understanding small flock behavior

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by karrm01, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. karrm01

    karrm01 Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    May 7, 2013
    Hi, I don't get this and am hoping someone might have insight. About 2 months ago, 1 of my two 13 month old hens started bullying my other two hens. Maybe it was a food issue but that made no sense to me since they had the same feeder setup etc for nearly a year. (I did change around the feeding system so they're happier on that front now I guess). Then I came home after a long weekend to my nearly 5 year old having an actively bleeding comb, bruised head with missing feathers around the comb. Within the week or so I witnessed both my 13 month olds attacking my 5 year old aggressively. This was quite upsetting to see and all this behavior has really stressed me out. The vet said the 5 year old was healthy other than she was developing cellulitis from the wounded comb. But even after the comb healed my 5 year old was attacked. During this time, I did my best to keep them separated, tried to build a second coop and so on. Then all of a sudden 2 days ago, the two 13 month olds started being friendlier though my 5 year old was still scared -- of one of the others -- but kept insisting on being in the same enclosed area as the others. Just not close to them. The past two nights she tried to go into the roost and they kicked her out. Now tonight, she was allowed in and to stay. What's up with this?

    In the meantime, I decided that because this has stressed me out so much, my backyard has been turned upside down, and that I'm not enjoying keeping chickens anymore, it'd be best to re-home them. I have plans to re-home the two 13 month olds this Thurs. I figured I'd keep my 5 year old as she's a bit abnormal, no longer lays eggs (though even if she did, they couldn't be eaten because I gave her medications), and is very docile. I have been concerned she'll be lonely because she did seem that way when her super broody sister was still alive. But I don't see that she could integrate into another flock without being severely injured. And like I said, I don't want anymore chickens.

    Now, I know people say they keep their hens in their homes -- how's this possible? They poop everywhere and track it everywhere! I don't see how a diaper bag thing can stay on them either considering my chickens flick their tails and wag them like dogs at times.

    I feel stuck. Thanks for any thoughts.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

    16,727
    4,424
    456
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Most chicken aggression comes from too little room, not enough to do during the day to burn off energy, and protein deficiencies.

    How big is their area? What do they do all day? Chickens need to peck and scratch and run after bugs. What are you feeding? Layer ration can often leave hens deficit in protein which comes out as aggressive behaviors and when really bad cannibalism. So if you are feeding layer and giving treats your birds could be deficit.

    Another though is birds are starting to molt now which causes a higher need for protein as well as many birds get either crabby or slightly unwell during the molt which can trigger aggression due to the behavioral changes.

    Give them lots of room, places to get away from each other, and a higher protein feed, and hopefully things calm down.

    I know nothing of house chickens, but they must stink and cause a lot of dust and a constant need to clean them up. I would rather keep a separate coop next to the existing one before I brought a chicken in the house. Your hen will do okay next to the others and still be part of the flock without being bullied.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    Pecking order is just that...Pecking order..The smaller the flock the more aggression is common...Always a Top hen and then the lowest ranking birds...Being you only have three it makes sense that the two top hens are pecking her...I have 11 hens...For the most part they get along...Space and nutrition is critical in raising Chickens...Chickens are mean in our eyes but to them it is all natural...
    I understand your stress...Your young birds are mature now and want no part of the old hen...
    Only you can decide to get rid of the birds...If your not having fun, why do it???

    Your old hen as long as you give her a mirror to look at herself during the day will be fine on her own till she dies of old age...As far as a house pet goes, I would not try it!

    Cheers!
     
  4. karrm01

    karrm01 Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    May 7, 2013
    Thank you both! That was very informational! People never seem to talk of anything but laying feed for laying hens. I never heard of protein or lack of could contribute to behavior issues. Thinking back, I had transitioned them over time from a regular generic laying feed to an organic no soy and no corn feed (which I'm pretty sure was for laying birds -- lost the label). Not sure when the transition was fully completed but was at least 1 month ago. Within the last 2 weeks, I got the generic for my older hen (laying feed since the feed store didn't have feed for non laying birds except for starter crumble and I prefer pellets) since she was separated but at least 1 if not both younger birds kept getting into her area and was eating her feed instead. They seem to prefer it now that I've opened up the separating fence over the weekend.

    My older bird is molting but the other 2 aren't yet.

    The area they have to run around in all day is1/4 to 1/3 of my yard and not a uniform shape. Maybe 3x-4x the size of my bedrooom which is 10x12 or 12x12. Mix of dirt, grass, obstacles, trees, open area. Have bugs and lots of things to scratch. They love to dig craters! But the buttercup prefers to have access to the whole back yard and doesn't particularly like being enclosed since she knows there's more yard. The egger follows her regarding that though she was the one that used to strut my cinder block wall that separated my yard from the ally. They've always had multiple waterers but since their behavior went chaotic, they went from one smaller treddle feeder back to an open hanging feeder (yippee, I'm back to feeding the whole neighborhood of wild birds). I did try a different larger treddle feeder but the girls were frightened of it.

    Your comment about the mirror calms me. Where do you suggest placing the mirror? Roost, feeder, elsewhere? Or maybe several? I also read some people try ticking clocks and stuffed animals. Any thoughts on that?
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

    16,727
    4,424
    456
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I don't actually feed layer anymore, I saw egg eating and feather picking when they were on it. Mine are always 100% free range, since I switched to an all flock pellet for my large breed flock and a non medicated grower for my bantam flocks, both have 18% protein, I recommend 18-20%, I have seen zero aggression, and my birds have more energy, and look much better.

    They also molt quickly and resume laying sooner after the molt. I also don't see any weird eggshells on my eggs anymore either, as apparently eating the extra calcium in the layer isn't always needed and can cause hens to get too much calcium. I prefer to let them self regulate their calcium needs through free choice oyster shells.

    During the molt they crave protein, if they don't get enough in their diet than they can start to peck at each other to get more protein.

    I would pick a feed that smells good to you. Some brands like Dumor smell off and birds won't eat it which can cause troubles too.
     
    2 people like this.
  6. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    You can first try one or a few...I would put one at the roost, and a few around the run...as far as stuffed animals go...I would not bother...
    Good luck
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by