vicious hens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Sylie, Nov 1, 2015.

  1. Sylie

    Sylie Out Of The Brooder

    May 26, 2014
    I have a sort of different problem and am having trouble finding a thread or even an article online to fit the situation and find a solution, maybe someone here has this experience and can help.

    I have 5 hens, no roosters. all of the hens are approximately a year and a half old and have previously lived in separate but adjoining pens, always able to see/hear/smell each other. Recently we built a nice coop (we call it the Taj mahal of coops, it's a beautiful thing) so we chucked them all in there and expected some pecking order issues but believed it would be short lived and not a really big deal. Boy were we wrong! The breakdown of the group goes like this: 2 RIR's, 3 BR's, 2 of the BR's are "twins" and are very obviously on the bottom of the order, the "lone" BR is in the middle with both RiR's being in first place. When they were in their separate pens the RiR's lived together and the twins lived together so this pecking order sort of makes sense. My problem is that the RiR's are vicious, there is blood shed every single day. it's been 10 days since moving every one into the new coop (all at once) and the violence continues. One of the twins behinder is completely naked and bleeding, I have taken first aid measures with blu kote but it doesn't stop the violence. I understand working out pecking order but I'm pretty sure this is more than pecking order battles. Last night I went out to check on them after roosting time and they were all on the one roost, one of the RiR's had the lone BR trapped in a corner and beating the snot out of her head and the other RiR had the twins in the opposite corner doing the same. I took the RiR's down off of the roost and put them on the floor but they immediately jumped up onto the roost and continued beating on the BR's.

    I don't know what to do, I am considering taking the RiR's out of the coop for a few days to hopefully put them on the bottom of the pecking order. There are 5 hens and 30 sq. ft of space in the coop and 90 sq ft of run, I was under the impression that should be plenty to avoid crowding spats. I give them things to play with like whole pumpkins, heads of cabbage etc but the RiR's seem dead set on blood shed.

    Does anyone have any advice?
    Thank you in advance
  2. DanEP

    DanEP Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2010
    Cadiz Ky
    Your on the right track with the separate the mean girls. If possible put the bully's where they can't be seen by the other girls for a while, I would do maybe 10-14 days then put the friendliest of the two back keeping the meanest one out. There is strength in numbers so reintroducing them one at a time will give the main flock a better chance of controlling things . If the first girl works out you can try the second one, If not hens make good soup too.
  3. Sylie

    Sylie Out Of The Brooder

    May 26, 2014
    There is no "meanest" one with the RiR's, they are both equal, they both consider themselves the top of the flock and they do not challenge each other, they actually work together to corner and pin down whichever underling they have chosen. I will remove both of the RiR's and just pick one to return to the flock after a waiting period, thank you so much for replying!
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    What does your run look like? Is it just an open rectangle? I see a lot of runs like this, and they can add stress to your birds, even though there is enough space. Chickens are a prey animal, they like to have hide outs. They need to be able to get away from a dominant bird to show respect. If there is a hide out, or a place to get out of sight, then the lower pecking order bird can give way, giving respect to the higher pecking order bird so to speak. If the run is just a wide open space, without any hide outs, then the lower bird cannot get out of sight, so appears to be challenging the higher bird, and the fight continues.

    However, when making hideout, one must be very careful to avoid making traps. Each hideout needs two entrances, or exits. Hide outs can be simple piece of ply wood, leaned up against a wall, a pallet up on cement blocks. A box set kitty corner. Add extra roosts out in the run. It will make your run look more cluttered, but it will allow the birds to get away from each other.

    These are some things you can try, but strongly consider culling them both. They are not working out in your flock, they are not working out for you. A stressed out flock just really isn't any fun. If the remained of the flock settles down when you removed these two. Keep it that way, make soup out of the bullies. I always think of the flock first. Some birds just do not do change.

    This will open up space for new chicks next spring! Always fun.

