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What could cause sudden aggressive hen behavior?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jdellosso, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. jdellosso

    jdellosso Out Of The Brooder

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    I have two 18-month old cochins who have always gotten along since birth. Vivienne is larger and clearly the alpha hen...until today. Her smaller sibling, BB, jumped on her and bit her comb, which of course bled, inviting more attacks. Vivi is now terrified, and either hides behind my feet constantly glancing up at me or squawks and runs away when she sees BB. I took some advice from another post and watched for awhile amidst their yard, and when BB attacked, I held her to the ground for about ten seconds. Took a few times, but I think she got the point. An hour later, BB attacks again, so I kept them separated for the rest of the day and applied some "rooster booster" (aloe and coal tar) to her comb.

    Bedtime, one coop...well, let's just say this didn't go well. I placed Vivi on the perch in the dark, and let BB climb in. She immediately attacked the back of Vivi's neck. Vivi is now locked in the coop alone, BB isn't keen on the ladder rung, but it will have to do, bad girl!

    Here's the strangest thing...my former dominant hen is totally bowing down (literally) and taking the abuse. She doesn't try to get away, she doesn't fight back, just flattens to the ground and takes it.

    Nothing has changed in their lives. The only thing I noticed is that today was the second day in a row Vivi didn't lay an egg (rare, she usually takes one day off a week, but I totally understand the stress beginning at 9am this morning). BB started attacking right after she laid her egg (a perfect one, no issues there.) Any ideas what to do?
     
  2. math ace

    math ace Overrun With Chickens

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    Wow - - that is really weird. I have no idea what is going on, but perhaps somebody else will join in here.
     
  3. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    The one you need to separate is the aggressive one, not the one being attacked. She needs to be alone for several days. This way, when you put her back, she will be at the bottom of the pecking order.

    My bunch seem to rearrange the pecking order periodically, but I have almost always had a rooster, so that changes things a bit, and I've never had to deal with real violence. But then mine have a very large yard, like 50' x 70' or something, and also free range. How many chickens do you have, and do you nave any roosters? How much space?

    What occurs to me is that your attacker, if there is no roo, might be trying to take the place of the rooster. At one point I had this situation, and the "rooster-hen" would actually mount the others as if mating them, which of course involves grabbing the neck in the process. She also made a noise that I suppose she thought was crowing. I have read that sometimes when this happens, then rooster-hen also stops laying. I have no idea whether mine layed or not.

    The other thing I thought is, maybe someone is sick, and you just haven't seen sign of this at this point. They seem to be able to tell when something is wrong before we can.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2011
  4. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    My biggest hen allowed the smallest to get by with this for a time. I've taken to calling the smallest "Soup" because she fell so far out of my favor due to her treatment of the others. Finally the biggest decided she'd had enough and baby, she'd had ENOUGH. She doesn't dance, posture, and act a fool, she just reaches over and PECKS the CRAP out of Soup anytime the little witch gets too close. Hopefully the same will happen to yours. Unless the offender becomes soup in the meantime. I still think Soup looks rather tasty even if a bit boney...
     
  5. jdellosso

    jdellosso Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2009
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    Thanks for the responses. I only have the two hens, no roosters and have an unusual setup...I live in the city and my house has a 10x10 atrium in the middle. That's where the girls have their coop, food, water and garden. I have a little back yard (15x10) with a garden (which is just dirt now) and brick patio. This time of year the girls' job is to till, fertilize and keep the bug and worm population under control.

    This morning when I let Vivi (the larger hen) out of the coop, she RAN to the door and into the kitchen (and into my cat). She went to the back yard. Five hours later, time to lay an egg, so we had a changing of the guards. (BB had laid hers earlier, so it's not broodiness.) Better news-Vivi stood her ground and delivered the stink eye while BB walked past her to the back yard. Whew!

    After the egg job is done, I might try to supervise them together, or just keep them apart for the three days. I only have one coop, and felt I'd rather not disrupt Vivienne's sleeping habits, so she got the coop, BB got the ladder. I am lucky that predators cannot get into this atrium. Any more suggestions would be welcome! I think we're in for a few days of "time out", perhaps ending in soup, but having only two...I am confident in some behavior modification. We limited it to two so we could avoid a lot of the pecking order issues, and here we are. It was good to hear that they do change around as time goes on.
     
  6. jdellosso

    jdellosso Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2009
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    Well, I put them back together and sat with them. Vivienne stayed very close to me (after laying her egg), and they got within three feet or so of each other with no issues. BB definitely is thinking about an attack-small pupils, craned neck, watching each other intently. They did relax after about 20 minutes, then the phone rang...as soon as I left the back yard, BB jumped at the chance and got a few feathers out of the top of Vivi's head. No blood, but left some raw, pink skin. I recoated her with Rooster Booster which didn't seem to deter the attack.

    Looks like a life of solitude for both of them for the next few days. With only two hens, we'll have to see about the pecking order thing. I wonder how long a hen's memory is?!? Maybe they'll miss each other. They used to when they were separated, they'd call and get anxious for the other's company. Hope they patch things up. BB is too beautiful to cook! Here's a picture of happier times...BB is the partridge, Vivienne is the blue/gray one. Don't worry, the nesting box was just out there waiting to be cleaned until it was nabbed for a cat-nap.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. math ace

    math ace Overrun With Chickens

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    So Sweeet! You are in an unusual situation. Most people do not restrain themselves to just TWO hens.
    With two hens ONLY - - - I would think you could do some behavior modification like you would on a dominant rooster.

    For instance, the bully has to wait to eat until after the other has ate. The Bully hen gets pinned to the ground for a few minutes anytime she attacks the other. The Bully hen gets placed on a lower sleeping position than the other.

    Just a thought - - - it really is a different situation.
     
  8. jdellosso

    jdellosso Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2009
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    Thanks math ace. Making the bully wait to eat is a great idea! I will do that. I have been holding her down right after the attacks, too. They're both so docile, I don't have to chase her so I can grab her right away and show her who is boss. I will continue to do that when I am able to be with them, but she's learned not to attack when I'm around. I also locked her out of the coop last night due to her attacking, so I put an old ladder out and put her on a rung. Guess that will be the way it goes for the next few days. Inconvenient, but they are worth the effort. I appreciate your input. Maybe two isn't much easier than 6! Hmm...gets me thinking...
     
  9. BarnGoddess01

    BarnGoddess01 I [IMG]emojione/assets/png/2665.png?v=2.2.7[/IMG]

    I HATE watching my hens sort out the pecking order - my roos just back off and watch too. But it does seem to need to be done. I've learned not to interfere unless there is a MAJOR war going on. (I had no idea hens would actually fight like roos - feet and all - when they're really P.O'd.) Best thing I can do is walk away because I can't be out there 24/7 and I honestly can't stand watching it. But I go back an hour later and it's all worked out - with relatively little or even no blood. (As an aside: I had to separate my dominant hen for a couple of days because she got nailed by a hawk. She didn't miss a beat when I returned her to the flock. She was full of holes and beaten literally black and blue by the hawk - couldn't even get up to the roost at night for sleeping for the first few nights because her thighs were so damaged but she wasn't taking a bit of trouble from ANY of the upstart hens under her - no matter how bald and swollen she was. She was and is the lead hen and that was and IS that.)
     
  10. math ace

    math ace Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Yes, I think two would be harder because there is only FIRST and LAST and nothing in between. I am just really surprised that they waited until 18 months to have an issue with this . . . I, too, would of suspected that somebody was wanting to be a mamma because there had not a been any changes or previous issues.

    REally, Really, strange. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. They sure are some pretty ladies.
     

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