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Pecking order

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jj8527, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. jj8527

    jj8527 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2014
    Littleton, CO
    We have 10 chickens and every so often one or two of them will literally stand on the back of another, pushing it into the ground while pecking at it. This seems like pretty extreme behavior!! Anyone ever see this behavior??
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Oh yes, definitely! I have precisely that in my flock.

    There is one little five-year old EE who has always been a misfit, and last summer, the second to the youngest unit of four Sussex taught the youngest unit of five Welsummers to beat up little Flo by chasing her down and stomping her by dancing on her back.

    I separated the Sussex into their own coop section and run, hoping the Welsummers wouldn't be influenced by them any longer, but such is not the case. Flo is still completely intimidated by them and if one chases her, she immediately squats out of abject fear and they then proceed to stomp her.

    So, Flo gets carried from the coop in the morning to her own safe section of the run where she and her BFF, Joycie, a Brahma, enjoy peace and quiet together. Sometimes the two wish to be let out and the second they emerge, they get chased down by the Welsummers.

    There's just only so much one can do to referee.
     
  3. jj8527

    jj8527 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2014
    Littleton, CO
    Thanks so much. My brother has many chickens and he has never seen this. I was thinking there was something wrong with ours. It's so weird, the one being bullied, just sits there and takes it. When the weather was warm, and we could keep the outside garden hose attached, we would just turn that on and spray in their direction and they would scatter!! But now,.....what to do!
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Have the bully for dinner?

    You can isolate the bully for a couple weeks, that might change the pecking order when you add her back in.
     
  5. jj8527

    jj8527 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2014
    Littleton, CO
    Unfortunately, the bully isn't always the same chicken.
     
  6. Fly Fisher

    Fly Fisher Out Of The Brooder

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    Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with the bully. I have observed more often where the issue is with the victim. The reason is not always clear but I have found this situation to far more frequent. I am unsure of what causes a bird to be singled out but here are some issues that I have observed over time.

    Light colored birds are usually picked at by darker colored birds. In a flock where you might have only one bird of a different color this will be the victim of the bullying. A bird that is smaller is almost going to take some abuse.. Additional issues may have to do with health, whether you can see it or not. Weak birds will always get singled out. Birds with bare skin, Broken feathers or scabs will also become a target. Once a chicken bleeds the others will be relentless in picking.

    A quick experiment is to take your picked bird from the others. If the bullying stops then you do not have a bully. I set up a lot of mixed breeding coops each year and this problem initially occurs in most of the new setups. In almost every instance I resolve the problem with removal of the victim for good.

    I have a lot of coops and I have one that is only occupied by birds that were bullied elsewhere. I have never had any bully issues in this coop.This coop is a revolving door as my birds turn over every year or two but even with new additions, no problems.

    Additionally I have noticed that almost all of the birds in my victim coop are similar. They are almost always on the smaller side of their type. Almost all of the birds in this coop are light in color. White, Splash, Birchen, Dun, Silver.


    Ken
     
    2 people like this.
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Colorado Rockies
    Thanks, Ken, for the insights. You've given me food for thought.

    Since my EE Flo has always had issues of one sort or another, it doesn't surprise me she inspires others to bully her. She began life as a very high strung pullet and quickly acquired the nasty habit of feather picking. She would literally run from chicken to chicken at top speed, nipping feathers as she zoomed around the run. She was a chicken possessed.

    Now, in her fifth year, she has become very fearful of all of the younger members of the flock, and if one happens to focus their attention on her, she immediately sets up a nervous clucking, and this more firmly draws their attention to her, resulting in attack.

    Perhaps I could try establishing a "victims" run and coop section such as you describe. I'm definitely going to think this over.
     
  8. jj8527

    jj8527 New Egg

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    Mar 21, 2014
    Littleton, CO
    Yes, I thank you to Ken. I am not sure if the hen being picked on is always the same one or not, but I will have to look closer. However, she is one of the 3 black hens that we have, so her color isn't it. In fact, it is usually one of the Buff Orpington's or one of the New Hampshire reds that pick on others. I have seen a black sexlink being picked on, as well as our Auracana and our Brown Leghorn. The Auracana and the Leghorn are a little smaller than the others but they tend to defend themselves in one way or another. I think it seems to be the black sexlinks that get the worst of it. Not sure why. They are as large as the others.

    Anyway, right now due to circumstances, we don't have the ability to add a separate coop or run, but possibly in the spring. I would like to try it.
    Thanks for your expertise!
     
  9. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Is the coop size adequate for the size of flock you have? Sometimes you start running into these sort of issues when you're at capacity. Removing the problem bird seems to fix the issue, but what really fixed it is that you removed a bird.


    Edit: also - doesn't sound like you have a rooster. In roosterless flocks, hens mounting each other as displays of dominance isn't all that uncommon.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014

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