Topic of the Week - Chicken Behaviour and Flock Dynamics Part 2 - Bullying Behaviour

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sumi, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    Pic by @Bird Collector
    Much to many a new chicken owner's surprise, chickens can be quite mean! Often aggression and minor incidents in the flock is due to them establishing or reminding other birds of the pecking order, or roosters fighting for the top spot. But sometimes you'd get a bully or two in the flock that is just unnecessarily mean, making life for their victims a misery. This week I'd like to hear you all's thoughts and practices when it comes to dealing with bullies in the flock. How do you handle them and what advice would you give to others dealing with that situation?

    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here:
    Chicken Girl1 and Wolfgang B. like this.
  2. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Off with their heads! Eat them!

    Well that's one method of managing a bully in the flock. I don't handle it that way myself, but it's definitely an option.

    Another option is to rehome, but making it someone else's problem seems like a kind of cop-out, but it's a definitely an option. Except in flocks such as mine where a contagious avian virus is present - you certainly don't want to be spreading that around to other flocks.

    What I do is to utilize a "jail" within the run. Either the bully or the victim spend time incarcerated to prevent direct contact, yet they are still in full view of the flock. This gets tricky when the bully happens to be laying. I need to keep an eye on her to pick up signs she needs access to a nest. The best thing is to trade off by letting the bully and victim take turns in jail.

    I'm currently addressing this problem in my flock. A two-year old Cream Legbar has turned into a veritable terrorist. She is terrorizing nearly everyone, launching herself at anyone younger, but her main target is a six-year old Speckled Sussex. The consequences of constant bullying has resulted in appetite and subsequent weight loss in this older hen.

    When this happens, things have become serious and intervention is absolutely necessary. This victim has lost all self confidence and has been spending her days hiding in the coop, not daring to try to approach the feeder for fear of being ambushed.

    I first learned the value of giving a chronic victim a "vacation" from her tormentor years ago. After two or three weeks of spending daytime in jail, her self confidence was restored and she was able to stand up for herself from then on. The transformation was that stunning. This also serves to interrupt the bullying behavior, and many times, it can reform the bully.
  3. Trish1974

    Trish1974 Araucana enthusiast

    Mar 16, 2016
    North Central IN
    My Coop
    I'll be watching this thread! I acquired two new hens in May and integrated them correctly, and yet my Golden Comet still attacks them at random for no apparent reason. I am lucky enough to have a huge run (800 sq. ft. for 6 hens) so I just put out multiple waterers and feeders and try to ignore it since the attacks aren't bad enough to draw blood. I just hate seeing it!
    sunflour likes this.
  4. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Sing Brightly

    Aug 1, 2015
    My Coop
    :lol: I agree.

    So far I have not had bullying issues in any of the 200ish birds I've owned. Give your birds enough space and they will be rare.
    Folly's place and sunflour like this.
  5. I had a cuckoo marans hen that was horrible. Space didn't matter, as they free ranged on 10 acres. She's see her Speckled Sussex victim and run at her from 200 yards away. I tried separating her for a while. Didn't work. I tried putting the victim in a dog kennel and the marans would stand on top of it growling at her, or walk around the perimeter of the kennel trying to peck at her. I saw her jump on the sussex back and start ripping feathers out while poor Sophie screamed. I rehomed her to a place that had 40+ hens and 3 roosters. I was clear that I was rehoming her because she was a bully hen. They were fine with that, figuring the roosters would calm her down. The flock was SO much calmer after "Don't Touch Me Annie" was gone.
  6. Thank you for starting this thread, @sumi ! My most bullied girl has been showing signs of bleeding and I've been having her sleep in a different place each night. I'll be watching for all the replies...
    sunflour, LittleCheepers and sumi like this.
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    While I've never had a true bullier, I have had occasional hens or pullets who have a persecution complex. This usually occurs when they are molting, and continues past the molt. For such birds, I try to allow the flock to have extra free range time, and the gal with the "issue" eventually settles down. There will always be someone at the top and the bottom of the pecking order.

    If I had a bird who was a true bullier, I'd cull her. No room in my flock for random mean-ness.
    Miamoo and sunflour like this.
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I have no bullies. I keep lots of chickens, currently 93. A large shed, lots of range, and options for where birds can go and hang out makes it very peaceful. Chickens can always get away from each other. They can go out when they want, and can go where they want.
    sunflour likes this.
  9. chickens really

    chickens really Crazy Call Duck Momma

    Another topic I like...:frow....

    Chickens in a Nutshell..:gig
    When getting Chicks or Chickens I stress getting Docile Breeds...First time owners should not start with production Layers as they require too much management...
    Do not get docile breeds and mix with more aggressive Birds...It never works out well...Certain Breeds handle confinement as others develop behavioural issues that are impossible to break...Balanced nutrition and space is key in raising any Chickens...
    I cull or rehome any Bullies here...They are never tolerated and can not be rehabbed the way people say they can...Seperating only has them coming back in and escalating the issue in most cases...

    Best wishes Bully Chicken owners! :highfive:
  10. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master

    Jan 10, 2013
    This is an important topic.

    I have an often grumpy hen. She's not a real bully, but if she shows out too much, a squirt from a water bottle settles her down :) Most of the time I can just call her name and hold up the bottle :D

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