Sick Chick or Mean Girls?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by mikecar007, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. mikecar007

    mikecar007 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 30, 2009
    Pennsylvania
    In March we found out my wife was pregnant so I confined the chickens as they were pooping everywhere(favorite hangout is our porch). We also have had a few run ins with Coopers Hawks and have a pair of them currently nesting in our pine trees. They have an enclosed run which measures about 17 x 30 and an 8 x 6 coop. Once I confined them I noticed that they became more aggressive with each other. I have already tried pine tar prior to confining them with no luck due to some feather plucking. I then ordered Avia Charge and started feeding them 4 hardboiled eggs mixed with Purina Layer Pellets each morning. This helped initially, though after confining them they seemed fine until about a month ago. They started eating feathers again so I tilled their dirt and increased their egg intake with no luck. At that point I ordered pinless peepers and hot pick spray. This worked for about two weeks and then it started again. For the last week there are only 9 chickens that come out of the coop on a regular basis out of my 10. The one that will not leave the coop stays in the nesting box on a regular basis, she even roosts in the nesting box. When she does come out of the coop the other chickens, mainly 3 of them, attack her like crazy. 2 of the 3 have the least feathers of any of the chickens, mainly around the neck area. I have my theories on this, they are attacking each other to determine who is mother hen. The chicken that is in the nesting box, does seem to have a dry comb as well as what appeared to be some chipping on her beak above the pinless peepers. She contiously clucks loudly and appears to be healthy. She is eating and drinking when I intervene and shoo the other chickens away from her, though I have to take her out of the nesting box. They will run her down and grab her by the back of the neck. Tonight I removed her blinders to give her an advantage over the other chickens and try to coerce them to coexist. They were dusted for mites the day after I put pinless peepers on them and I have been inspecting them and see no mites and no worms in their poop. So is she sick and the other chickens know it and I do not, or do I need to thin my flock? I am really trying to avoid thinning my flock. The only thing I have not tried that I have read on here is hanging salt pork in the coop. Any help or ideas are greatly appreciated. I have 10 production reds, all hens - no roo.
     
  2. peaceful

    peaceful Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 24, 2008
    BC Canada
    Wow. Seems to me like the one who gets picked on would naturally be more intimidated to eat and drink and therefor might weaken from that (thus the paller comb). Not to mention the stress for her. The chickens seem unusually aggressive to me; I have had sick hens who don't get picked on, only sick chicks will get pecked at sometimes. Usually if the have lived together for a while they will have established a pecking order and will be settled.
    Since the behaviour resolved temporarily when there was a diet change it makes me wonder about nutritional balance. How is the quality of your feed? Do you have other choices for feed to try in case the one you've got is deficient somehow? You could try more supplementation, but with what...I'm thinking... I know I've read of aggressiveness abating with diet change, but can't remember with what off hand. Greens have been known to be helpful generally. Do they get fresh greens?
    Temporary other thought is to hang a cabbage up for them to peck at for entertainment/stimulation. This works better in the winter. But you need more to solve this problem.
    Any toxicity possibilities (eg from waterer etc.)? That can also cause problems.
     
  3. chickeepoo

    chickeepoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 10, 2008
    Orlando, FL
    [​IMG] Sorry to hear your hens started thisÂ… their loss of freedom probably IS a factor in the pecking but there's more to it.
    My 4 Production Reds (thought they were RIR's, but they aren't) got very nasty with each other once they lost their free range when their coop was done. One hen kept getting the brunt of it, always bloody, always in "rehab" away from the others, finally moved to my friend's farm were she could live in peace. Cannibalism apparently is more likely with this breed because they need more protein, and they'll go after each other to satisfy that need. My chicken aprons came off my hens, so that didn't work, but Blu-Kote spray helped cover/protect/heal the wounds. I eventually used dog nail clippers to take the tip off the beaks of the worst offenders because they wouldn't let up. I give some extra protein in egg/yogurt treats, Black Oil Sunflower seeds (BOSS), chopped greens plus a little scratch, and so far -knock on wood- they haven't been going after each other. I was afraid the one hen that had crop surgery in early spring would be a target again, but nothing happened. Some people give their hens dry cat food as a treat (which is high in protein) to stave off the picking. Whatever you feed for greens as a treat, DON'T put long grass in- that's what blocked up the crop on one of our hens and resulted in a tedious, gross surgery to empty her crop. Luckily everything worked out.
     
  4. mikecar007

    mikecar007 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 30, 2009
    Pennsylvania
    In the summer they used to get a lot of fresh greens from my garden, though this year I don't have the time. I added a head of cabbage to the run hanging of course. in the winter I used suet cake holders and packed them with carrots and lettuce. I have 6 of them so I will start that back up more consistently. The chicken that is being picked on is the most feathered of them all(maybe they are jealous) and does eat and drink when I am there to chase the other chickens away. Any other ideas out there?
     
  5. LaLady

    LaLady Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 24, 2008
    Connecticut
    I am currently experiencing the same problem with my 7 hens.. one is getting mercilessly picked on whenever she leaves the nesting box. She stays there all the time, and her comb is pale. I took her out by herself and she drank, ate, foraged, and seems healthy. But she didn't want to go back into the coop with her sisters (she tried heroically to wrestle her way past me, out the door). I thought maybe she is broody, and the flock decided as a group that she is in charge of hatching all the eggs, and when they peck her they're saying "get back in there and hatch our eggs!". Who knows what they're thinking..

    She's not the only one getting a beating, though she's getting the brunt of it. They all look bedraggled, with bare spots here and there. To be honest, I've chronically had this problem with my birds. I've given up at this point. They have a beautiful clean coop, plenty of room, a nice run, always fed and watered, access to forage a couple times a week (when I'm in the yard I let them out, otherwise it's not safe around here because of numerous predators). I thought they might have mites/bugs so I did everything under the sun to treat them for pests (two vet visits, dusting, DE, pills, coop cleaning, etc.), but nothing made a difference. I used the pinless peepers as well and they didn't help. I gave them awesome protein rich food, made them home cooked oatmeal treats with BOSS, asked them to be nice, showered them with affection, but nothing has stopped them from being mean to each other.

    So now I've decided it's just the way of the world. Like girls, some hens are just mean. I've got a whole posse of mean chicks.
     

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