Top of the pecking order vs. just plain mean

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Gooter, Jul 16, 2011.

  1. Gooter

    Gooter Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 19, 2010
    central VA
    I'm learning by experience which breeds I do and don't want these days, and partly it's based on how mean the hens are to each other. Am I silly to be frustrated when a hen at the top of the pecking order won't let up? I culled a hen a couple weeks or so ago because she was so bad I ended up losing my favorite hen, and I stand by that decision I made. But I know there will always be a 'head hancho.' But I'm really frustrated at hens that seem to want to take it too far.

    I have such a good mamma hen; 2 actually. But my one happens to be very low on the pecking order and she has chicks that are 5 weeks old. She has been amazing at teaching these chicks to forage. She is an excellent mother...always talking to the chicks and showing them something - she works hard! But the latest dominant hen figured out that when mamma calls the chicks to her it means she's got a nice bug or something, so she runs over and steals it from her before the chicks get a chance. True, they can forage well on their own already, but I don't want them learning to give in to this behavior. And besides, after she steals the morsel of food, she then attacks the hen and chases her! So today I grabbed her up and put her in another pen by herself. I'm hoping a week or two alone will resolve this. For sure by then the chicks will be on their own.

    My other hen has no problem with this. She rules! Nobody is allowed near her chicks! She's not nearly as good a mamma over all as the one with older chicks, but I'm content that she rules the yard with those chicks! I hate seeing anyone picked on!

    So is this just something I should learn to live with? I'm fine with the pecking order - it's a fact of life in chickens. But I do have trouble seeing one chicken being singled out and harassed to where it affects their health and happened with my one hen. I've not seen it get so ugly in other people's flocks that I know. But maybe I've just not spent that much time watching the other flocks. I have chickens of all ages out there now, and 2 Muscovies....they range from 2 week old chicks on up to 2 year old hens. They're all integrated in great, and my scovies even sleep in the coop with the chickens (their choice, not mine). Why does there have to be one that just gets the snot kicked out of her so bad? Do I just need to get over it? I am definitely bringing in more docile breeds (the 2 week old batch of chicks are all new breeds I hatched out/transplanted into the brood).

    I'm interested in your comments and suggestions.

    edited for language
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2011
  2. FuzzyButtsFarm

    FuzzyButtsFarm Rest in Peace 1950-2013

    I'm not sure what your asking, but yes some hens are more aggressive that others. I haven't had any experience with this and these are the breeds I have. BOs, Leghorn, EE, RIR/BO cross and RIR/Leghorn cross. The roosters eg. leghorn, RIR have been aggressive but not the hens. What you did I would have done. I would not tolerate a hen that mean and would never pass on those genes. Oh by the way I [​IMG] my Buff Orpingtons, they are my favorite and very docile even the roos.
  3. hcppam

    hcppam Chillin' With My Peeps

    I was watching mine today and my BO Rosie,is the boss and since I re-homed my young EE roo his EE girlfriend that could get away with anything is learning she's on her own now, Not that Rosie is overly mean but she is setting new boundaries for her, the others already know there place. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2011
  4. zumzumfoxy

    zumzumfoxy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2011
    My EE hen, Chai, completely gets b*tchy every time a new hen was introduced. She somehow went from being the fourth chick, completely docile, to INYOURFACEFLOOFGRRPECK at the new girls. She still floofs up. Man. She even pecked both me and my fiance straight in the eye once when we told her on separate occasions to "BE NICE!". She hasn't done it since, but she still gets aggressive at our Cochin, Stormy. Maybe she knows Stormy'll be a 10.5 pounder as an adult and she'll top out at 5.5 and is making up for it with her territorialism.

    I agree though- I hate the pecking order when it makes it difficult for one hen to be able to eat/drink freely. Stormy's still having to eat/drink last when Chai's done and not in her way. They still all sleep on the same perch (and sometimes Chai sits next to Stormy!), but Chai's the alpha and Stormy's the omega. :< Even sweet Tiramisu occasionally harasses her. The only one who hasn't is Jet, and Jet was picked on continually for 3 days before they all let up on her. (Then again, they'd also stomped on her as a chick when she had rickets and needed healing, so I'd pulled her out to recover and she survived! [​IMG] She completely didn't wanna go back into her coop with the other chicks when she was all better- I had to tell her "Be a real chicken and go live with others!" instead, LOL... she wanted her own nursing-space coop.)

    Anywho, rambling again. [​IMG]
  5. ChicksterJo

    ChicksterJo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 19, 2011
    Grounded on Earth
    I know what you mean by your thread title...I have two Red Stars, one of which is the "top" pullet (excluding me, of course), and the other which is so mean, but never to the "top" one. This mean Red Star will peck my blue copper Marans, who is such a sweetie and a doormat, especially if they are eating. Maybe she also knows that the Marans will end up much bigger than she is, and so would the Delaware (who's several weeks younger)? Now that this Red Star has also started doing the egg squat, I rub her back and after she fluffs up, sometimes she will run after my Marans or my hatchery Delaware and try to peck them.

    She is a meanie to my Ameraucanas, too, but that's mostly because they are smaller and younger and new. I bet that even if they grew up with this Red Star, she'd still pick on them, just because they are such sweeties too. I won't do anything drastic to her yet because she is about ready to start laying, but if she ever starts getting way out of control, I will have to cull her or rehome her. I think that she's just plain mean - the top Red Star isn't that terrible; I mean, she doesn't go out of her way to pick on the others.
  6. danniboi1990

    danniboi1990 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2011
    i no exactly what u mean!! my bluebell ( maran x RIR) hen is ruthless to new comers and will persist and bully them to the point of death if i let her..i had black rocks once and they are also aggressive to younger/newer birds. i dont know why she remains aggressive even though the other birds in the flock have calmed down and accepted the newer birds. the only bird she cant dominate isthe b.o cockeral who soon puts her in her place.. but she still tries to dominate him.. honestly.. some never learn lol [​IMG]
  7. Gooter

    Gooter Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 19, 2010
    central VA
    Well, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who gets frustrated at this. I do have another mean hen who was not the alpha, but just made it a point to harass the lower chickens in the order...she's my last Silver Laced Wyandotte hen - and the last I'll ever own. I moved her in with my other rooster and that's where she's staying till she stops laying. Then she'll be dinner.

    I know my mamma hen will probably always be the lowest in the order, but when she has chicks I don't want her harassed. That 'beech' hen I just separated yesterday taught one other hen to steal from her when she calls the chicks, so I'm watching that one. I think things will settle. At least none of them have offered to pick on the chicks. I hope that remains the story after mamma turns them to themselves. But they're smart and fast little ones! I think they'll hold their own!
    Thanks ya'll!
  8. ShelleyN

    ShelleyN Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 15, 2011
    Denver, CO
    I just thought I'd post that my Silver Laced Wyandotte is the whipping girl of my three. Even my Buff Orpington has landed a peck or two.
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    I can understand the frustration, but this is normal chicken behavior. Dominance assures that their genes (in a natural situation) will get to carry on. Strength is an asset and weakness is to be punished. Remember that they are only little feathered Velociraptors. If you have ever seen how a deposed dominant rooster or hen is treated you would understand the innate nature of chickens. All this being said, there are certain breeds which are "generally" less aggressive than others. Sometimes when "removing" the dominant hen or rooster we can discover that the next to take control may be even meaner. Remember that "Sometimes the evil that we know is better than the evil that we don't know."
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by