Two of my hens constantly attacking new chicks; what can I do?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by lanimilbus, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. lanimilbus

    lanimilbus In the Brooder

    Oct 3, 2008
    Central Maine
    I have 13 chickens that are in three distinct "groups" or "cliques" together in my coop right now:

    Group A.): Six "old" hens (all either 2 or 4 years old)

    Group B.): Two 6-month-old Red Star pullets (have been in the coop since this summer)

    Group C.): Five 3-month-old chicks, 4 female 1 male (have been in the coop since the end of September)

    Now for the dilemma; (I'll include all the things I've tried so far so I apologize if this runs a bit long) about a month ago I took the 5 chicks from Group C out of their brooder and built a small area for them inside the coop so the other hens (Groups A and B) could look at them but not attack or harm them and so they could familiarize themselves with each other before they got put together. I left them like this for about 2 and a half weeks and then let them loose in the coop with the rest of the hens. There was some pecking from all of the older chickens but that was to be expected and I broke it up if it got too bad.

    I stayed out there with them and watched them for a while and eventually the Group A hens stopped pecking the Group C chicks and were fine being near or next to the chicks and made no move to attack. However, the two Red Stars from Group B would still attack the chicks every chance they got. It wasn't just one chick, it was whichever one was closest that they could chase down. After this I tried several things: I locked the two Red Stars in the henhouse and left all the hens from Group A and the chicks from Group C in the coop together; they were fine. I left them like this overnight and most of the next morning and saw no pecking or attacking by anybody. I then let the Red Stars out and they immediately began to attack the chicks. It was around this point that the older hens from Group A began to attack the two Red Stars as well; the Red Stars didn't fight back against the older hens but instead would only seem to attack the chicks even more.

    My next move was to take the two Red Stars out of the coop/henhouse for a week and put them in a cage inside the spare bedroom of the house instead. I figured after a week of being separated that maybe that would make them lose interest in the chicks once they were put back in. It didn't. They started attacking the chicks the moment they got back in the coop and were also simultaneously attacked by the Group A hens. At this point I basically threw my hands up and just left them all in together figuring they'd get the pecking order worked out in time on their own. I left them all together like this for 5 days and each of the 5 days the two Red Stars would attack the chicks just as frequently as ever. Finally yesterday when I noticed one of the chicks had blood on its comb I put the two Red Stars into a dog crate inside the coop with some food and water and that's where they've been since.

    I should mention that I've also tried putting only two chicks in with the rest of the hens, thinking it may be the rooster chick that's causing the Red Stars to attack...didn't matter, they went after the 2 chicks just the same. Also tried separating the two Red Stars so there's only one in there with the rest...either one on its own still attacks the chicks so that doesn't make a difference either Both Red Stars are very friendly to me (and in fact are the most approachable and tame of all the chickens) and have never shown any signs of aggression or hostility towards anybody besides the 5 new chicks.

    So what else can I do? I've tried everything I can think of. I can't give the Red Stars away since they don't belong to me. I don't want to give the 5 chicks away because I've spent the past 3 months hand-raising them. Any ideas?
  2. FuzzyButtsFarm

    FuzzyButtsFarm Rest in Peace 1950-2013

    If I were in your shoes I would either give the Red Stars back to who owns them or remove the chicks and reintroduce them when they are closer to the same size.
  3. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    It sounds like you've covered all the bases (I initially thought about introducing only one red star back in alone, but you've tried that too)... So your options are kind of limited to separate pens (since the redstars aren't yours, maybe a doghouse and fenced area for those two?), returning the red stars, as was already suggested, or at least keeping them all apart for at least another month until the little ones catch up in size to the bullies (also already suggested). Your birds should come before someone elses, even moreso because they're your source of disharmony...
  4. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I have one mean red star too, and she is molting. Can that be part of it? Any chick comes by her, and they get a nasty feather pulling peck.

    Give them lots of space, and put up several roosts in your pen. And use several (I use three) feeding bowls, and a big waterer up on blocks. My 3 mo chicks have learned to keep away from her.

  6. lanimilbus

    lanimilbus In the Brooder

    Oct 3, 2008
    Central Maine
    Quote:Unfortunately three of the five chicks are bantams so they won't be catching up in size any time soon I'm afraid. I have another bantam hen in there as well (from Group A) that the red stars never peck at or attack; in fact, occasionally that bantam hen will peck at them and they'll run away from her.

    I do have a relative who's willing to take the two red stars temporarily (for a few weeks to a month) and put them in with his chickens at his place...would putting them in with a new flock of chickens for a few weeks be likely to do anything to make them less (or more) aggressive towards the chicks once they're brought back and reintroduced here?
  7. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    Moving chickens around from one flock to another could be a bio hazzard.

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