Reestablish the Pecking Order (but no change)?

TeamBigfoot

Chirping
5 Years
Feb 23, 2014
44
5
52
We have a flock of four, all 10 months old, and all were fine with the established pecking order that was worked out months ago. We have been dealing with a sick hen (https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/873474/welsummer-suddenly-lethargic) and this has caused a serious disruption in the force.

Now, if we had removed the #1 hen from the flock, I could understand the others reestablishing the pecking order. As best as we can make out, our sick Welsummer is #2, though. Since there are only three hens remaining in the run, the actual pecking order hasn't changed. Yet #1 and #3 have been ganging up on #4 while #2 is out of the coop/run. #4 was already at the bottom - we and they knew it.

Any thoughts on why they were ganging up on #4?

Cheers,
 

ChickenExplorer

In the Brooder
5 Years
Mar 25, 2014
21
1
26
Provo, UT
I know that chickens do occasionally reinforce pecking order and chickens do move up and down in the order from time to time. My guess is that they are reinforcing that #4 is still at the bottom even if #2 is not in the running.

Last year my #1 and #2 girls both moved around in the pecking order for time time because of illness and molting. And it did throw things out of whack for a while. But when they got better it all went back to normal. They will reclaim their spots and eventually re establish order.
 

cyndimo

Hatching
5 Years
Apr 21, 2014
2
0
6
Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Along those lines - I have a very small flock (3 hens, 1 roo - all 1yo). This morning I found that #3 hen was beating up on #1 hen and that the roo is joining in. In addition #1's egg was not in the nesting box, but beside it.
#1 is bloody, but not bleeding.
Based on what I've read, I'm inclined to segregate her until she's healed. Does that seem right? Or, should I be segregating #3 (the aggressor)? But, the rooster is part of this dynamic too.
Then, I worry about how to get them all back together.
Thoughts?
Cyndi
 

TeamBigfoot

Chirping
5 Years
Feb 23, 2014
44
5
52
Our sick #2 is better and reintroducing her to the rest of the hens resulted in a return to normalcy with regards to #1 pecking #4 (no further pecking). However, our #4 occasionally pecks #2 now, but #4 is definitely #4, so *shrug*.

If there's a health issue with your #1, others are likely jockeying for position. We don't have roosters, so I have no insight there whether the roo is an instigator or a joiner-inner. If #1 has a health issue, segregating her and treating it is the primary concern. The pecking order may well go back to status quo once #1 returns, but it is probably more likely that #1 will get demoted due to her illness (if she has one) and segregation.

Back when our hens were a few weeks old we switched feed on them and the then-#1 chick stopped eating. We finally figured out what was going on and fed her via syringe until she regained health, but she's our current #4 of 4 in the pecking order, in large part due to her sickness way back when.

I'd want to find out how your #1's egg came to be out of the box and think back to see if you can figure out why your #3 started in on your #1.
 

cyndimo

Hatching
5 Years
Apr 21, 2014
2
0
6
Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Thanks - as far as I can tell, there's no health issue with any of the girls, and no change to feeding or other routines.
There was some drama when #3 and the roo joined the flock about 10 months ago (they were all 5-6mo). #3 tried to be the top, but then ran away. The ordeal of getting her back into the coop left her pretty weak and solidly #3. She stayed separate in the coop for quite a while and ate separately. Up until this morning, the other 2 (who'd been together as hatchlings) would squawk at her when she'd eat with everyone else, but no blood or anything.

I think I'll move my small house (we call it the "day spa") to near the larger coop so that the injured girl can recover but still be near by. That should also help it be more predator-proof.
Then, when she seems well, I'll try letting them all free-range together to see how they do with lots of space and take it from there. Most of the advice I'm reading indicates to separate the bully, but:
1. This is a pretty sudden shift from bottom to top and
2. The rooster's involvement is a little puzzling to me.

Thanks again!
Cyndi
 

TeamBigfoot

Chirping
5 Years
Feb 23, 2014
44
5
52
Good luck! Our experience has been with pecking order problems arising after segregation of one hen, you're facing the opposite issue. Let us know how it works out, just in case we have something similar happen.
 

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