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silkie rooster is bullying one hen only

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by crushgiant, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. crushgiant

    crushgiant Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 27, 2014
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    Hi, I'm new... I've been reading posts on here for at least a year and I always find my answer but now I'm at my wit's end trying to figure out what to do and just need to let it all out and hear what answers and advice come.
    My rooster and 3 hens grew up together and are all a little over a year old. He has a silkie hen, and his best friend is a barred rock, those two hang out all day together like mates while the silkie hen kind of tags along. The third hen is a New Jersey giant. He has always chased after her since he started mating them. She's missing tons of her back feathers from mating. But now she is also missing lots of feathers from her bum, where I've discovered within the last two months there are also sores, blood blister looking spots, and scabs. I checked for lice and mites. Don't see that.
    He's pulling her feathers out! People ask me if I'm sure it's not the barred rock but it's definitely the rooster. I've seen him do it many many times. I've even caught him with 3-6 feathers in his mouth! And he's done it right in front of us all in the yard.
    She hides from him. She puts her face down in a dark corner throughout the day if they are in the coop. At any given moment that I look out the window I will most likely see him pecking her into submission in the same dark corner behind the run's hatch door. He chases her and pecks at her feet or bum or head. But only her!
    I've separated him for a week, when he returned to the flock he did it again. I separated him for 2 weeks. Upon his return he did it again. He is separated again now and it's been another week. When he is gone she regains her confidence and hangs out with the others, usually peacefully side-by-side with the barred rock.
    I read that I should put blu-kote on her bum, which I did, and she's healing, but he's not deterred. No one else pecks at her.
    Now, in addition, in an attempt to give him more hens, we let the the silkie hen raise 6 babies... three of them turned out to be roosters. They are almost three months old.
    I read that maybe the rooster is plucking her feathers bc he needs more protein so I started growing black soldier fly maggots (blegh... shudder) and feed them to him and all of rest. Doesn't stop him from pulling out her feathers, though.
    During the day when they free range he chases her but she has room to run. She always runs to us for help if we're outside. And still when he catches up to her he pulls out her feathers.
    She wanders away from the flock and seems happy to do her own thing. Is this a reason he would bully her and only her, or is she doing it to get some peace and quiet? Bc when he's in solitary, she and the barred rock stick side by side in the coop or free ranging, dust bathing, sun bathing, all of it.
    I've also read that she is probably the weakest hen, but if I got rid of her [​IMG] then would he likely bully the next weakest hen?
    She's our most family-friendly hen, she even comes to the door to see where we are. I got the silkies bc I always read that they are the friendliest but it's the jersey giant, hands down, for us that is the friendliest as well as most interactive. I would not like to get rid of her!
    He seems good to the rest of the flock, although a bit rough when mating. I've seen him call the barred rock over to eat things he's found, I've watched him groom the silkie hen, he guards over them, he never eats before the hens, he alerts everyone at the slightest suspicion of danger, he even sends the whole flock to their coop at night and then goes back to his own bachelor pad, he is getting so used to being in solitary confinement. But as soon as he gets integrated back in the big coop, let the feather plucking begin. [​IMG] but only for the New Jersey giant hen. [​IMG]
    I'm going crazy trying to figure out if his behavior is unacceptable and if he should be replaced with a new guy? Will having more hens be enough to help if we fill in the flock with some additional hens? Will the young roosters learn this behavior from him if they are around him too long before they are re-homed?
    I've read that some roosters outgrow rough behavior... Is it rough behavior or straight up bullying?
    We are leaving this week for a month and the chickens will be in the care of a pet sitter. So now my anxiety level has risen, and I decided I had to find out if I should act before we leave. And what is the general consensus as to how to handle this situation?
    I've mentioned everything I can think of, hence this very long post- I'm sorry about the length and I'm sorry if I'm asking too many questions in a post but thank you for taking the time to read it.
    Below is a picture of their coop and the a-frame coop we use when he gets put in solitary, close to the run, so you can see how much space they have,
    and they range on 1/2 acre. I do believe they have ample space.
    also, a picture of her bum area, this was about a month ago, her feathers are much more scarce at this point, but she is beginning to heal from him being separated and using the blu-kote.

    he came into our flock when someone gave me a 'buddy' for the young silkie chick when i got her. i was suspicious but i couldn't tell he was a rooster, so when we finally heard him crow, we had already become attached and decided to keep him around with his 'wife'. ironically, the jersey giant slept with them in a huddle and protected them from the bigger pullets, including the barred rock and a rhode island red we used to have. this is the thanks she gets…:/
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    If I've left out pertinent information please let me know.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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  3. crushgiant

    crushgiant Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 27, 2014
    NC
    Thank you so much. I appreciate your thorough response. It's a lot to stew on. I've been spending a lot of time in the coop just sitting and watching; maybe he is treating her like she's a mateable rooster actually. Never thought of that but now that you mention it, maybe she is putting the rooster vibe out there to him as well. I noticed she puffs up around him. And her tail appears to be in what I call the 'high alert' position. Up and fanned out somewhat. Maybe it's her defense mechanism and/or they are feeding off each other's behavior. Either way he wants her out and she is obviously ruffled to be around him.
    All the babies are his offspring, 4 of them with her. (2 of the Roos and 2 hens).
    Disfunctional family :/
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Has she ever been broody? The puffed out, tail fanned position some of my hens used to adopt when with babies or temporarily off the nest and some other birds used to get aggressive to any broody hens, as I would guess that level of constant semi-alarm they show with their body registers as almost like constant low level hysteria and therefore mental abnormality... But that's one theory, really I always found the birds that attacked hens showing broody behaviors lacked sufficient social instincts themselves to get along in peace with the rest of the flock, there is always some reason or another to attack with that sort.

