Pecking Order gone too far??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tmfineg, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. tmfineg

    tmfineg Songster

    Jan 1, 2012
    Gallatin TN
    We just moved our flock into a new coop from a tractor coop. I have now been able to view their nightly ritual before going to bed and it is a little disturbing.

    Some history on our chicken drama leading up until now:
    One of our hens had its eye pecked out about 3 weeks ago, and another was attacked by our dog and had the feathers ripped out of the back of its neck about 2 months ago. I seperated the hen attacked by the dog for a few weeks while she recovered and she integrated back into the flock well. Then the missing eye episode. I isolated that hen and integrated her back into the flock after about 2 weeks. Her eye got worse so I separated her her again for a couple of days, this happened twice. In the mean time we finished construction on the new coop so I reintegrated the one eyed hen again.

    Fast forward to now:
    I still wanted to put ointment on the eye so I figured the best way was at roosting time. This is where I observed mainly one and sometimes 2 of my other hens chasing her off the roost, and/or pecking her eye every time she got on the roost to sleep. They also peck/bully the hen with a bare spot on her neck when she got up to roost. I felt really sorry for the one eyed hen until I saw her peck at the "naked neck" chicken too. I have not noticed any of this behavior during the day. Is this normal nighttime behavior?

    My main problem is with the Alpha 2 hen. She is high strung and was reared from a chick with the rooster, so she thinks she is hot stuff. I separated her for 2 days, but it did not help. It actually made it a little worse because my alpha 1 hen cozied up to the rooster in her absence. Hen# 2 will do anything she can to split of Hen 1 and rooster. It just worstens the night time unrest.
  2. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    the hen with 1 eye may never be accepted back into the flock. birds with a disability attract predators in the wild, so it's in their instincts to chase off/kill any bird with a weakness.

    The same goes for the hen who doesn't have her feathers. It is possible that she is still acting a little off or it could be that she is at the bottom of the totem pole in rank. Are they pecking and drawing blood from her? Or are they just pecking at her? If the latter, I wouldn't worry about it.

    for dominance issues, you have to separate the birds out more than 2 days. I'd guess at least a week. It could also just be her personality. What in particular is she doing?
  3. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Songster

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    I would agree two days won't work. Isolate wounded bird until its completely healed then add her back to the flock. If she keeps getting pecked on I would isolate the one doing the pecking for a few weeks. This will upset the pecking order & possibly put the bully on the bottom. Trial & error is all you can do.You could always have one trying to peck the other but as long as they aren't hurting each other its quite normal.
  4. tmfineg

    tmfineg Songster

    Jan 1, 2012
    Gallatin TN
    Thanks for the replies. The hens are not drawing blood. I have decided to let them work it out. The eye is healing which was my main concern. We have a much bigger coop with a few places the hens can escape to if they need to. I guess I was surprised to see how the pecking order ritual works.
  5. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Chicken society/the pecking order is generally not pleasant. Just think 'mean girls' in high school. Those on top are constantly reaffirming their position and those on the bottom are looking for a way to increase their position. The one eyed hen is at a disadvantage as the others can come at her from her 'blind side'. Generally it is best to allow them to work out their squabbles if no one is being seriously hurt. The more we as caretakers intervene, the longer the process is drawn out.

    When it becomes necessary to remove a dominanant hen in an attempt to subordinate her a minimum separation period of a week always worked best for me.

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