Small flock, first eggs, and pecking begins

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by GritChicks, Jan 1, 2017.

  1. GritChicks

    GritChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 1, 2016
    Hello! I have a very small and diverse backyard flock. 3 birds in total, an Americauna, an Orpington, and a Barred Rock. They were hatched and raised together, and are 23 weeks old this week. The Ameraucana and the Orpington have just started laying eggs (in the winter time no less!).

    The Barred Rock (Rocky) was the queen of the roost and top of the pecking order until yesterday. While letting them out for the morning free range, the Americauna began to target and attack the Barred Rock. The BR did not defend herself, and was beat up around her comb pretty badly. Hazel (the Americauna) then stopped once a grub was found, but then the Orpington began harassing Rocky! And she was RELENTLESS! She targeted her head only, and plucked small feathers off Rocky's neck and comb. She even followed Rocky into the roost where it was dark, and corned her, biting off a small portion of her comb. Blood everywhere (that I promptly deep cleaned). Rocky only ran away, and hid, but every time she came out, the Orpington was back at it, attacking her again. It got to the point where I had to take Rocky out of the yard and isolate her in the infirmary for the night to heal. Sprayed her with antiseptic. This morning, covered any red areas on her comb with Blue Kote. Brought her back to the coop, and once again, attacked.

    These attacks are on the comb and face only. It worries me that she's not fighting back. It worries me more that even when hiding and running away, she is still targeted. She is the only bird to have not laid an egg, so wondering if this is hormonal egg aggression, or something worse.

    They have a 4 x 4 ft roost and 3 nesting boxes, with a 3 x 6 ft run, attached to a second fully enclosed, roofed 4 x 6 ft run. I think they have enough space, but they still seem restless when it rains and I don't let them outside. I have a swing, several roosting poles throughout the run, and a worm ball to play with.

    I don't want to isolate Rocky any more, as I think it makes the aggression worse. Now that she is somewhat healed, I have her pseudo- isolated in the roost, with the door closed, but they can hear each other clucking so they get used to the fact that she's back. The other two are in the main run with a nesting box (old cat litter box, covered) to lay if needed. Both enclosures have food and water.

    As both the Ameracuana and the Orpington seem to be gaining up on the BR, I can't isolate the aggressive bird (they're both aggressive!) They don't gang up on each other, they just jointly gang up on the BR who is at her wits end. If I open any door to the coop, she jumps out on my shoulder for protection. Even on my shoulder, the Orpington will run up and peck at my ankles as I am now harboring poor Rocky.

    Is this pecking-order behavior? Do I just let them peck her until they are bored and a new pecking order is established? Is this egg-laying aggression? Or is this really aggressive and bully-type behavior that should be mediated in other ways? Is it concerning that she is not fighting back? Is the pseudo-isolation possibly making things worse? That they drew blood, does this mean they may become cannibals? Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance!!
  2. Actually sounds like an imbalance in Nutrition.....What all do you feed these ladies?

  3. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    No, that is NOT normal. Nutrition is often the root cause.

    Yes, isolating her is making it worse when she returns. Sometimes removing the main bully will make the secondary bully let up. Peepers have worked successfully for many people. But this sounds deeper than just one jerk.
  4. GritChicks

    GritChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 1, 2016
    I was wondering about nutrition. I feed them Beaver Brand Layer Feed, with added oyster shell and grit on the side. I mix in garlic and kale powder as well. I've been giving them meal worms as a treat in the afternoon, but am trying to get them to eat their feed first and foremost. This did start around the time the weather let up and I was letting them free range more. Could that be the culprit? Would stopping the treats and free range help?

    Also, as they are continuing to bully Rocky, would keeping her locked in the roost still be worth it? I could also gate off the two runs, and keep Rocky in one run, and the other two in the main roost/run, so that they could see each other, but would be separated from hurting each other. My only concern here is that it still gets to about 19 degrees F at night and might snow tomorrow, and I don't want Rocky to freeze if she roosts alone. Thoughts? New feed? Less treats? Closed vs screened isolation?
  5. I just read that, yes it is Nutritional.............

    Stop the Fillers.....No more garlic or kale powder......

    Feed this......try it ....

    Layer feed and Grower mixed 50/50 .........Zero snacks but once a week...1 table spoon per Bird....Only fresh clean water.......

    Grit and oyster shell and free range....

  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Up the protein...
  7. GritChicks

    GritChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 1, 2016
    Yes, the more I read, the more it is apparent they are not getting enough protein (when they free-range they hardly touch their food, and I know they do not get enough protein out in the yard this time of year). How long should I provide the 50:50 layer:grower feed before I re-introduce Rocky to the group? Is the effect pretty immediate?
  8. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    You can even go all grower or flock raiser with 20% protein as long as you provide OS on the side. That is what I do for my mixed age and gender flock of 48 and haven't had problems yet. But we have bugs galore all year long. So you may just have to adjust accordingly.

    I'm not sure how long it might take. I would employ a look but don't touch. As long as she has shelter from the wind and rain she shouldn't have a problem with freezing. People usually add them back in the coop after dark so they all wake up together, when you do.

    Are you leaving the light on them at night? That can add to the issue for sure, if so.
  9. GritChicks

    GritChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 1, 2016
    I changed the feed to a grower/layer mix, and let the gals free range this afternoon, introducing Rocky back mid-morning. They mostly kept to themselves, but there were a few times that the Americauna or the Orpington would charge across the yard and peck poor Rocky. We set up some mirrors and more perches to distract and hopefully allow Rocky to get away in the coop if needed, as long as she jumps up high she seems okay. This evening, the two trouble birds went to their roost and we debated allowing Rocky up. She was kicked out twice, but then on the third attempt, she did make it in and stayed in without a tussle (and seemed to want to go back each time). Hoping they wake up tomorrow morning and are on better terms with each other.

    Also, no, we don't keep lights on, pretty bare bones out here. Surprised that they began laying to be honest, being that it has been so cold and dark.

    Thank you so much for everyone's help! Any other tips are always appreciated!
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    Hopefully the increased protein helps long term.
    What is the protein percentage of the grower feed you added?
    What is the protein percentage of the layer feed?
    Learn to read the fine print on the tag sewn into the bottom of the feed bags.
    Did you mix it half and half?

    I use a 20% all flock type feed...OS free choice on the side....
    ...with other foods given carefully so as not to dilute the main feed protein too much.

    Could be a pecking order/behavioral issue too tho.
    Some birds are just 'bullies' and some are 'wimps'.

    Are all these birds laying...and how long have they been laying??
    Pecking orders can shift at onset of lay...might take some time to work out.

    ETA: Space could be an issue too.
    You've got minimal space and with cold climates and them spending more time in the coop they can get testy.
    Increasing space fully sheltered from icky weather can help a lot.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017

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