Rooster gone ~ Hens Odd Behavior (cannibalism, no eggs, etc)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Ronijj, May 11, 2009.

  1. Ronijj

    Ronijj Hatching

    Apr 11, 2008
    We have a flock of 30 hens (various breeds), a Silkie rooster and we had a RIR Rooster (Craig). Craig became VERY aggressive so he had to go. We still have the Silkie Rooster and he's very happy to be king of the roost.

    Note: no change in feed or housing. We do however have a new chicken run outside which they didn't have before. They are not left out for long periods of time because we live in a rural area and there are natural predators around us. The hens are allowed out a couple of hours each evening (longer on the weekends) and are always put back in the coop at night.

    Since Craig's absence the hens have started displaying all sorts of odd behaviors and I'm at a loss on what to do...

    About 5-6 of the hens are molting at this time so they have exposed areas ~ some of the other hens have started sever pecking which then gets the rest of the hens into picking at the sores and has ended up in cannibalizim (they have killed 2 of our hens this way and injured another today). This happens VERY only a few hours. (has occurred over night or from a.m. feeding to p.m. feeding) The offenders vary and are relentless. We of course take the injured hen out as soon as we see it but by then it's usually too late. Now this doesn't happen daily but enough to cause us great concern.

    2 of the hens have started climbing as high as they can (we have roosts of varying heights) and dive at us when we walk in the coop. (Craig did this to me once which happened to be his last chance.)

    Egg production has dropped from nearly 2 1/2 dz. a day to an average of 6 a day. I realize when hens molt they don't lay as much if at all but like I said there are only a few molting at this time.

    Any ideas on what is going on?

    This is the first time in 2 years of raising chickens we've had any of this type of behavior and I'm not happy at all. I don't understand why all of a sudden things went to heck.

    I read about "activities" to keep them occupied during the day. What type of activities should I add to the coop? I read a post about hanging up twine which I can do but what else beyond that?

    Do we need to buy another full size rooster to keep these ladies in line?
  2. sjarvis00

    sjarvis00 Songster

    May 4, 2009
    Shawnee, OKlahoma
    I dont know for sure because Im new at this but it sounds like your silkie rooster isnt keeping them in line. If it were me I would get another rooster. If the silkie is smaller than your hens by alot then he might not be able to tend to them like they need.
  3. highcountrychickens

    highcountrychickens Head Rooster Jouster

    Aug 28, 2008
    Jackson Hole
    How Frustrating! I'm so sorry you're going through this

    If it was just pecking or cannibalism the answers would be simpler... but with the strange behaviors you are describing, it seems complicated. I've been there on a few of these levels, and had mild successes...

    It sounds like Craig ruled the roost, and kept the girls in line - in his absence the re establishment of pecking order sounds like it's quite brutal.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    Hang a half of a cabbage low enough for them to peck - the fact that it swings occupies them a bit, and they get some fresh cabbage... also in this vein, try filling a chicken-wire "bag" with different fruits and veggies (there is some debate about feeding strawberries affecting egg-laying, so I recommend leaving them out).

    Watch them. Find the perpetrator(s) - you may have to cull a hen that is killing other hens, or re-home her with complete disclosure. At the very least, be sure to remove and isolate them. You could try the pinless peepers (blinders) on them also, which prevents them from seeing straight in front of them, so they don't target as well... I was worried about using them for fear that it would cause them trouble eating or drinking and laying - not so.

    Also, go to (I think this is the address) They have a bunch of products to help this kind of situation, from unsavory salves to prevent picking, to vitamin supplements including B complexes that help calm behaviors.

    Finally, have a good look at their feed... maybe backing them off of the hot stuff with super protein for a short time will help calm them. I'd chat with your vet about this though, because you don't want to further affect your egg production. We dealt with an aggressive Roo once by feeding lower protein, and it worked, but was impossible to do with a flock roo.

    Good luck with this - I hope it all works out soon. That is really no fun.
    Last edited: May 11, 2009
  4. Ronijj

    Ronijj Hatching

    Apr 11, 2008
    Oh thank you so much for the suggestions ~ we will most definitely put several of these to work immediately and we'll have to start looking for another rooster (the silkie is about 1/2 the size of the hens).

    Oh ~ and yes, Craig did rule the roost in a big way. He was always very good about keeping them in line and taking care of business.

    Thanks for the advice, I'll check back in and let you know how things go!

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