Jocelyne13

In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2020
19
30
46
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
I have a super dominant hen. I have no doubt that if both my roosters died, that this hen Jolene would transform into a rooster to take their place.

I raised my flock from chicks- ending up with 12 hens and two roosters. Orpingtons- 3 color variations. Being a new chicken mom, I have found the dynamics of pecking order fascinating. And just when I think things are settled between everyone, new shifts occur in the group. My roosters have switched pecking order, but that was not entirely a surprise with one being fairly laid back and the other quite a bit more assertive. The same happened with my two most dominant hens. However, generally everyone gets along.

They are approaching 7mths old now, and just started laying eggs this past week, and a bit before that my two roosters matured and began jumping every hen in sight. That is when my most dominant hen, Jolene, took things to the next level. She and my alpha rooster Kowalski, have not seen eye to eye on several issues, and Jolene will full on spar with Kowalski. Jolene at times though was being reprimanded for her bad behavior such as feather pulling, which seems to have thankfully stopped.

However, Jolene now has a new place to channel her energies....ripping roosters off of hens. As soon as one of the roosters goes to breed a hen, Jolene is racing over to “save” the hen that is being bred. Jolene will grab the comb of whichever rooster and yank him off the hen. Often this causes quite a ruckus, usually with Jolene wanting to fight Kowalski (Kristofferson, my beta, couldn’t be bothered getting involved in such matters. Lol). It is like Jolene is a hard core hens’ rights/union teamster boss. I also have no doubt that some of the hens appreciate her actions, since my roosters are currently not into wooing hens, and simply jump on a hen walking by in close proximity.

Is this normal?...I have broken up a couple of fights between Kowalski and Jolene that seemed to get a little too serious because Jolene wasn‘t willing to back down. Or will this behavior settle as the surging hormones taper off a bit? No one has gotten seriously hurt thus far, though I did see a faint blood streak on the neck of Kowalski recently. There is the occasional mini scrap between my roosters over hens, but this dynamic between Jolene and my alpha rooster Kowalski comes off as much more serious.

Thoughts?
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
BYC Staff
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Jul 16, 2015
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Increased aggressive at that age isn't unusual. They are still hormonal teenagers. I generally stay out of it unless there's lots of blood flying or birds are getting injured beyond peck wounds.

Make sure you birds have plenty of room, as crowding and not getting enough exercise daily can increase aggression. Also make sure they are getting an appropriate diet with enough protein, but not too much. Most chickens do well on 16-20% depending on breeds and lifestyle.

Most calm down after a few months. Occasionally one continues to be overly aggressive, and probably needs to be removed for the harmony of the flock.
 

mcdze

Songster
Sep 9, 2020
327
459
128
if theres a problem sometimes you have to intervene by seperating or removing a bird .. removing usually isnt necessary if you have a way to seperate them out for awhile .. this strategy is especially effective if you can cause them to miss 'treat time' or feeding time etc without being aggressive yourself .. the other birds will pick up on it and you can probably 'put it in its place' so to speak .. dont over-do it though couple days worth maybe ..
 

Jocelyne13

In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2020
19
30
46
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
Increased aggressive at that age isn't unusual. They are still hormonal teenagers. I generally stay out of it unless there's lots of blood flying or birds are getting injured beyond peck wounds.

Make sure you birds have plenty of room, as crowding and not getting enough exercise daily can increase aggression. Also make sure they are getting an appropriate diet with enough protein, but not too much. Most chickens do well on 16-20% depending on breeds and lifestyle.

Most calm down after a few months. Occasionally one continues to be overly aggressive, and probably needs to be removed for the harmony of the flock.

Thank you. Good to know they will likely settle back down!

My chickens have 2/3rds of an old tennis court with sand for their run. Trying to make the run more natural, I have given them places to hide and explore using a bunch of branches I had on hand. I also have put out old hay bales to scratch around in etc which keeps them busy, tossing black oil sunflower seeds in occasionally. I made a peck dispenser for scratch too recently for entertainment. There is more that I have done to keep them busy, but you get the idea. Luckily too we have had a pretty decent winter so far and are spending most of their days outside.

