Two bullies, pecking and injuries

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by bridgioto, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. bridgioto

    bridgioto New Egg

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    I recently got my first three chickens (two golden sex links and a barred rock)! Unfortunately, within the first few weeks, I noticed that the bigger golden sex link was picking on the smaller one. She managed to peck out a little chunk of feathers from this gal's back, so we separated this small hen to let her feathers grow back. The remaining two hens seem to have been getting along alright, until yesterday, when I went out to put them into their coop for the night. The bully had pecked a large patch of feathers off the barred rock, to the point that it looked bloody. My partner and I decided to separate the bully hen immediately to prevent further injuries. As soon as the small sex link and the barred rock were together though, the barred rock went after the small hen, pecking at her and pulling out some feathers. Now, we have all three separated in different areas of the run/coop.

    I'm searching for any advice on what could be causing this behavior and to see if there's any way to get this little flock to get along!

    Things I am currently looking into:
    - hen saddles, to protect the backs of the two injured hens while they heal
    - flock block or pecking toys to divert attention
    - building an extra nesting box and more roosts to give them more space/options
    - removing the original bully out of sight of the other hens for a week or so to shake up the pecking order

    Current setup is a two-level coop (used to be a kids' play fort) with three nesting boxes on the top level, three feeders, a big metal font for water, and an enclosed run for them to scratch around outside.

    If there's anything I'm overlooking or should try I'd love to hear any advice or suggestions!!
    Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. minihorse927

    minihorse927 Whipper snapper Premium Member

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    What size is your coop? Feet by feet and same with the run?

    What are you currently feeding?

    The flock block to divert attention helps when it is a boredom issue. The hen saddles can help to hide the injured area allowing it to regrow. The biggest thing would be to pull the original bully and let her lose her place in the pecking order. Reintroduce the other two together at night while it is dark and they are roosting. Generally when they wake up they will get along a little better than if you throw them together during the daytime.

    Three nests box for three hens is more than enough. I don't think that is your issue.
     
  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    You don't mention the age of the chickens. I'd suggest that the issue may relate to space, provisions to allow them to perform "normal" chicken behaviour and a bit of boredom. Chickens often show "displacement" behaviour when they are unable to indulge in their "natural" behaviour. Ensuring that they can scratch for food, dust bathe etc, along with sufficient space, is likely to reduce the chances of this happening. I do believe that that you have already made good retro-active decisions, but possibly reading up on pro-active ways of trying to prevent the issues may help.

    Best wishes
     
  4. bridgioto

    bridgioto New Egg

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    Minihorse927:
    Coop size is about 4x5, two levels, so 40 sq ft total.
    Run is oddly shaped but the area totals 50-60 sq ft. There's no roof on the run area if that makes a difference.

    Currently I'm feeding them regular layer feed plus some cracked corn and grubs for scratch. Could changing their diet or adding something to it help with pecking issues?

    Thanks for the suggestion for reintroducing the other two at night! I haven't heard that before, I'll give it a try tonight.


    CTKen:
    The chickens are around 8 months. The two golden sex links are laying fairly regularly now, the barred rock hasn't laid an egg yet.
    I like the idea of giving them a dust bath too! I'm hoping adding more stuff like that will help them gravitate toward those natural chicken behaviors you talk about.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  5. minihorse927

    minihorse927 Whipper snapper Premium Member

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    Ok so coop and run size is plenty big enough for 3 chickens. I would get a flock block, add a place to dust bathe, and remove the original bully. Once one starts that picking it is hard to stop cause those new tiny pin feathers are super tempting. Usually one of them gets broken and starts to bleed and that attracts the others to pick.

    The feed doesn't seem to be an issue. Sometimes feather picking can be caused by low protein.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  6. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It could also help to put a divider up that allows a chicken to "hide" from a bully.

    I've found that introducing chickens at night is the easiest way. It's like they wake up and go, "Oh, hey, best friend! I've missed you!" :)

    MrsB
     
  7. bridgioto

    bridgioto New Egg

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    Thank you!! I've now separated the original bully and will try putting the other two hens together tonight while they're roosting. Planning on getting a dust bath ASAP as well as a flock block and other things to peck at.

    Really appreciate all the advice! :)
     
  8. minihorse927

    minihorse927 Whipper snapper Premium Member

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    Let us know how things go! Best wishes!
     
  9. bridgioto

    bridgioto New Egg

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    Hey all! Wanted to post an update and ask for some further advice.

    The great news is that once the initial bully was separated, I reintroduced the other two hens at night, and the next morning after a small dust-up they settled down and got along fine! I also happened to add a bunch of leaf litter to the floor of their run, and although it was a decision unrelated to the picking, it seems to have actually helped them a lot, just as far as giving them more entertaining material to scratch around in outside.

    The less great news is that we reintroduced the bully last night after keeping her separated just over a week. By this afternoon she was back to picking on both the other hens pretty aggressively. I even saw her clawing at the back of our barred rock, which I hadn't seen her do before. We've separated her again and are trying to figure out any other solutions we can. Any suggestions for how to deal with such an aggressive hen? She's one of just two of our birds laying right now, so we'd like to keep her around if we can.
     
  10. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Is there a way you can divide their run in half with a screen or pallet or something? Anything that allows the bully to see but not access the other two?

    After that, if she's just a mean bird, consider freezer camp. Mean chickens are tasty.

    MrsB
     

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