Pecking order problems?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by eoliverpeck, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. eoliverpeck

    eoliverpeck Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 22, 2013
    OK so I have three 7 month old chickens, 2 buff Orps and 1 Production red....we got (we think age wise) 4-5 month old white leghorns to add to our flock but they are considerably smaller then my older girls. Well my red girl is the boss, my buffs are like meh about it, but Red will chase the 2 pullets and pull feathers out of their necks and try to jump on their backs! the buffs just peck at them and will chase them away from the main food and waterer which I thought was NORMAL. So we put red in a large dog crate and at night the pullets and the buffs go into the coop and will roost on the same poll etc but i am AFRAID to let Red out...she just seems MEAN compared to how the buffs are handling this whole pecking order thing. ANY ADVICE?!!! I dont want to get rid of my Red girl as of now she is my best egg producer but im not letting the leghorns go either. Space is an issue for us, were urban chicken owners and they currently have a coop that houses 6-8 hens with 3 nesting boxes and a 10 ft long, 4 ft wide and 4 ft high run but are building a much bigger run this weekend 15x6x6.

    We keep pumpkins and lettuce and things to keep them "busy". Free ranging isnt an issue with my older girls but the younger ones are flighty we only live on a 1/3 of an acre with a 4 ft chain link fence going around it. The younger girls have already tried to fly out of the yard at which point we decided to keep them in the run/coop area.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  2. marcumbackyardfarms

    marcumbackyardfarms Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 10, 2011
    That's pretty normal. IMHO they have to work that out on their own. She will get to a point and stop pecking so much. The older the new ones get, it will ease up.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    It’s not so much the size of the leghorns as their maturity. Until they mature enough to make their own way into the pecking order they will rank below the others. That’s often shortly after they start to lay, but not always. Their final place in the pecking order won’t be determined by size, but by their spirit.

    Your space is probably a good part of your problem. One way chickens have learned to live together is in case of conflict, the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. If they don’t have the room to run away the one doing the attacking doesn’t realize they’ve won and keeps attacking. It can get real bad.

    You’re certainly on the right track by making the run larger. It doesn’t matter if the space is in the coop or coop and run, it just needs to be available when they need it. I don’t know how you are adding to the run, but if you can manage to keep the existing one intact so you can isolate a chicken in there or open a gate and allow them all to have access, that could give you some flexibility in how you manage them.

    I’m not exactly sure what is going on with your red hen. It’s possible she could be a real bully and a brute and just totally enjoy beating up those new pullets, but probably not.

    Chickens can be territorial. They can recognize chickens that belong to the flock and may attack any strangers. This does not happen all the time but it happens often enough to be a concern. If you can house the pullets across wire from the others for a while, or keep the red where she can see them, she may come to accept them as having a right to exist.

    Or if you keep the red separated for a while and the others get along fine, when the red goes back in she might have lost her place as dominant hen in the pecking order. She may be too busy reestablishing her place in the pecking order to bother with the pullets. It’s even possible she may never regain her top position.

    It’s interesting when you say she jumps on their back. The mating ritual is not just about sex, it’s also about dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. I’ve seen a dominant hen in a flock without a dominant rooster go through the mating ritual all the way to touching vents to show her dominance. I don’t know if the hen jumping on the other’s back is an attempt to kill her or an attempt to force her dominance on her.

    Hopefully you can get something useful out of this. Good luck!
  4. One Chick Two

    One Chick Two Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2013
    Perhaps you can separate your red hen for some days and then reintroduce her. Many people have commented on that helping a dominant chicken issue. Good luck!
  5. eoliverpeck

    eoliverpeck Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 22, 2013
    So upon observing them just now, the red is chasing them into the coop but not actively pecking them although I think if she could catch them she would, one buff has been staying on the perch in the coop and will allow the 2 pullets up and if they just sit there the one buff will....clean them? pecking mites or bugs off them? idk but its def not malicious and very kind. the other 2 stay outside for now and if the pullets come out the red is chasing them behind a structure i made out of wood that gives the pullets a place to run to the older girls cant get into...sort of like a maze of big sticks and wood. I let the older girls out to free range so the pullets could come out and eat and drink form the main supply even though i have been keeping some food and water in the area they mainly stay.

    I honestly feel like I wont be adding anymore to my flock...this is stressful for all of us. lol

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