Feed wise I think their rations are 17% protein. Do protein levels affect behavior then too?
 

Jocelyne13

In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2020
19
30
46
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
if theres a problem sometimes you have to intervene by seperating or removing a bird .. removing usually isnt necessary if you have a way to seperate them out for awhile .. this strategy is especially effective if you can cause them to miss 'treat time' or feeding time etc without being aggressive yourself .. the other birds will pick up on it and you can probably 'put it in its place' so to speak .. dont over-do it though couple days worth maybe ..

I have read about the benefits of having a “chicken jail” for time outs etc. I will need to see about how I can incorporate that into my current set up once spring comes. My coop is an old camper, and working well, but there is no space for a chicken time out spot unfortunately. I do have the space in my chicken yard though to add something. On the to do list for sure!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Jul 16, 2015
46,714
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Thank you. Good to know they will likely settle back down!

My chickens have 2/3rds of an old tennis court with sand for their run. Trying to make the run more natural, I have given them places to hide and explore using a bunch of branches I had on hand. I also have put out old hay bales to scratch around in etc which keeps them busy, tossing black oil sunflower seeds in occasionally. I made a peck dispenser for scratch too recently for entertainment. There is more that I have done to keep them busy, but you get the idea. Luckily too we have had a pretty decent winter so far and are spending most of their days outside.

Feed wise I think their rations are 17% protein. Do protein levels affect behavior then too?
It can if they aren't getting enough protein or too much protein. 17% is good though as long as they aren't getting a lot of extras.

What breed is the hen? I think I'm reading all Orpingtons?
 

Jocelyne13

In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2020
19
30
46
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
It can if they aren't getting enough protein or too much protein. 17% is good though as long as they aren't getting a lot of extras.

What breed is the hen? I think I'm reading all Orpingtons?

Yes all my chickens are Orpingtons. The hen in question is an Isabel Orpington- and one of my most beautiful hens, as well as one of my biggest. She is as big as the roosters- but not fat. I have another large hen like her that is a Lavender Cukoo, and Chocolate hen that is somewhat close to their size. These are some big girls!

I don’t give a lot of extras- at least I don’t think so?.... I will give them some greens here and there like cabbage leaves or bok choi, and maybe a cup of sunflower seeds every three or four days. As for my scratch feeder, they might be eating about 1cup per day tops. I feed solider grubs daily, but keep this too in moderation- about a quarter cup per day. Occasionally I will give them things like sardines, or most recently pork loin that was getting a bit dried out in the fridge- I might do this every 7 to 10 days, and I don’t ever give enough at one time for them to ever gorge themselves. All this is split between 14 chickens, so no one is able to stuff themselves and avoid eating their feed rations.

Also, I ferment some of their feed and give it to them daily. I have noticed since doing this that their dry feed consumption has dropped, even though I ferment only about four cups worth. They love their fermented feed! In general though I try to be conscientious about not upsetting their balanced diet of their feed rations, while making sure they get the benefits of what they get from greens and things like sardines.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
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They are all seven months old, not just the boys. I reread that to make sure. So think of all of them as immature teenagers hopped up with hormones with little to no self-control. If you can get through this phase things will almost certainly settle down when they mature but it can be hard getting through this phase.

Your situation is a little unusual in that the boys usually mature earlier than the girls. Each chicken has it's own personality, boys and girls, so I use a lot of weasel words like
"usually". The only thing consistent with chickens is that they are inconsistent in just about everything.

What I think happened is that your pullet became the dominant flock master while those boys were growing up. Now that the boys are maturing at least one of them wants the top job. The pullet is having none of that. She is the boss and is determined to keep that position. I've seen this before but in that case it was an older hen with a cockerel growing up in the flock. I have not seen that when the pullets and cockerels were the same age.

What happened with mine was that the hen would knock the cockerel off if he tried to mate with any hen or pullet, even if the other hen or pullet were willing. That's her way of showing and maintaining dominance. Then one day that cockerel decided he was taking over as flock master. Mine was 11 months when that happened, your 7 months is more typical from what I've seen.

For two days it was vicious. At first they fought, but he won. So for two days he kept that hen away from the flock. If she got close he'd attack her and run her off, usually trying to peck her head. After two days of this she accepted his dominance and they became best buddies. She was still the dominant hen but he was flock master.

