Two Mean Hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by SCOdoubleT, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. SCOdoubleT

    SCOdoubleT Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2012
    I had briefly mentioned our situation in another thread about mean chickens.

    Quick Recap:

    We have BSLs, RIRs, Barred Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons.

    Our flock is a little over 1 year old and just recently 2 of our black sex links have become bullies. From what we have observed, typically one of them attacks another hen and the second will join in. Lots of feather pulling on their butts, not the vent specifically. Also, lots of pecking and feather pulling on the heads. Sadly, the two being picked on are our buff orpingtons, which are the friendliest, calmest birds we have. They just don't fight back at all and they are starting to shy away from the flock because of this.

    Since posting on the previous thread, we have sprayed the purple antibiotic spray every few days on the bald butts. It seems to help keep the injuries from getting worse. The injuries aren't ripped open and bloody, but the skin sure looks red and sore. Not sure how long feather take to grow back in, but we haven't really seen any feather re-growth.

    Last weekend, I caught the two bully BSLs in the act of pecking a weak hen again and I had enough. I have a large dog crate and I locked up the two "jailbirds." I put the crate in the run, so they can see the flock, but no physical access.

    To my surprise, the very next day, the two hens that were shying away, were hanging out with the flock like everyone else.

    So, that seems to have proven my thoughts that the bullies were scaring our two weak hens away.

    I treated the jailbirds nicely; food, water, bedding, treats, and even gave them run time when the rest of the flock was free ranging.

    I have read after a few days, to a week, of jail, the bullies could try to be set free again and they might not be bullies anymore.
    So, yesterday, I let them loose while everyone was free ranging.
    The first 5-10 minutes were ok, they were eating grass/bugs.
    Then one went up to our other top hen, the RIR. The BSL charged her, but the RIR flapped her wings and showed her claws and the BSL backed away. That's what I was expecting. Reestablishing their spot in the pecking order, but no actual fighting.
    Maybe 5 minutes after that, the BSLs found one of the weak hens and had her on the ground and they were both pecking her non-stop in the back of the head.

    I had enough and locked them both back in jail. I'm not sure what to try next, if anything.

    Initially, a month or two ago, I wasn't sure who the bullies were. Did I allow it to go on too long and now they can't be reformed?
    Should I try another week long stint in chicken jail?
    I do want to exhaust all options, but I also want a happy flock and I know with those two in jail, everyone looks much happier and I haven't seen any pecking, or feather pulling.

    We do love all our hens, but if these two just can't be reformed, we aren't against the crock pot.
    We just want to try everything we can first.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I suggest trying it one more time, but this time lock them where they cannot see the rest of the flock if you can. If that doesn’t work, eat them or resolve to always keep them locked up away from the flock.

    Even if you consider your chickens as pets, try to look at is as if the flock is your pet with the individual chicks as replaceable part of that pet. Letting those two free presents a clear danger to your flock, they can easily kill the others. That’s why they were going for the head, they can kill doing that.

    Personally I would not even try it again, but I’ve been called ruthless when dealing with problems in my flock. I think you are going well above what is necessary by giving them another chance.

    There is another alternative to try. Eat one of them, the more dominant one or the initiator if you can tell which that is. That might be enough to break the attack mentality of the other. They sometimes feed off of each other, sort of a pack mentality. I’ve resolved some behavioral problems by eating the initiator, but that was going into forbidden areas (like the road) not attacking other chickens. Once the ringleader was gone the other two started hanging around with the rest of the flock and away from the road.
    1 person likes this.
  3. N F C

    N F C doo be doo be doo Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013
    I had a similar problem with 2 BA's in my mixed flock. They were terrible bullies to the other birds. Finally re-homed them and whole flock was so much calmer. End of drama.
    1 person likes this.
  4. ksguy

    ksguy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 9, 2015
    Last fall when my flock was pretty young, I had a pair of birds that were trouble makers. One was clearly the instigator, the other was sort of a coat-tail rider. I got rid of the ringleader and the other bird did calm down. Sort of like the pack of bozos that follow a bully around at school. Get rid of the lead bully and all you have are a bunch of bozos with nobody to get them all riled up.
    1 person likes this.
  5. SCOdoubleT

    SCOdoubleT Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2012
    Thanks for the advice, everyone!!

    I may give them one more shot at jail without seeing the rest of the flock.
    Otherwise, you are right, they are a danger to the flock and I'm not doing the flock and favors by letting this harmful behavior continue.
  6. eleaserek

    eleaserek Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2015
    Billings, MT
    I wonder too if you had separate jails for the two trouble makers, if possible. Put them where they couldn't see each other or the flock, maybe breaking the bond between the two would help.
    1 person likes this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Not a bad idea.....then add one back in at a time, if there's trouble lock her back up and try the other one.
    1 person likes this.
  8. eleaserek

    eleaserek Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2015
    Billings, MT

    I like it. Then maybe you can find out if it's really just one hen who's the issue and get rid of the other who's really causing the problem.
    1 person likes this.
  9. SCOdoubleT

    SCOdoubleT Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2012
    Great ideas!
    Never thought about putting the bullies in different jails, but that definitely makes sense to try.
    That also may determine if it's one, or both, being bullies.

    One weird, or not, thing to note is when the two bullies are in jail, they don't pick on eachother, so their bond must be pretty strong.
    So, different jail cells, may be worth a shot!
  10. kharmon320

    kharmon320 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 6, 2015
    South Carolina
    @SCOdoubleT Any updates?

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