vicious black sex link problem

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by gadus, Jan 1, 2017.

  1. gadus

    gadus Chirping

    Jul 28, 2015
    I am this close to throttling one of three black sex link hens that I've caught on top of the smallest Americauna two days in a row. While I know they are good layers, at the same time, I feel like I don't want to put up with repeated bullying behavior. Now I fully understand the Americauna's frequent impulse to fly out of the run, which is more than ample for 18 birds.

    Will there always be one bird who savages the others, regardless of their breed? That is, if I eliminate the black sex links, will one of the Buff Orpingtons jump in and take over their role? If I have only one breed, will one of the breed still become a bully to the extent that the black bird is now?

    The bottom line is that I am willing to sacrifice eggs for the sake of the health of the rest of the flock, at least until I can get a replacement but if it's just going to be more of the same even after I cull the bird, I probably will think twice about it.


  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    How many chickens do you have, and how big are their coop and run (in feet by feet)? What I've gathered from reading the "I have a chicken problem" threads all these years is, that can usually be translated into "I have a space problem and my chickens are acting up".
    1 person likes this.
  3. gadus

    gadus Chirping

    Jul 28, 2015
    You're probably right about space-at least having something to do with it anyway. However, it might have more to do with weather than square feet; I did my homework and built a 8 X 8 coop and a 500 ft2 run in which my 18 birds spend 9-10 hrs/day, with free-ranging on nice days (seldom now in wintry Maine). When it's snowing/raining outside, they are able to bundle into a 2 foot crawl space beneath the coop to get out of the weather; the crawl space is covered with reasonably fresh hay. they scratch down into the dry dirt below it for dust baths. I have two outdoor feeders-one for the preppies, one for the greasers-and keep plenty of feed and water available at all times-plus scratch and kitchen scraps every other day or so.

    If the attacks have been ongoing, it's escaped my attention but I'm thinking the ganging up on my poor Americauna is of very recent vintage.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    No, there is not always a mean bird.

    There is always a dominant bird, but in most flocks once things get established, there is very minimal enforcement of the social dynamic, unless someone challenges it.

    What exactly is the black sex link doing?

    Your two basic options are to try to work through this. You can separate her for a while, then re introduce. You can look into boredom busters. You can try to change feed. You can try pinless peepers.

    Or, you can decide this one bird doesn't mesh well with your flock. Advertise her on CL. I can get $20 for a laying hen all day long. If she just doesn't work for you, no reason at all to keep her. Losing production from one hen vs having a more harmonious flock (and possibly increased production from the other birds) may well be worth it.
    2 people like this.
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I agree with Bobbi, sell her. With chickens, doing nothing will not change the situation, and the aggression will get worse. If another bully steps up, sell her too. Keep this up untill you get a peaceful flock.

    The ideal measurements, are not area specific, different places are going to need more space, some are going to need less. Let your birds tell you how many birds will fit. In the summer you can cheat, but this is the number you need to be to come October.

    Once I was in this same boat, and a predator helped me out. I could feel the tension come out of the flock, with the reduction of numbers.

    Mrs k
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Your coop space is a bit tight for 18 birds. Our winter weather makes space management very important. Can you put multi level areas, and out of sight areas (but no dead end areas) in your coop? Your avatar pic shows a very tall coop. Is this coop actually an 8 x 8 foot print, or is it 2 levels, with each level being 4 x 8? This could make a huge difference in the way your birds respond to the amount of available space. I try to go into the winter with my birds having much more space than the minimum recommended 4 s.f. in coop per bird. It improves winter management. I also find that if the birds have a sheltered outdoor area, that helps considerably. I've used an old metal swing set and a green house tarp, some 2 x 4 framing to build a sun room in the run for the birds. They love being outside in their sun room on all but the very nastiest/blustery days.

    Also, I find that EE tend to be much more docile than many of the LF birds. So, they end up at the bottom of the pecking order.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  7. gadus

    gadus Chirping

    Jul 28, 2015
    I like the idea of selling her, although seeing her on top of my other bird, with her beak buried in the back of the other bird's head, her weight crushing the smaller bird's body flat on the ground, with the others gathering around as if to assist, turned my stomach and made me see red; I came very close to putting fresh chicken on the menu for dinner; in the mood I was in at the time, I might have eaten it raw. It was a visceral reaction and not something I liked to have happened but it happened and here I am wondering what can be done. I don't like bullies, feathered or otherwise. I have seen some pecking order-establishing behavior but nothing like this before now.

    In retrospect, this grey bird has from day one, sought to get out of the run at the earliest opportunity; seeing what I saw today, I understand why. Another Americauna has similarly "flown the coop" at any opportunity and she has established a nesting site under an old mattress, where three days ago, I discoverd a clutch of four eggs, three frozen solid.

    There are five nesting boxes, all of them being used rather equally.

    Floor space in the coop can be improved with better, more compact, more elevated droppings board but in truth, they spend little time on the floor except for a few hours in the morning. I think some of the Americaunas just wait until I open the run door to come down from the roost (several roost permanently in the rafters)

    The problems however are occuring in the run. The run has some trees in it, including several trunks of medium-sized maple-but no low-hanging branches. In the spring I will be adding new coop space, which will also give more shelter in the run itself; I can at that time, also think about the in-run improvements suggested.

    I want harmony. I want all my birds to be content for as long as I have them (a planned two years). I love their eggs and I love caring for them, I just can't stand bullying, whether it be birds or humans.

    If I sell the bird-and I'm wondering how on earth one sells a "good layer but bully" chicken-I'm assuming full disclosure is called for. But I'm also guessing the bird immediately goes to the bottom of whatever new pecking order is established. This seems the most sensible option at this point and I can recoup a little of the money I've spent to get her thus far


  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I have found sex links to often be pushy dominant birds that are prone to moody behaviors. I no longer keep them for various reasons. I've never had a bully buff Orpington.

    Crowded bored birds often will find bad ways to burn off extra energy, especially when winter brings closer confinement due to weather.

    Certain breeds are more mellow than others, and some do better under confinement than others, so replacement hens won't necessarily be trouble if you pick compatible breeds.
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I totally get that gut reaction. It's an instinctive "protect the weak" thing.

    You're correct in that the hen will likely go to the bottom of the social order in a new flock. Normally, selling a single hen is an iffy thing and I prefer not to do it. But in this case, sounds like the perfect solution.

    Use some creativity when writing your ad. Give her a name, if she does not have one. I find single birds especially sell better if they have a name. Old time farm type names work well. Write a little story about what a great layer she is, but just too pushy for your flock. If she's human friendly, emphasize that. Be clear she's a dominant bird, but you don't have to make her sound like Cujo or anything. Talk with prospective buyers and be sure they understand her behavior. If someone shows up who had a flock of Silkies and wants a better layer, I'd not sell to them, that would be a disaster. But if someone lost birds to a predator, or just wants an extra production layer, she'd fit the bill nicely.

    When I sell birds, I also tell folks about this site. If they've not found it already, I urge them to check out the forums and let them know there are lots of folks available to help with questions, etc.
  10. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Crowing

    Sep 25, 2015
    I have found BSL to also be quite aggressive, not just blacks, but red sex links as well, that sounds like the Rhode Island Red standing out in them. But only aggressive if given dominant position, or a position high in rank.

    there will always be a dominate chicken, so yes if you take the BSL hens out, the Buff will liable take their place, or they may be some pecking order rearrangement. Not all hens are aggressive like that, the Buff may become more out there, but may remain pretty much just as she is now.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017

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