be pecked for a while, sometimes issues can be worked out between a fence. Maybe your husband should exercise the bully hens and tire them out, make them do laps.
     
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  10. kerusnak

    kerusnak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update:

    We started to build a chicken tunnel setup this weekend to give the girls some more space and less boredom. It seems when we were in the coop installing the door they got very agitated. They were all fighting really bad. We decided to take the two mean ones and put them in the secluded pen. So we took out the targeted girl and put them in instead. Our girl was much happier being back in a group and the other 3 left her alone. The two mean ones were fighting in their pen, (we named one meanest and 2nd meanest) meanest seemed to be the winner so 2nd meanest stayed on a roost all day to hide from her. At night we stealthily moved meanest and 2nd meanest back into the coop on a roost with the others. This morning I got up to open the tunnel and throw scratch down and tie up a cabbage for them to pick at. It seemed like the original secluded/targeted one was stuck on a roost. She got down once and meanest grabbed her neck and pulled feathers out. I just finished my job and left. My hope is the pecking order will get re-established and no one will have to die for it.

    I also bought a higher protein food old layer was 16% and this one is 22%. We made some bottles with holes that I can put scratch in for them to peck at. I also have plans to make some flock blocks to hang. I am really hoping these chickens work themselves out, this past week has been very stressful compared to the carefree year we had raising them so far. [​IMG]

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    We frames the tunnels out with some 2x2s and pex for the arch and used 1 inch chicken wire to shape the tunnel. I have them connected with zip ties, staples and screws. Our plan is to have them all along the back fence line near our garden.
     

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