What to do about aggressive hens in the coop.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by walfarmchiks, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. walfarmchiks

    walfarmchiks New Egg

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    It seems to have started because our overall coop floor area was perhaps minimal. Ten chicks (we eventually lost one to an internal disease), so then 9 chicks in only 60 sq feet. But as well, from what I have read here, this is not necessarily an unusual condition for competition amongst hens, and is not necessarily relieved in ingrained birds even if they get more space, especially when different breeds (and thus perhaps different sizes...) are involved.

    Perhaps predictably, the two largest hens, Rhodies, chase the smallest (two leghorns) around, and peck at them. These two hens have become downright psychologically scarred, and another one, a Rhode Island as well, hides in the coop house retreating into the nest box pretty much all day. Sad! Her plumage, oddly, is impeccable, since she doesn't allow them to get to her. she also took to batch brooding, hiding about 20 eggs from us this summer, in a far corner of the coop house, and sitting on them all day. (of course, we had to toss all those eggs...)

    I now gently take her out of the nest box and give her "outside" free time.

    Anyhow, I'm now building a much larger coop (9 birds sharing a total of 175 sq feet), one which will also have an isolation section, just via chicken wire, but it will house all the poor birds who took the brunt of these attacks, and I'll leave the aggressor hens to themselves.

    Question is: will this behavior subside with those aggressive birds when they are finally separated, or should they (gulp!) become chicken stew? Will they settle down? (can I whisper what their fate might be if they don't go "nice"? will they possibly "get it" from my tone of voice? [​IMG])

    Any experience out there?
     
  2. Annabella

    Annabella Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good on you for enlarging their area [​IMG]
    They are funny little things - the best way of offering safety is distraction, providing ample "hiding" places.
    Shrubs, bushes etc. After a bit they tend to settle.
    But in saying that I have to separate my 4 redstar girls from the 2 bigger girls.
    I have separate areas and let them all free range at the same for an hour or so in the afternoons -
    but there is plenty of places to hide for the younger girls, and sometimes I still have to intervene, as the "top" hen of the flock. [​IMG]
     
  3. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Warn them. Then make the chicken stock, stew, or salad if they don't adjust their attitudes.[​IMG]
     
  4. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    First of all, 60 sq ft of coop is enough for up to 15 hens. But if you are talking about both coop and run, it is not. The minimum formula frequently given on here is 4 sq ft per bird in the coop, 10 sq ft in the run. More is always better, and you need a much larger coop than that if you have cold, snowy winters wherever you are (a state or country in your sig would help.)

    The one who stays in the nest and collected a bunch of eggs is probably broody. That is a whole different thing; they think they are going to hatch out chicks, will set almost 24 hours a day, getting off the nest usually once a day to eat and poop. They have a peculiar growl if you get too near or try to lift them off the nest. They will also fluff out their feathers as if trying to cover a bunch of babies if you come too close. It is a hormonal thing, and they will go broody and set on golf balls or nothing at all; they will also steal eggs from other chickens to add to their nest. The best cure is to let them hatch eggs or give them a couple of store bought chicks after they have set for a few days.

    As for the other 4, hopefully they will settle who is top dog on their own, and you will just see a little pecking to keep the top dog in place. Unless they draw blood, they are just establishing the pecking order, and this is natural, nothing you can do about it. Sometimes it does get so bad you end up making chicken stew, but usually they will eventually settle down. I would not isolate unless you see blood.
     
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I guess I took it as 60 sq. ft. total space, which if the case is very tight quarters for that many birds. So I'm happy to hear you're enlarging their coop/run. Everybody views their birds differently. I can't tolerate bullying. I can handle basic chicken politics...pecking at lesser birds when treats are involved, pecking for roost order, etc. But beyond that ticks me off. I've put two of my girls in "chicken jail" for a day, isolating them away from the rest of the flock because they were being nasty to two young newbies that I'd worked hard to integrate. Like yours, they'd taken to hiding inside the housing, afraid to come out. I didn't want that, as the rest of my girls did fine with the newbies. Most say they need to be in chicken jail for several days (and even then it might now work). It's supposed to knock them down a peg or two in the pecking order. My bullies seem to be doing better with them after just one day away from the flock. But maybe that is more because it gave the younger girls a chance to bond a little with others [​IMG] It's still not perfect, and I may have to resort to a few days if we have a set-back. But things went pretty well over the weekend.
    I'd try that before making soup or rehoming them. Since they are tag-teaming, I'd try to find a way to separate them from each other as well as from the flock...
    The extra space should help, but with a true bully, all the space in the world may not help. Adding various roosts and other barriers will help.
     
  6. Boo-Boo's Mama

    Boo-Boo's Mama Chillin' With My Peeps

    My 6 sex links do not allow any others to use the nesting boxes so since the others are beginning to lay now I have to watch so they do not 'kill' anyone! Today all the sex links finished laying by 11am so I put them all in jail so the newbies could lay. I'm hoping this gets better! [​IMG] The alpha hen will go in the box and pull them out by their head! [​IMG]
     

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