Vicious Chicken! Am I overreacting?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Shady Maru, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. Shady Maru

    Shady Maru New Egg

    Apr 16, 2015
    So I have this hen. Her name is Mal (short for malachite for her green leg band, but ironic nevertheless). She is a raging evil hussy, and I'm thinking dark thoughts about dumplings. But I am an inexperienced chicken-keeper, so for all I know this is perfectly normal behavior for the Head Hen of a flock.

    Some background: It's a small flock of 10 OEGB's, bought from McMurray Hatchery in May. I do have one rooster who does a fine job, so she's not trying to take his place. They've only just started to lay in the last couple of weeks. The hen in question has tried to kill my hand on several occasions in the past, and definitely has the inclination to continue doing so, I've just gotten better at avoiding her. It is possible the pen is a little cramped for the number of hens I have, but they have plenty of perches to get away from each other, and it hasn't been a problem until recently (maybe because they're laying?) Lastly, I am attempting the Chicken Jail fix.

    Anyway, I'm not thrilled at the idea of butchering a young laying hen, and she is definitely laying. But not only is she trying to murder me, she keeps picking on the other chickens. It seems like every couple of minutes I hear more screeching from the pen, and when I go check it's just Mal wreaking havoc. Again.

    So, is this normal? Am I overreacting? Or is Mal telling me she's ready to meet her delicious destiny (assuming the Chicken Jail fix doesn't work)?
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Not normal, no, though not strictly uncommon. Some chickens are just, well, jerks. Sounds like you got one of them.

    You could try separating her for several weeks and then reintroducing her, or applying pinless peepers to curb the behavior. You could just sell her; there is no shortage of demand for bantam hens. Oftentimes being thrown into a new flock with strangers who may be meaner than herself is a good cure for a hen who's gotten too full of herself.

    Alternatively, you can certainly eat her. I eat any bird who's become a bully or nuisance within my flock and feel no shame for it.
    2 people like this.
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    The Queen has pretty much nailed it. You have a mean hen.

    Since she's young yet, you may be able to discipline her and see a change if it takes.

    She appears to want to be "boss" of you, and you need to convince her otherwise. You are head of your flock, not her, so when she steps out of line, you immediately peck her with your finger hard on her back. This is language all chickens understand when delivered by one who is ranked higher.

    Be consistent. Spend a little time each day with your flock and when you see Mal go for another chicken, you deliver the necessary discipline. Never let her get away unscathed when she pecks your hand. Make sure you always get in the final peck.

    If this doesn't work, eat her. She deserves nothing less.
    1 person likes this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    First, address the space issue honestly...crowding can cause all kinds of negative behaviors and ill health in the long run.
    How big is your coop in feet by feet?
    Pics would help too.

    As far as pecking/biting not allow it...'peck' her back.
    Fast and firmly, with the tips of your fingers/thumb, right on the head or wherever you can get her.
    Follow her a few feet for a few more pecks....this is what they 'understand'.
    If 'pecking' her doesn't work, pin her down with your hand on her back and push her firmly to the ground and hold here there until she submits.
    Yank on the feathers on the back of her head with your other hand.
    Be the 'head hen'....or continue to be abused.

    The can indeed get rowdier at onset of lay, all those hormones surging and changes in the pecking order.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I definitely agree that overcrowding can lead to aggressive behavior. It’s not just a matter of square feet, quality of room makes a difference too. I also agree that they are undergoing maturity at different rates as they start to lay so that can cause changes to the pecking order.

    But I also agree that some chickens are just aggressive by nature, they are just brutes. You can try isolating her for a week or so to see if that changes her behavior, but if you plan to hatch eggs I’d get rid of her now. Tendencies toward brutish behavior can be inherited from males or females. If you plan to hatch eggs get those genetics out of your flock now.
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    I'm also wondering how much space there is. But, unless you're going to expand the housing, getting rid of some birds is going to be the answer. And sounds like she's a prime candidate to go.

    I would not butcher her. I'd sell her. I could easily get $20 for her, and her carcass would not be worth that at all, plus the time to butcher and pluck, etc.

    I wouldn't be so worried about selling a "mean" bird, either. In my experience, a bird with behavioral issues is often "cured" simply by a change in flock. Take them out of their comfort zone and their buddies, suddenly they're on their own and get a whole different attitude. You can absolutely tell the buyer she's the top hen and causes some issues. Won't phase most experienced folks.

    Always keep in mind, management is a continuous thing. If a particular bird is not working for you, feel free to sell it. Some folks go to pretty extreme lengths to get everyone to "get along", when the removal of one bird would make life just ducky for everyone.
  7. I would also get rid of her....No real need to state the reason why...Once moved to a new home she will be at the bottom of the pecking order...It will depend on how she moves her way up the pecking order....She might be way happier in a new flock?

  8. Lynnski

    Lynnski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 1, 2016
    Weymouth, MA
    Hi Shady, I feel your pain.... Literally!

    Here's my story: and the group really helped me.

    I just wanted to say you have some great advice here and that there is hope for a biting pullet.

    It took a couple weeks of retraining for my barred rock and it may have gone quicker if i wasnt afraid of hurting her or doing the wrong thing. She resisted my rise to the top, and even tried to intimidate me by jumping up, yelling and flapping at me! Thats when the rooster in me came out. After that, we had a couple days of her chasing my feet and pecking my shoes. But i never let even the slightest infraction get by without a "rooster scolding".

    She is not afraid of me, comes to me, wants to be near me, but also squats if i want to pick her up. She hasnt challenged me in about a week.

    If you have the patience or time, its worth trying it. If not, you have other great suggestions.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

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