    Broody hens who didn't puff etc didn't get the same response, but I still removed those constantly alarmed/aggressive type broodies and the males (and females) who reacted negatively to them. Can't have any animals barreling over chicks to attack a mother whose nerves or mentality is just a bit out of whack, she's doing a necessary job even if she's a little excessive at the time. I found those more edgy mothers were not as good mothers as the more calm ones, it was a cumulative reason-based decision to not keep that sort of hen nor the animals that reacted adversely to them.

    Pretty much all of my cull decisions and criteria are based on having first tried to breed, train and alter behaviors and genetics first and then finding it safer and faster to just cull. Sometimes cull just means rehome. Good mother hens are always in high demand, I've found.

    Some hens stay in that constant state of riled up mother instinct, puffed all the time, always crankier or more alarmed than the situation calls for. They're more likely to be bullied by all members of the average flock, I had to cull against aggressive reactions to mothers initially as they're common in normal flocks and my starting flock was of course comprised of average birds from many sources... I also culled against that riled up maternal habit because it bred true too often and was likelier to cause infant mortality than calmer mothers.

    The reason I think he may be treating her like another male somewhat is because the only time I've seen males rip out abdominal feathers is when a subordinate male is defying an alpha until the very last minute he can before fleeing, and the alpha takes some of his pants feathers out to teach him some respect. I haven't had that happen in ages with mine, again due to culling for excessive aggression but this time it was an indirect result as I didn't cull against that trait itself, it just vanished with other aggressive behaviors over time.

    Anyway, it's just a theory and the actual situation may or may not escalate, best wishes with sorting them out.
     
  5. crushgiant

    crushgiant Out Of The Brooder

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    no, she's never been broody. i notice she only does it around him. he gets his monkey up when she comes near him, it's like he's thinking "how dare you enter my vicinity!" it's like if she even looks at him he is in pluck mode. she puffs, he chases.
    it's an amazing process to watch, the way he coddles his little silkie and makes nests for her, herds her back and forth, the way he hangs out with the barred rock like a couple of buddies just talking shop. the giant (who is not bigger than the barred rock) will run behind me when he chases her, or roost beside me, she'll let me pet her and get all cozy.
    yeah, the rough mating might be clumsy mating actually. sometimes he looks all over the place. maybe he's just grabbing whatever he can to stay on top and it ends up a mess of squawking and feathers. i don't know.
    thanks again, i'm going to take your advice and just at least wait until we get back and see what, if anything, has changed. at least we have an extra coop so we can separate them or the sitter can separate if she needs to.
    i do feel less urgency now, knowing more angles to look at the situation. thank you again so much for your help.
     
  6. crushgiant

    crushgiant Out Of The Brooder

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    i'll just let the sitter know the situation and let her know not to keep them cooped up together. but you're saying keeping him around with the young cockerels is better for them for now?
     
  7. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    It is time to invite him to dinner. .... he won't be needing any silverware.......if you get what I am saying......
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Her behavior is quite strange, to be fluffing at him when she's never been broody. It may be feeding his behavior, but even if that were the case, well, you already know my stance on aggression for anything less than a seriously good reason.

    The thing about the cockerels is that keeping him around them during their adolescence teaches them more respect and teaches him more tolerance, if of course all parties are somewhat willing to learn such things. Removing them now, as they're getting older, from his daily activities can result in a severe incident when you return them; doing such a thing can cause a rooster to sort of look at them with new eyes and realize they're swiftly becoming competition, whereas if you don't remove them chances are they'll fly under the radar for some time yet, really probably only emerging when they feel ready to do so, and in the meanwhile acting juvenile around him.

    Sometimes a chook will apparently forget flock members within a few days flat, though most take at least a few weeks or longer. Either way they need to restore hierarchy every time flock members vanish then reappear so to avoid stress I'd avoid separating him from the cockerels, especially because those little fellows will be starting to eye the hens off now. They may act innocent when the rooster is around but if you remove him, I'd bet you'd see some very changed behavior quite quickly.

    Best wishes with them.
     
  9. crushgiant

    crushgiant Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 27, 2014
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    A nice man took him (and two of the cockerels) to live on a farm today. Or... At least that's what they told me. Just when I was looking up 'how to slaughter a chicken' and realized I can never do it myself. They tell me he will be loved... [​IMG] (with rosemary?)
    He's been such a pain in the butt this whole time, so I can't believe how sad I feel :( maybe it was the way his wife looked at him. Anyway, for the love of small children and our family pet with mysterious behavior, we let him go. I don't think of what happens beyond this point. But hopefully our flock is more peaceful. Thanks for your help and information.
     
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Sorry it didn't work out as you hoped, if you were hoping to keep him that is, which was my impression. Sometimes they make these decisions for us with their behavior. I can recall a few roosters and hens who I would have kept if their behavior hadn't made that impossible.

    Even if he does eventually get loved (with rosemary) I'd bet he's going to be bred first and live a fairly happy life, plus he already has had more quality of life than most male chooks get. Nobody tends to get a Silkie rooster with the dinnerpot in mind and their cuteness can save them from it even when they deserve it.

    Best wishes.
     

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