This was violent. Chickens are vicious, no such thing as mercy. With mine no one was injured so I let them go. The risk of serious injury or even death is real. It can be hard to watch. As your two boys mature you may see a version of this between them.

I think having a lot of room helps. 2/3 of a tennis court, especially with that clutter in it, certainly qualifies for outside space as long as it is available. I'd be more concerned when they are stuck in the coop. That depends a lot on the size and especially how the coop is laid out. I usually find my weaker ones on the roosts avoiding the stronger on the coop floor. More weasel words but you never know for sure how it will work out, not with living animals.

I don't know how big that camper coop is or how it is laid out. You do not need much room to isolate a single chicken, mainly enough room for food and water. If it is a hen laying eggs you probably need a nest, that can complicate it. I find it extremely helpful to have a place I can isolate a chicken if I need to. I have four, depending in which are currently in use as a brooder, broody buster, or grow-out coop.

I don't see this as a diet issue. II don't see it as competition between two boys, you say one is staying out of it. I see it as a rearrangement of flock dynamics, they are determining a new flock master as they mature. I could be wrong on any of this.

So what can you do? One option, the one I did, was to let it play out. Observe and be ready to intervene if you need to but let them work it out.

In the Calgary area (thanks for that info, location is often good to know) come up with some way to isolate one of the combatants. Could be the pullet, could be the cockerel. Keep them from hurting one another until they further nature. That may make this transition go much smoother, it is usually easier when you are dealing with adults instead of juveniles.

I'll rephrase Aart's question, why do you want a male at all? What are your goals relative to the boys? The only reason you need a male is if you want fertile eggs. Anything else is a personal preference. Nothing wrong with a personal preference, I have a few myself and they can be strong motivators. But that is a choice, not a need.

I generally recommend you keep as few males as you can and still meet your goals. That's not because you are guaranteed issues with more males but that the more males you have the more likely you are to have issues. I don't know if the correct number of boys for you is 0, 1, or 2. That is up to you.

I also recommend that you settle for the peace of the flock as a whole, not for one specific chicken. If I have one that is disturbing the peace of the flock and I can't resolve it any other way I remove that chicken permanently, male or female. If you remove one or both boys this issue could easily go away. I don't know if that feather picking will come back or not. The way you are feeding them I don't think it is a nutrition issue, I think it is more of a bad habit. Maybe she has been broken of that, but again I don't know. If you remove the pullet this issue goes away but you never know for sure what other flock dynamics issues may show up if you keep one or both boys. There may be drama. you may not see a thing.

To me there is no one clear cut answer. That will depend on your desires, goals, and facilities. And another recommendation, trust yourself. Go by what you see more than trusting a stranger like me over the internet. You are looking at them and I'm not. I can easily be wrong.
 

Jocelyne13

In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2020
19
30
46
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
They are all seven months old, not just the boys. I reread that to make sure. So think of all of them as immature teenagers hopped up with hormones with little to no self-control. If you can get through this phase things will almost certainly settle down when they mature but it can be hard getting through this phase.

Your situation is a little unusual in that the boys usually mature earlier than the girls. Each chicken has it's own personality, boys and girls, so I use a lot of weasel words like
"usually". The only thing consistent with chickens is that they are inconsistent in just about everything.

What I think happened is that your pullet became the dominant flock master while those boys were growing up. Now that the boys are maturing at least one of them wants the top job. The pullet is having none of that. She is the boss and is determined to keep that position. I've seen this before but in that case it was an older hen with a cockerel growing up in the flock. I have not seen that when the pullets and cockerels were the same age.

What happened with mine was that the hen would knock the cockerel off if he tried to mate with any hen or pullet, even if the other hen or pullet were willing. That's her way of showing and maintaining dominance. Then one day that cockerel decided he was taking over as flock master. Mine was 11 months when that happened, your 7 months is more typical from what I've seen.

For two days it was vicious. At first they fought, but he won. So for two days he kept that hen away from the flock. If she got close he'd attack her and run her off, usually trying to peck her head. After two days of this she accepted his dominance and they became best buddies. She was still the dominant hen but he was flock master.