    Mrs. K
  5. Sylie

    Sylie Out Of The Brooder

    May 26, 2014
    yes, it is an open rectangle but there are also hiding spots, under the coop for one example, the coop is 2 1/2 ft off the ground encased in hardware cloth and the popdoor ramp obscures some of the view. There are other hiding spots but that is just one example. I think I am just going to separate the bully's for a week or so and try to reintegrate them one at a time but at the first sign of vicious aggression, it's freezer camp time. I really don't want to have to go the freezer camp route because they are such great layers lol (as well they are the sweetest birds ever when it comes to me, they like to sit on my lap and just make the cutest little noises).

    My husband says they are causing me so much stress that he would prefer to just make soup of them all and start over in the spring with all new chicks all growing up in the same coop together. I think that is a little extreme myself but am holding that in the back of my mind as a last resort option.

    thank you so much for replying!
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Hmm... much for 'all birds in brand new coop/run will help the territoriality issues'.
    Well, no 'rule' works all the time.

    Agrees removing the bullies out of sight a for a good week or so, then putting them back in might work.
    Or you could leave them in a old coop by themselves, until you get fed up enough to stew them.
  7. Sylie

    Sylie Out Of The Brooder

    May 26, 2014
    Thank you for replying Aart! I did take the RiR's out and put them in the old pen yesterday, the rest of the flock settled right down and seemed happy. Even the RiR's seemed happy in their old pen. My husband is still rooting for the "start over" method of fixing the problem since we were planning to use the area the old pens are in as garden space next spring but we'll see what happens. For now, keeping them separated seems to have settled things down. I will keep you all updated when I put the RiR's back in the coop.

    Thank you to all that answered and if there any more suggestions, I am sure open to hear them for future reference.
  8. mymilliefleur

    mymilliefleur Keeper of the Flock

    Nov 4, 2014
    East Tennessee.
    I'm sorry to hear your having problems with your birds. You did the right thing in separating them. Give the BR time to fully recover before putting them back together. I wonder what is causing so much violence. Are they getting enough protein? Do they have enough space (4 sq feet in the coop and 10 sq ft in the run per bird minimum)? It's possible that the RIR's are just mean. I'd wait another few months and reintegrate them. If they are still mean, it may be time to turn them into soup.
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Again, I raise the question, how big is your coop? How wide, long, and tall is it? How long are the roosts? Is there room to put a second roost? How big is your run? Often, crowding is an issue.

    I will tell you that I'm not a fan of RIR. They tend to be mean! My recommendation is to separate the 2 RIR from each other. Put them each in a separate cage, out of sight from each other. Then, allow only one back into the flock, wait a week, and then put the other one back. If that doesn't work, eat them. RIR, once their feathers are off taste pretty good. I may sound cavalier about it, and there are many different styles of raising chickens, with the spectrum going from beloved pet to livestock destined eventually for the freezer. While I thoroughly enjoy my flock, they are livestock!
    1 person likes this.
  10. Sylie

    Sylie Out Of The Brooder

    May 26, 2014
    Lazy gardener, your first sentence says "Again I raise the question". This is your first reply to me, why did you say "again"? and second, the dimensions are in my original post, last paragraph. to answer your other questions, the roosts are 6 ft long and there are 3 of them, one under the other but out from the wall a little further than the one above so they don't poo on each other. Sort of like a ladder. None of them use the bottom two "rungs", they all want to be on the top one. The bottom most rung is about 2 feet off the floor. I separated the RiR's from each other a while back for health issues, one of them seemed to be sneezing (nothing ever came of it and she stopped sneezing by the end of the day) but while they were separated (4 days to make sure nothing new developed) neither of them laid any eggs. They made the most horrendous "screaming" noises the whole time they were separated. neighbors complained, husband complained, headaches ensued. it was horrible racket from twilight to dark. I will eat them before I separate them from each other again. I do wonder why you suggest separating them from each other though? I understand separating them from teh flock, which I did 3 days ago but why from each other?

    To me, they are pets and as I said before, they are the sweetest, most gentle birds when they interact with me, it's just the other chickens they are mean to. My husband agrees with you on the chickens being livestock but they are my chickens and in his own words "you are the raiser, I'm just the carpenter".

    Thank you for your reply and I hope I have answered your questions.
    1 person likes this.

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