Please help! Urgent! Bullying Advice

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ryark, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. ryark

    ryark New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2010
    Portland area
    So I am looking for opinions, please. We have a small backyard flock of 3 hens that are our beloved pets. They are all about 1 year old. The wyandotte and cochin were raised together from chicks, and the silkie was added about 8 months ago. So the 2 standard hens are basically joined at the hip. They walked together and hang out all the time. The silkie wants to be part of the group, and they mostly let her follow, but ever once in a while one of the large hens (I think the 2nd in command, the cochin, usually starts it, but the leader (wyandotte) will often join in too) will start chasing the silkie super fast and trying to peck her. The silkie FREAKS out, squawking, darting around the yard it a real panic, and pants, huddled in the corner of the yard, until she finds her way back into the coop to hide. Now this isn't a constant occurrence, and happens more frequently when we are hand feeding treats to the flock, but it also happens even when we aren't directly interacting with them, too. To my knowledge, they all get along reasonably well when in the coop. They are treated monthly for mites with a small application of Frontline spray topically, we mix D.E. in their bedding, and were dewormed with Panacur a few months ago. I believe they are all healthy.

    I just feel like the silkie is bullied too hard when she is bullied, not that it's a constant thing. I'm worried for how severely she become stressed out (open-mouth breathing, screaming, running around frantically) when she is bullied. I don't see any physical marks on her, so I think it really is psychological. Recently, a couple of weeks ago, the hens were outside int he yard and my indoor-only cat got outside and chased the silkie. He definitely would have hurt her if I didn't catch him and put him back inside. I think mentally she was hurt though, because ever since then she has become a lot more sensitive to the bullying from the other hens.

    So, I LOVE my silkie, but I'm just worried she could have a heart attack or be unhappy from the stress, and/or be an easy target for a neighborhood cat or other predator if she is by herself in the yard running around without the safety of being with the other 2 hens (as she frantically darts around by herself away from the flock).

    So here's what I did: I placed an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone wanted to trade me a standard sized young tame hen for my silkie. I guess I wasn't anticipating the response I received. So there's a lady with a flock of silkies who has a barred rock, and she's been keeping the barred rock separate for picking on her silkies. So it sounds like the perfect trade. She also said the barred rock has 3 adolescent chicks ready to go outside that can come with the hen. That way we can keep which ever hen/pullet ends up getting along the best with our other 2 hens. (We can only have 3 total adult chickens in our town.)

    Here's the thing: Now that it sounds like I have the perfect trade lined up... I have cold feet. I love my silkie. I picked her out from a reputable breeder, and I named her and I love her. So what should I do? I feel very conflicted and now I just don't know what's right. Can chickens have a heart attack from being stressed to the point of panting? Do I even have a very good chance of introducing a barred rock into my flock, and having that work better? The benefit I see of having a 3rd standard size hen, is that if she's picked on, at least she would have real feathers and her size to protect her. The silkie just doesn't seem that sturdy.

    HELP me make up my mind, please. I'm not asking for the RIGHT answer because only I can decide that for myself. I need your advice and opinions, please. These are my pets, and I love them dearly and want what's best for them.

    Thank you very much.

    PS-- I already have a tentative appt with the lady with the barred rocks for tomorrow evening, so please give me any advice you can ASAP. I don't want to be flaky, but I also don't want to give up my chicken if it isn't the best choice.
     
  2. ryark

    ryark New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2010
    Portland area
    I just emailed the barred rock lady to ask to postpone the trade for a week. I just need more time to consider this better. I only put the Craigslist ad up yesterday, so this is just moving too fast for me.
     
  3. bustermommy

    bustermommy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They're going to gang up on whatever newcomer you put in there with them, at least at first. I'm not sure what I'd do in your place. But, I gave my dog away to my parents recently because it was better for her to live in Arizona than Colorado for health reasons. I miss her a lot, but she's healthier and happy. What would be best for the chicken you love?

