Sudden aggression in flock...?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tuesdaylove, Mar 3, 2016.

  1. tuesdaylove

    tuesdaylove Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Any and all advice is very much appreciated!

    I have four chickens, three of which are in a little flock together -- the fourth is an aggressive rooster who has to be kept away from them. This concern is with my flock of three. The flock consists of all bantams. There's Alaska, a four year old d'Uccle hen, and there is her son Alex, a one and a half year old d'Uccle/booted bantam mix. Unrelated to them is my other hen, Mykerion, a two and a half year old Rosecomb/Cochin mix.

    These chickens have lived together as a flock ever since Alex was born. Alaska and Mykerion carried over from my first full bantam flock after the others passed away. So it's been at least a year and a half that they've lived together. For the most part, they're pretty peaceful. Every couple of weeks or so, Alaska and Alex will fly at each other in a little skirmish that lasts all of about ten seconds. I guess they're trying to figure out who's in charge: Alex because he's the only man, or Alaska because she's his momma! Mykerion never starts any fights. She is so laid back and docile.

    But for about the last week now, the strangest thing is happening... Alex and Alaska have turned on Mykerion and they're picking the poor girl almost to death! It started with them just chasing her and pecking if she got too close, but in the last three days it's gotten brutal. Mykerion won't come down off of the roosting poles because if she does, the other two corner her and they're pecking her non-stop. I haven't been able to catch her to see if she's got actual wounds yet or not.

    Note that my chickens aren't free-range due to predators... They live in a dog kennel in the backyard, and it's a 10x10 foot kennel. Like I said before, they've lived peacefully in here for over a year with no problems, and suddenly it seems like Alex and Alaska are trying to kill Mykerion. Alex has never been mean, even for a rooster. He's so sweet to me. And Alaska and Mykerion have always gotten along, they have even brooded eggs together.

    Does this sound like a familiar situation to any of y'all? Is it something that will blow over without harm or do I need to intervene? Should I remove Mykerion? We don't technically have anywhere to keep her at the moment, nor do I want her to have to live alone. Free-range isn't an option here either. Are they just re-doing the pecking order or is this a deeper problem?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    You did an excellent job of supplying plenty of information. It really helps us get a picture of what's going on.

    What I see is a young flock that has matured to the point they are now bored and feeling crowded and confined. So they're stressed and that causes aggression. They're taking out their frustrations on the flock member least likely to challenge them back.

    Now, what to do? If you can find the resources, it would help to expand the run, maybe add another kennel. But further than that, it would help to relieve their boredom by adding "furniture" to the run, such as an old chair, a nice big tree branch, tree stumps. Even break up the run with partitions so the bullies don't have straight and easy access to their targets, and the targets have things on which to perch or hop onto or run behind to evade their tormentors.

    It also would help if you could let them out to romp and explore as long as you can be visible to discourage any predators. I have a big problem where I live with predators, and I let my flock out to romp when I plan on working on projects in the vicinity. The chickens usually get tired of being out about the same time as I usually am finished with my project. They seem to love being out to free-range, but they also crave the security of their covered run so they can relax their vigilance for predators.

    So far, this has worked for me. You might give it some thought to see if you might be able to give your flock a little free-range time. Chickens are happiest when they can wander around, scratch in the dirt for bugs, and nibble on green grass shoots and weeds.
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    With the increasing daylight chickens are getting hormonal, so you will see some pecking order behavior. Typically the rooster will intervene with hen spats if they become too much. Is you little rooster doing anything helpful? When my bantam bicker they often sound like they are killing each other, but when I observed them it's mostly noise. Have you seen any actual damage? Sometimes a trio of hens will often end up with one picked on, so if possible add another one or preferably two.

    I think as long as you aren't seeing any real damage I would leave them to work it out. As long as the one can hide inside she will be okay. Be sure to offer multiple feeding and water stations. I think after the flurry of spring hormones you will see them calm down a bit.
     
  4. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    A 10x10 space is a very small space for any chickens to be constantly confined 24/7. I agree with azygous, anything you can do to give them more space, more to do, more places to hide will help. Throw down some leaves or grass clippings and toss out some scratch and/or meal worms, things like that to give them something to forage for and keep their interest for a while. But more space and/or time outside the kennel should really be your top priority. As for the bird being pecked, you might want to pick her off the roost after dark so you can check her over carefully for injuries.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    10 x 10 doesn't sound bad for 4 bantams....is that just the run? is there a separate coop?
     

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