Poor Tormented Hen - Very Worried.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by downtown, Jun 9, 2017.

  1. downtown

    downtown Just Hatched

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    San Diego, California
    Excuse the long post, but I am really unsure how to proceed and could really use some advice.

    Three of my five hens have suddenly turned on my black Australorp hen Kellyanne and are not letting her out of the roosting box and viciously tormenting her when she tries! I have five hens (two Rhode Island Reds, a Barred Rock and two Australorp) and they were fine until a few days ago. Kellyanne has always been on the bottom.

    Relevant back story: Kellyanne went broody some time ago and sat proudly and purposefully on some fake eggs for a little over three straight weeks. I swapped out the fake eggs for four day-old chicks on her third week and she has been a very attentive mother to her chicks who seem to be thriving. The chicks are now three + weeks old.

    Kelly had been raising them in a large dog crate inside the run. I kept the crate open and Kellyanne and the chicks mingled with the rest of the hens peaceably during the day in the run, and in the yard each afternoon/evening. My enclosed run is 70 square feet and roosting box 26 square feet which I am pretty sure is big enough.

    A few days ago something changed and Kellyanne abandoned the crate and moved herself and her chicks to the roosting box where I then put food and water.

    Kellyanne is unable to leave the roosting box without the top three hens pouncing on her viciously. She lowers herself respectfully and they all just stand on her and peck her. It does not stop until Kellyanne runs back to the roosting box. The hens do not interact with the chicks and only intersect them when they go into the roosting box during the day to lay.

    I have read that I should perhaps take out the top hen, but in this case it is the top three hens that seem to be the problem.

    I have been hoping that things would just settle down, but I am worried that things will escalate if I don't intervene and that I might be putting the chicks in jeopardy with my inaction. And I feel terrible for Kellyanne.

    The hens are a year old, eat layer pellets supplemented by lots of veggie matter and get out of the run every afternoon/evening for a few hours. I live in San Diego and the weather has been in the 70s and lovely.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
    penny1960 likes this.
  2. potato chip

    potato chip lunch-sharer

    hmmm. I'm no chook expert but I'd be inclined to try to move out 2 of the meanies and see whether the remaining one chums up with Kellyanne. Do Kellyanne and the chicks join in the free ranging?
     
    penny1960 likes this.
  3. yoopergirl1211

    yoopergirl1211 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm definitely not an expert with this situation but of it were me I'd put the three in time out to knock them down the ladder a bit. I'd be worried about babies getting hurt on accident. I just had to put a RIR on time out because she wouldn't leave a broody alone. Although if she keeps it up she'll be soup! They're probably jealous of the babies lol. Good luck!
     
    penny1960 likes this.
  4. downtown

    downtown Just Hatched

    5
    1
    12
    Mar 4, 2016
    San Diego, California
    Thanks very much for the input.

    Kellyanne and her chicks do free range every afternoon/evening for a few hours with the others. They ignore each other when out, but then try to prevent her from entering the coop if they have gone in first. I don't let them out during the day because I am not around and there is a hawk in the vicinity that has been watching them too closely for my comfort.

    How long do you think I should keep the two or three bullies of the bunch in confinement? I have read that three days was the minimum. And they should be well away of the coop right?

    Would it be a terrible idea to return Kellyanne to her large crate in the run (though this time with the door closed) before taking out the mean ones?
     
  5. potato chip

    potato chip lunch-sharer

    I really don't know, I think the aim is just to break up the dynamic by "trying things". I wouldn't take all 3 out, because when you reintroduce them, they might even be more of a "gang".
     
  6. yoopergirl1211

    yoopergirl1211 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I do it for at least three days but i normaly have them in crate in entry way of coop. That could be wrong and I'm going to check it out. There is a pretty good article on here about bullying. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/bullying-behavior-in-chickens.65073/
    I'm not sure if its a terrible idea. I do know that mom knows when its time to introduce chicks to the rest of flock and teach them how to behave in the flock. So as long as she could still accomplish that in some way it would probably be okay. She's also teaching them where they should sleep. I have a few Bantams that are still trying to sleep in a hole on side of a hill right now because I hand raised them and apparently they're not very bright lol.
     
    CTKen likes this.
  7. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    In theory, just removing the alpha hen should help. Sub-ordinate hens will join in attacks that are initiated by an alpha. I'd try that, and see how things go, before removing the remaining two.
     
    yoopergirl1211 likes this.
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    flip it, use the crate that you were using for the broody hen and chicks, for the three meanies. This will allow the broody hen and chicks to be seen moving around the set up. After three days let the least mean out, see how it goes.

    What does the run look like? Do you have roosts in the run, places to hide in the run? Little partial walls, pallets up on saw horses, or leaned against the wall offer places where birds can get away from each other, and out of sight and mind of other chickens.

    Mrs K
     
    bobbi-j likes this.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    'Roosting box' is the coop?
    Can you post some pics?
    Might be pretty darn small for 4 hens and the chicks, especially during an integration situation.

    Excellent suggestions and questions from Mrs. K!
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017

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