Problem with Aggressive Flock--why??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Firefly, May 19, 2010.

  1. Firefly

    Firefly Songster

    Mar 26, 2007
    I'm starting my fourth year with chickens and have had problems with aggressive hens since day one. Mostly just feather picking, but two days ago one hen was more seriously injured. She's a Black Australorp and small for her breed. She's always been a little hen-pecked-- feathers plucked from her head and what not. But this winter when the flock spent more time cooped up, I noticed she was loosing weight, because the other girls weren't letting her eat. So, I started letting her have time to herself to be able to eat and once the weather warmed (around March) while they were all free ranging during the day, I would leave out food and water for her too in case she didn't want to go back into the coop for it. But, this little one would take off-- just disappear into the woods and not come back until dusk.

    Well, things had been going well. She is bulking up (but will always be small), and was even getting a little more confident.... a few times when I went to shut them in for the night she was up there on the roost with the rest of them (normally she'd have to sleep on a ledge in the coop because the others wouldn't let her on the roost). More and more she was hanging out on the property-- but still away from the other girls-- instead of disappearing for the day. So anyway, yesterday I let them all out to free range in the morning. She looked fine. BUT, when I went to put them up in the evening, she was huddled in one of the nesting boxes. She came out to greet me (and probably eat-- she feels safe with me there and will sometimes actually hide behind my legs when the others come near!) and I was shocked. Her head was all bloody, and every single feather had picked off her head. Her left eye was swollen and I am just thankful she didn't lose it! I picked her up right away and brought her in the house to tend to her wounds. She is looking much better now but I will never allow her back in that coop, poor thing. I'm going to re-home her to my sister's. It's no way for her to live and she is just a darling bird!

    So I just came here to ask, WHY is this happening? When the feather picking started way back when with my Reds, I switched to the 21% protein feed and have also been feeding lots of BOSS ever since. They free range most of the time and when they're in the coop they have plenty of room (10x13 for 5/6 hens) plus access to a huge run. I just don't get it. Could it just be that I have aggressive-prone breeds? I started with 5 RIRs. With them I had feather picking issues but not any really awful aggression that I noticed. I lost two of them over time and two I re-homed to my sister's place, hoping to fix my feather-picking issue. Two years ago I got 3 Barred Rocks and two Black Australorps (including the little one I've been talking about). So I've always had abut 5-6 hens at any given time. And, I had no problem integrating the old RIR flock with the new BRs/BAs. Nowadays, the other Black and my last remaining RIR are pretty ambivalent about Little Black Hen. It's really two of my BRs. DS has seen one sitting on Little Black Hen while the other pecked her viciously all over her head (this was a couple of weeks ago). I don't understand why I keep having this issue and why it's suddenly escalated so dramatically. Because the strangest things is, the hens I re-homed to my sister's do fine! No aggression or feather picking. I'm beginning to wonder-- is it something in my water??

    I just don't know what to do. I understand that some pecking order has to be established and expect occasional feather picking/putting someone in their place. But this has gone to far-- drawing blood! As I said, I'll be re-homing Little Black Hen (and, obviously, in the meantime keeping her separated from the others), but I'm worried that once she's gone they'll just find someone else to beat up on. I have 10 chicks brooding right now (3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 RIRs, 3 Ameracaunas and 1 White Andalusian) and I'm really worried about what's gong to happen when I try to integrate them. I know the BO's have a tendency to be bullied. So I don't know... I guess my questions are:

    1. Is it possible that once the new birds are introduced the BRs will be outnumbered and lose some of their aggressiveness?
    2. Is there something I've done wrong that I can avoid doing in the future?
    3. Should I re-home the Barred Rocks? Will there be peace in my flock if I do that?
    4. Has anyone had a similar experience and been able to remedy it? I do like my BR's... they are sweet and curious with people and great layers.

    If you've read this far, thank you for reading my ramblings. I'd be very appreciative if anyone has any feedback/thoughts/advice. Thank you!

  2. Debbi

    Debbi Crowing

    May 2, 2010
    In my opinion, I'd keep the victim, and get rid of the trouble makers. Aggressive hens, in my experience, will just go down the line and find another who is intimidated, and start picking on them too. I've had aggressive RIR that have attacked dogs, cats, and my daughter. He ended up being rooster cachitorre! The only aggressive BR I've ever had, and this was years ago, was a banty hen. She wanted no part of the flock, and would attack anything that came near her. One day, I couldn't find her and figured something got her. Two weeks later, here she comes back to the barn with 5 chicks! She was snuggling up to someone, at least once! LOL! Send the bad girls to your sister's place and see if she has any problems with them.

  3. clothdiaperingmom

    clothdiaperingmom Songster

    Feb 7, 2010
    Sweetwater, TX
    Quote:I agree. I would be more apt to get rid of the trouble makers!
  4. Firefly

    Firefly Songster

    Mar 26, 2007
    I suppose I could re-home the BRs instead. They are sweet with people and great layers but you're right-- if this is going to be an ongoing problem it's not worth it! Thanks to both of you for your feedback. [​IMG]

  5. chickenboy7c2d

    chickenboy7c2d Songster

    Mar 10, 2010
    Surrey, England, UK
    Well i'm just lucky that i've never had a violent chicken. The only time that it's looked bad is when they establish the pecking order with the new arrivals.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by