Two Hens - one has to go. Please help us decide what to do!

Eddie K

In the Brooder
8 Years
Dec 11, 2011
I could refer you to to this thread which outlines our pecking problem and how one of our Hens has for the past few weeks, completely turned on the other hen. We're now at the point where it would be remiss of us not to start considering their future.

To save you the trouble of reading through all that though, I will try to outline the problem here instead. I suppose I'm also doing this to help me organise my own thoughts on what to do!

Firstly, I just want to point out that we are amateurs at keeping chickens, (quite obviously, otherwise I wouldn't be in this thread asking what I fully expect some of you will think are silly questions!).

Our RIR, (Beans) is pecking our LS, (Sophie), who has more or less been nursed back to full health, (even gave us an egg today after a gap of several weeks!), but only because of our labour-intensive intervention of splitting up the girls day and night, and only allowing them together under supervision. On a practical level this has only been possible because I have been off work with a cast on my leg for several weeks and my wife was recently made redundant. Ordinarily, we wouldn't have the time for this kind of management.

As an aside, Beans will not attack Sophie when my wife is present, but seems to do so with relish when they're not supervised or when I am there, (which I think says a lot about how Beans perceives my wife and I respectively!).

The truth is we don't quite know how bad the situation might be because we haven't allowed them together unsupervised since the earlier attack which left Sophie traumatised. Whenever we do, Beans tries to have a tug at Sophie's tail or pecks at her neck. Normally one of us will get there just in time to prevent her doing so.

Because of a "splitting the girls up" failure on our part earlier today, (crafty girls know how to escape the coop when it's not latched properly), Beans again went for Sophie and tore several feathers out of her neck, leaving her red and sore but not bleeding and she looked fairly unperturbed afterwards, (unlike before when she looked like she wanted to die!), but I sensed we had arrived just in time.

So assuming we try a little longer but still can't resolve this pecking problem, we move on to the inevitable subject of what to do with the girls. I want to say that I obviously don't expect any right or wrong answers here, because I'm not sure there are any. I think I know what we need to do, but I want to make sure that we've got this right. As such, I'm not going to say what that is before throwing this over to BYC! :eek:)

Also, I'm really sorry for the long preamble but it's hard to get to the point without getting all this other stuff across, I'm really sorry! :redface:

If we are to lose one girl, the idea is to get a replacement so we'll still have two girls to keep each other company. We have thought about having three but I don't really think we've got the space. Especially when we're both working and we have to keep them both in their self-contained coop, instead of the larger run that they have access to when we're home, (and when they're lucky, the rest of the garden).

So do we get rid of Beans? The beastly hen who could bite your arm off if you happen to be carrying food and makes an almighty racket whenever she wants to get her point across. The creature who is so greedy she is not remotely interested in the massive piles of delicious food you've just left her, but would much rather compete with Sophie for the tiny morsel of food that the poor girl was about to try and eat? We then try and find Sophie a more "laid back" companion who is less likely to express the idea of the pecking order with, how shall I put this, such mortal relish?

Or do we say goodbye to Sophie? Beans is 1/ very funny, if somewhat unbalanced but she is also very physically healthy, (if not mentally), and is 2/ a legendary layer. We find another Hen who has more of a backbone and who is not prepared to stand for Beans' megalomaniacal ways any longer and is prepared to peck back for downtrodden Hens the world over. This theory has it that the problem isn't only Beans - it's also Sophie and her refusal to stand up for herself is allowing Beans to get away with murder.

I know I'm anthropomorphising this for comedic effect, and that there are also underlying biological reasons why we're having this problem encompassing diet, space etc, but I am deadly serious in pondering that maybe Sophie just needs to stand up for herself better. As a newbie when it comes to hen-keeping, I don't really know typical hen behaviour, hence my many visits to this wonderful forum.

Cheers guys and gals. Any advice or comments would be gratefully received, whatever they are! :eek:)

EDIT: For a bit of fun, I'm going to chuck in this poll!

Shall we keep Sophie or Beans?
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The RIR could very likely beat up on another hen too, they can be a bit of a bully at times, especially when confined. She might do better in a big flock with lots of outdoor space to keep her occupied.
Consider "pinless peepers".
Not an expert by any means but my thought is that the existing hens tend to be the top ones and unless you brought in a really really dominant hen to put Beans in her place, you will run into the same trouble. I agree that Beans may do better in a bigger flock where she will have more room to roam - she may just not be a good one to be in as small of a space as it sounds like she may have (I'm sure it's fine for 2 but maybe not those 2). My inclination (and I tend to anthropomorphize as well) would be to keep Sophie and get her a calmer hen for company. Though don't be surprised if Sophie ends up getting more dominant if Beans is gone.
Not knowing the primary reason you have chickens (eggs? pets? entertainment?) or the bond you may or may not have with either bird, I'd probably opt for the underdog, simply because I'm an underdog kind of person. Plus I've always had issues with bully-like, aggressive behavior, whether it's in humans, dogs, or chickens.
Last year I gave away (for free) a young, good looking, healthy light sussex pullet that I'd paid $20 for just a few months earlier because she was making life so miserable for an ailing (internal layer) sal. faverolle pullet of mine. The bully was a great layer. The SF was not laying at all due to internal problems. That LS would go out of her way, whether food was involved or not, to torment the faverolle. Ironically the faverolle died a week after I'd given the LS away. But at least she died in peace, without being tormented.
I could do that though, because I had other chickens providing me eggs. Your options are more limited, since you only have two birds.
If you stick with the aggressive bird, you will probably want to look for another bird her age or slightly older, and definitely would need a breed known to be assertive. If you stick with the submissive bird, then you could opt for a younger pullet to integrate, and would probably want a breed known to be easy going/non aggressive...(lots of breeds to choose from).
Good luck with your decision.
Initially, eggs but now pets and, er, entertainment! :eek:)

Glad I cleared that one up for you!
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