picking on chickens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Rudy's Roost, May 1, 2007.

  1. Rudy's Roost

    Rudy's Roost Hatching

    Apr 25, 2007
    I have chickens that are 1 year old now, 1 rooster and 14 hens. During the winter, one of the hens kept sitting in the nest because the other chickens were picking on her. When spring finally arrived, and they were able to get out to roam, things seemed fine. Last week one of my chickens just died for no apparent reason. I have no idea if she was the one that was sitting in the nest.The day after that another hen was in the nest and doesn't come out. When I bring her out, the other chickens chase her and pick at her, so she just goes back to the box. She never seems to lay an egg either. Yesterday I brought her out and the other hens, but left the rooster in for a while. None of the hens bothered her at all. I let the rooster back out and the picking started again. Does anyone have a clue as to what is happening here? also, what is the chicken behavior that the rooster does, when he does this shuffling of his feet and comes at you? He sometimes tries to peck my legs too. He doesn't do it to everyone.Thanks for any info for this first time chicken owner.
  2. ella

    ella Songster

    It's tough to say why the one hen stays in the nest, she could be ill, or she could be on the bottom of the pecking order.

    A death in the flock will usually cause all the other chickens to fight to rework the pecking order. It will take anywhere from several weeks to months for them to get things settled down.

    To help out the hen who's getting picked on you can do things like add places where she can be outside but still be safe like an outdoor roost that she can hop on if someone is picking on her.

    Sometimes adding a few more feeders and waterers will keep them from fighting so much, because then there is less competition for food.

    The rooster is doing a little dance to impress you with his size and masculinity. [​IMG] He'll do that to a hen to herd her in the right direction, or to break up a fight between hens.

    The one rooster I have that pecks my shoes does it because my father used his shoes to push the rooster out of the way whan he was bothering him, ever since then he has a fear of white sneakers.

    The best way I've found to respond to attacks is to hold still until he loses interest and walks away. If you kick at him or move suddenly it'll just cause him to become more aggressive. The last thing you need is for him to see you as a threat to his hens. [​IMG]
  3. Rudy's Roost

    Rudy's Roost Hatching

    Apr 25, 2007
    Thank you so much for your response Ella. I will do my best to try to hold my ground with the rooster. Yesterday I put the picked on chicken in the backyard fence for half a day so she could get some peace. I put the rooster in an outside enclosed pen, which he is the only one who can't fly over, and then brought the hen out to be with the other girls. I believe I found the hen who is the problem; she chased her relentlessly all over the yard. I have since clipped her wings and put her in the pen with the rooster. I'm hoping that the other hens will leave her alone.
  4. keljonma

    keljonma Songster

    Feb 12, 2007
    8A East Texas
    Rudy's Roost,

    Hello, neighbor! We're in Ashtabula County too and our flock is just under one year old. We started out with 2 cockerels, but only have 1 now for our flock of girls.

    You said the hens that were just sitting in the nest boxes weren't laying any eggs. Were they laying eggs before? Did they raise their feathers and squawk at you when you approached the nest? They could have gone broody. Our broody girl gets picked on by the others in the flock. The girls don't lay eggs while they are broody. They don't need eggs in the nest, they even sit in an empty nest; but may move to another nest if she sees one with eggs.

    Ella is right, any time the dynamics of the flock are changed (separation, increase or decrease of the flock, death), the flock has to redetermine the pecking order. This is normal behavior. Also, if a hen is using the nest box to hide, she could be lowest in the pecking order and may possibly be kept from the feed and water. I agree, make sure you have more than one feed and water area for the birds, so no one dies from dehydration or lack of food. If the hen is at the bottom of the pecking order, she will be under stress of being picked on by everyone else. A stressed hen does not lay eggs.

    The wing shuffle and dance are aggressive signs. The rooster does that to remind the flock he is the head boy. He will also do this to another rooster before attacking. You have to be the flock leader. If you let your rooster attack you, he will see you as the weaker rooster. He may even try to fly at you and spur you in the leg or in the face. I've read that some people have had good luck holding and petting their rooster a bit each day while he is in isolation. This teaches him that you control him. Our boys have been very agressive with the girls in the past, but not with us. Unfortunately, some of our girls have feathers missing from the back of their necks from being pulled on so roughly. I've noticed that our boy always backs down from our alpha girl, which is funny because she is smaller than he.

    I would keep an eye on the picked on bird. Make sure she has no injuries. If the others see she is injured, they may brutally attack her until she is dead. If she is injured, isolate her and treat her wounds. When one of our birds is injured, I try to let them spend a little time with the flock each day while I can watch them. This helps prevent them from gang attacking her when she is healed and returned on a full-time basis.

    But, it is normal for the flock to peck at each other occasionally. If one bird is eating and another higher in the pecking order comes to the dish, she may peck at the first bird. It's as if she is saying, "Hey, I'm your superior, move out, I want to eat." I just try to make sure no one gets injured. You said you separated the hen that was chasing the bird you isolated. That is normal. I wouldn't separate them unless it got really brutal. They usually work out their pecking order problems pretty quickly.

    Your flock doesn't need a rooster to lay eggs. But if you want to raise your own chicks, you either need a rooster or you need to purchase fertilized eggs. If you want the rooster for a breeding program, there are others on this board with experience in this who can answer any questions.

    Good luck and keep us updated.


    if edited, probably for typos.....
    Last edited: May 4, 2007

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