Pecking Order- How much aggression is too much?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Corbbean, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. Corbbean

    Corbbean Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 18, 2014
    Hi all,
    I'm new here and fairly new to chicken keeping. I'm not sure what to do right now and was hoping some more experienced chicken-folk can lend their opinions...

    My basic question:
    Am I just being too sensitive and need to let them work it out or is my older hen really being too aggressive to the newcomers?

    SHORT background story:
    I have one older EE hen (at least 2 years, is laying) and have added 8 mixed breed chicks (currently 13 weeks old). I'm trying to get them all to share the same coop, but the EE is attacking the "littles". Her attacks are not targeted to any specific little, but if one of them tries to stand up for itself (usually rising up on the legs, stretching neck, and looking the EE in the face), the EE will body-check it and then chase it and terrorize it specifically. She'll peck at the comb and won't let go, while the victim shrieks. She's bloodied two of them this way. I've tried to let them co-mingle 4 times, but it only takes about 5 minutes before I couldn't watch her attack them anymore. I'm afraid she'll seriously hurt them, so have kept her separated in a fenced-off side of the coop (about 8sq.ft.), where she is constantly pacing and trying to escape.

    ADDITION background info (perhaps useful, perhaps not):
    The older EE was left to us, along with two other EEs, by the former owner of our house. In November we had an awful raccoon attack which left us chicken-less... 2 bodies, but all 3 were missing. After a week, we heard from a neighbor that someone had found a chicken in their backyard. Sure enough, it was our remaining EE, a little underweight, but otherwise doing ok. She had the coop to herself for about 3 weeks before we then moved her to a sectioned off area of the coop (about 8 sq. ft.) and moved the littles in. They can all see each other, but the EE can't peck them through the fencing. The EE is NOT happy about being isolated and tried to break free whenever possible. When allowed out, she goes on a rampage, pecking HARD at the face of any little who so much as looks at her. I have let her go while watching to see if she will get it out of her system and calm down, but she doesn't. I know that she has had a pretty stressful past 2 months and I feel badly for her, but I don't know what the solution is. I don't want her seriously injuring my babies or turning them mean/stressing them. The littles are all very friendly with me and don't squabble much with each other (yet?).

    Thanks for any suggestions you can give!
    -Holland
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Research Pinless Peepers. They might help in this case. How long has this been going on? You might need to keep her isolated from them until they are the same size as her. If you are not able to then integrate her, perhaps you might need to re-home her. Only you can decide if her abuse is merely pecking order, and will subside, or if it will escalate to blood shed and severe injury. she is obviously being challenged by the littles (eye contact) and standing up to her, so she is obligated to accept the challenge. When you allow them out together, how much space do they have? Are there places for the littles to hide from her? Perhaps let them out for free range time together with some tasty treats spread around. If she's busy getting her share of the treats, she's too busy to attack.
     
  3. Corbbean

    Corbbean Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 18, 2014
    The EE has been separated most of the time due to her behavior. She's been allowed to share space with them 4 times and attacked them, so she was separated again. I can continue to keep her separated, but she is clearly not happy being isolated and I wonder if that has contributed to her bad attitude. Her attitude towards them hasn't changed since she met them... about 5 weeks ago.

    They have an 8x8 coop and a large run- but none of the birds are interested in the run right now due to the weather. I'm in NY and it's been cold and I think I have the wimpiest chickens ever. The littles sit with their heads out the chicken door looking around, but they won't step foot outside. The littles don't run outside while the EE is attacking them, nor do treats persuade them to go out. If I put the EE in the run (thus freeing her from her fenced area that she is always trying to escape), she goes right back inside the coop and starts attacking again. I thought she would be happy to have some company again since she was alone for about a month, but I guess this wasn't the company she was hoping for...

    I will try treat distraction in the coop and also look into the pinless peepers.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    good luck.
     

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