Pecking order gone out of control

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by coastalkate, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. coastalkate

    coastalkate New Egg

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    I have had a dominant hen, Bertha, that has been "mating" with and pecking vent feathers from her flock mates for a while now. I've had my eye on her for the past few weeks. In the mean time, I have increased protein in the flock's diet and added some more roosts and obstacles in the run in case it may be boredom related. I've witnessed other hens beginning to peck feathers and eat them from various members through the last week. This weekend I have noticed that two other of my larger hens, Blondie (BO) and Anna (RIR), have been playing at Bertha's game. No mating yet, but Blondie very nearly crowed while strutting around with her feathers puffed and has been really picking on the runt of the flock. And as for Anna, she's has been dominating on everyone but Bertha. It's getting pretty violent at times. Our runt, Little Girl, is really getting the short end of the stick. I researched a few threads and will be trying Vaselene on Little Girl's wounds this evening. Any suggestions to getting this dominant behavior under control? I'm very inclined to think these two copycats are just following our bully's lead.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    With the increasing daylight and temperatures hormones are surging. My hens have been bickering too. Give your birds as much room as possible and places to get away from each other. I have a plastic water trough we feed hay to the donkeys in and my bottom hens stay in it a lot during the day. Things will calm down in a month or so. It helps to have roosters to mediate and keep the hens on the run, as you have seen without a rooster girls can turn mean.
     
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  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    How old are these birds? Can you post pictures? Is anyone laying or has production been effected by this?

    How much space do they have?
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Ditto Dat!^^^^
     
  5. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't keep hens that cannibilize others, for the reasons that you are now having the problems with that the others learn the bad behavior. It seems to be something certain ones just like to do, and there is not anything you can do with diet, re-training, etc. The bully should have been separated from the others yesterday.
     
  6. coastalkate

    coastalkate New Egg

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    My girls are almost a year old. I will try and grab some pictures. They are all laying nearly every day. I have a couple girls that lay once every other day. The prime offenders always get first dibs on the nesting boxes. The girls are in a 48 sq ft coop with 9 ft ceiling with a couple of "stories" of roosts, 5 roosts in all. They are roomy in there, trust me. Their run is about 200 square feet with more roosts, a little obstacle course that my kids made for them, and a covered area for bad weather days. The coop is open at all times, except for nighttime.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Only 4 birds?
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Is Bertha also a RIR?

    This may be a case of an aggressive breed with an individual temperament tending to be overly overbearing. Some breeds produce individuals like your Bertha.

    I happen to have a few such hens myself. They're Speckled Sussex and they are real little tough guys. They like to gang stomp the others in the flock, and I finally gave them their own pen and coop section to keep the peace. Now they do get to free range once more with the rest of the flock, and while there's less conflict, these Sussex sometimes find their way into the main run and coop and they are still incorrigible bullies. When I find them in there, I just evict them. I'm the flock referee. I do have a young cockerel around ten months old, but he doesn't do much to help.

    Sometimes, if you don't want to get rid of the trouble makers, if you use your imagination, you can come up with a way to solve the problem.
     
  9. coastalkate

    coastalkate New Egg

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    Bertha is a black sex link. The other two bullies are a RIR and a BO. So strange to see my normally docile BO's acting out. Bertha may just have to go. We have 11 birds in all. Although they "technically" have enough square footage, it may be that they need more breathing room.
     
  10. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    It may or may not work, but you could try removing Bertha from the flock for a week or so out of sight, then put her back. She might lose her rank over that period of isolation, and might be dominated instead after returning.

    The easiest solution, though, is to rehome her as you are contemplating.
     

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