Pecking order questions


8 Years
Feb 10, 2011
Sussex County, NJ
I had to remove a sick hen (she is inside, condition critical) from the flock 4 days ago. Now the entire flock (23 remaining hens and 3 roos) is being really, really, nasty to one another. Two of them have lost about 50% of the feathers on the back of their necks and I have been witnessing severe chicken cruelty in regards to pecking. Could the removal of this hen have caused such a ruckus in the pecking order or is something else going on? We have had a very mild winter and so they are out freeranging every day so I don't think it is boredom or being cooped up that is doing it.
Wow so very puzzling!

I have no idea.

Chickens rarely like change at first, but usually adapt.

We were told about lower laying rates if a flocks numbers were lowered...

I hope this situation resolves itself quickly for everyones sake!
That is weird. If removing her is the only thing that has changed, I can only think of two things. One, and the one I hope it is, that she was the dominant hen and it is a pecking order rearrangement. I really hope that is it.

The other is that sometimes chickens will pick on weak members, sometimes to the point of killing them. Are some of the rest sick and weakened? If so, others may see their chance to move up in the pecking order.

If you were confinng them or had changed their food or added new chickens, there could be other explanations. But you pretty well say the only difference is that you took one sick hen out. I hope someone can come up with a better explanation.
The sick hen died two days ago. The pecking continues. The two with the pecked out neck feathers don't seem to be ill in any way, eyes good, no discharges, normal poop, no apparent parasites, good appetite, lots of water. One is a bit pale in the comb, but I think it is from being picked on so much. It is possible that the sick hen was up there in the pecking order, but I am not sure (24 hens and 3 roos makes for some dynamic chicken politics that I cannot make heads or tails of on most days). With any luck they will calm down, in the mean time I am getting them lots of exercise and a toy or two in the run to keep them occupied in the am. I do think I need to rehome two of the roos (just too many boys in that coop), but they are my DD's pets and she doesn't want them to get eaten. They are all really friendly roos so far. The feathers are now out all around the neck, not just the back, or I would think they were just getting too much attention from the boys

If anyone can think of anything else, please let me know and if I discover the source of the problem I will post again.
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Hi Jersey Hen,

you said you've seen 'severe chicken cruelty'--- so I am guessing that you have actually see some of your chickens plucking the neck feathers of the others.

One of mine was loosing neck feathers once....and I couldn't figure out why---and unlike you, I never saw any chicken cruelty....finally I determined that I was hanging one of the feeders that goes on the side of the run too high, and she was reaching and rubbing off feathers....they regrew. Just plucking at straws, but is there anything that they are reaching through a wire to peck that could be rubbing their necks and thus defeathering them?

Hope that it will settle soon and you will be back to a peaceful flock. Sorry that you lost your hen, and doubly sorry that it caused such an upheaval. Sometimes I do think that the addition or removal of one chicken CAN change the whole flock dymanic.
I had to remove one hen from our flock of four and she ended up dying. Since then the remaining three have started to go after each other, drawing blood even. The hen that got sick was probably more on the bottom of the order but I'm guessing the remaining three are confused. That and I've been keeping them in their coop to protect them from a hawk that has staked out our yard. Argh. I even threw a whole cabbage in there today.
Sorry to hear about your hen
I think that the removal was the issue for me, because mine seem to have calmed down quite a bit over the last few days, and there has been a lot less pecking and general squabbling. I did see blood on the feeder tube again this morning, but I think it a roo might have grabbed a hen's comb during mating though, because everyone looked fine this morning when I inspected them. I hope your 3 regroup and get comfy again.
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