This was violent. Chickens are vicious, no such thing as mercy. With mine no one was injured so I let them go. The risk of serious injury or even death is real. It can be hard to watch. As your two boys mature you may see a version of this between them.

I think having a lot of room helps. 2/3 of a tennis court, especially with that clutter in it, certainly qualifies for outside space as long as it is available. I'd be more concerned when they are stuck in the coop. That depends a lot on the size and especially how the coop is laid out. I usually find my weaker ones on the roosts avoiding the stronger on the coop floor. More weasel words but you never know for sure how it will work out, not with living animals.

I don't know how big that camper coop is or how it is laid out. You do not need much room to isolate a single chicken, mainly enough room for food and water. If it is a hen laying eggs you probably need a nest, that can complicate it. I find it extremely helpful to have a place I can isolate a chicken if I need to. I have four, depending in which are currently in use as a brooder, broody buster, or grow-out coop.

I don't see this as a diet issue. II don't see it as competition between two boys, you say one is staying out of it. I see it as a rearrangement of flock dynamics, they are determining a new flock master as they mature. I could be wrong on any of this.

So what can you do? One option, the one I did, was to let it play out. Observe and be ready to intervene if you need to but let them work it out.

In the Calgary area (thanks for that info, location is often good to know) come up with some way to isolate one of the combatants. Could be the pullet, could be the cockerel. Keep them from hurting one another until they further nature. That may make this transition go much smoother, it is usually easier when you are dealing with adults instead of juveniles.

I'll rephrase Aart's question, why do you want a male at all? What are your goals relative to the boys? The only reason you need a male is if you want fertile eggs. Anything else is a personal preference. Nothing wrong with a personal preference, I have a few myself and they can be strong motivators. But that is a choice, not a need.

I generally recommend you keep as few males as you can and still meet your goals. That's not because you are guaranteed issues with more males but that the more males you have the more likely you are to have issues. I don't know if the correct number of boys for you is 0, 1, or 2. That is up to you.

I also recommend that you settle for the peace of the flock as a whole, not for one specific chicken. If I have one that is disturbing the peace of the flock and I can't resolve it any other way I remove that chicken permanently, male or female. If you remove one or both boys this issue could easily go away. I don't know if that feather picking will come back or not. The way you are feeding them I don't think it is a nutrition issue, I think it is more of a bad habit. Maybe she has been broken of that, but again I don't know. If you remove the pullet this issue goes away but you never know for sure what other flock dynamics issues may show up if you keep one or both boys. There may be drama. you may not see a thing.

To me there is no one clear cut answer. That will depend on your desires, goals, and facilities. And another recommendation, trust yourself. Go by what you see more than trusting a stranger like me over the internet. You are looking at them and I'm not. I can easily be wrong.

You have given me a lot to consider. Thank you for chiming in.
My current alpha rooster has actually I think provided some stability in hen relations. At first I was disappointed that my other rooster was dethroned because he is so calm and relaxed. But I soon noticed that squabbles between hens were being policed by the new/current alpha roo, and there seems to be fewer issues between hens overall...except with Jolene the head hen. She has always been a bit of a bully- and had somewhat improved under Kowalski’s reign, until now. And Kowalski my alpha roo has been overall fair from what I can tell, and won’t necessarily get physical with hens who are squabbling. He also protects my itty bitty hen whose growth has been severely stunted from vent gleet as a chick. The dynamic though with he and Jolene though has never been as bad as it is currently. Before this she would challenge him, they would dance around a bit, and that was the end of it. Now she’s out for blood.
Pecking order dynamics overall though are definitely shifting again- I have noted a few promotions and demotions among the hens since the roosters have been breeding them. So I will for sure have to consider that this is adding too much stress that may remain unresolved- and maybe some rehoming might have to be an option... Funny enough though, Jolene was very nice when I fed their fermented feed earlier today- no pecking or comb biting of others to find her spot to eat. Lol. Thank you for taking the time to comment though- I will be definitely considering what you and others have suggested, and combine that with my gut. Lots to think about, but you are right- peace in the flock must be priority over single members. 😊
 

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