    At a minimum, I would ask to see her setup for her chickens first before you decide.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2011
  4. sabias5

    sabias5 Out Of The Brooder

    Honestly I would give up the silkie (and have done, I had a silkie that was bullied and I felt too bad for her to keep her). It sound like she's just ended up as the bottom of the pecking order which is perfectly normal. No matter how big or small your flock is you'll end up with a chicken at the top and one at the bottom. My bottom rung is a bantam Australorp. The other girls all hang around with each other but she's usually on her own. every now and again they'll chase her but none of them seem too stressed, slight bullying is perfectly normal. I did have a silkie for a while but the problem with silkies is that they are such fragile birds. They will pretty much always be at the bottom rung and will get bullied but because they're so fragile they have a real chance of getting seriously hurt by it. When you have a flock that get along and work well together it's great and sometimes you forget how cruel hens can be.

    If the bullying is still serious and you do want to trade be very careful about how you introduce the new girl as she will be fought with and bullied alot at first while the others try to establish dominance. Read plenty of guides on introducing new birds (there are tonnes on here).

    I wouldn't take the babies personally. It will be a lot of work to keep them safe. You won't be able to introduce them to the full grown girls until they are nearly full grown. If they are much smaller than your older girls then they will be hurt and possibly killed if you put them all in together.
    You'd need to have the babies in a run all on their own until they're bigger.

    It's doable, just a lot of work to solve a slight bullying problem (and the babies will be bullied much worse than your silkie is being bullied now)

    best solution would be to either give away or sell your silkie to someone who already has silkies and just buy (or obtain) 2 bigger chickens that both come from the same flock. That way they'll have an ally when they are being bullied. introducing one chicken by itself can be very stressful for them.
     
  5. Farm_Maven

    Farm_Maven Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can only have three? That makes for difficult flock dynamics right from the get go. The two bullies have a pal(each other) but your Silkie does not have a buddy and is left out in the cold, makes for a lonely girl.
     
  6. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    The barred rock will start at the bottom of the pecking order, it's true, but it will at least be able to protect itself much better and won't suffer like your silkie is. Barred rocks are bigger and they can fly. Do what's best for your chickens.
     
  7. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    I would be very leery of taking a chicken from a stranger--there is always some reason they want to get rid of a bird--it could expose your flock to diseases that could kill. If I were you, I would separate the more agressive hen from the silkie and other hen for a few days to a week, then see if the silkie and other hen pal up. It may change the dynamics, and probaly wouldn't hurt. The other solution would be to obtain another silkie if you possibly could have 4 birds, so that she would have a buddy.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I wouldn't take the youngsters either. Chances are the mama no longer considers herself their mama, and they will do fine in their present flock but be at a disadvantage in yours. In your shoes I believe I'd let someone with silkies have the silkie where she can live a good silkie life. And one way or another I'd bring in 2 hens, not one. (Unless you have a neighbor just waiting for you to make a mistake so she can report you, chances are no one will even notice you have 4 instead of 3. Many people would not realize the Silkie is full grown, either.) They will still peck and have to work it out, but 2 and 2 makes serious injury less likely than one and two.

    But first I'd probably try the nicer large hen with the silkie for a week, as someone else suggested, with the meaner one by herself, if you can do this. Sometimes it's enough to disrupt the pecking order and make things relatively peaceful again.

    And read up on quarantine before you bring another bird in:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=12751
     
  9. ryark

    ryark New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2010
    Portland area
    Thanks for your replies so far. There really isn't a meaner hen. Both large hens pick on the silkie, and it doesn't seem that mean, it's more the silkie's reaction to the picking that worries me. My husband pointed out that it's really mainly food aggression. There isn't really a way to separate for feeding although I suppose we could try adding another smaller feeder, no guarantee the silkie would be the one to eat out of it.
     
  10. SierraView

    SierraView Chillin' With My Peeps

    I think you should get another silkie so she will have a pal. [​IMG]
     

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