Who's the bully?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chickenkim, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. chickenkim

    chickenkim New Egg

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    I've spent enjoyable hours searching through the forums for answers, but haven't found an answer to my unique situation. Last summer, I had 10 hens. A coyote came through and killed 8 of them, leaving me with 2. (I sure learned my lessons about the pitfalls of free-ranging!) Last week I came across a craigslist ad listing 8 hens for a small rehoming fee. When I got there to pick them up, he already had them packed into a tupperware container, ready to go. I should have insisted on looking at them, but I didn't. I did look at his coop, which was very small...suitable for 2 or 3 chickens. They had NO run. He did say they were let out occasionally to roam his backyard. 5 RIR's, and 3 golden buffs. He said they were 15 months old. When I got them home, I found that 4 of the RIR's had huge bald spots on their backs and around vents. They are proving to be great layers. However, they are horribly mean to my 2 sweet surviving girls. I expected to have some adjustments in that area, and I was right. This morning, one of the RIR girls had dried blood all over her back (on the plucked area). I have no idea which chicken is doing this. I have spent hours watching them, but it just seems to be the normal minor squabbles. I have noticed some of them occasionally eating feathers off the ground, so I have added more protein to their diets. I don't know how long it would take for that to help. I'm getting some blu-kote for the bloody area, but I'm afraid this is not going to work itself out. Any advice for this newbie? Thank you so much! (I'm addicted to your site, BTW!)
     
  2. cackleberrycam

    cackleberrycam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, for one thing, they might be molting or not getting enough calcium.
    I would try giving them cheese of something that has calcium to help there feathers grow back.
    As for them being mean to the survivors, chicken social rules are alot different from ours! They will peck and fight to see who is the leader. (It is called the pecking order, and it is natural for chickens to do that.)
    As for the cannibalism, chickens love chicken blood, so it could get pecked to death! I would try putting a chicken saddle on the ones with bear backs.
    Good luck!
    [​IMG]
     
  3. chickenkim

    chickenkim New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2013
    I had never heard of chicken saddles before, but I've been looking them up and I could definitely see how they could help! Thanks so much for the advice! Hopefully, as they adjust to their new home stress levels will go down and they will calm down. I know cannibalism can get pretty scary, so I'm keeping a close eye on everyone. Their living conditiions before they came to me were awful, and even my modest accommodation must seem like heaven to them!
     
  4. chickenkim

    chickenkim New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2013
    I'm also wondering if it is possible they are just molting after all. It is all on their backs and butts. How could I tell for sure?
     
  5. chickyscratch

    chickyscratch Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 17, 2014
    colorado springs co.
    chickens have a natural peeking order.. add some oyster shells for them adds calcium. ..they may have mites as well try diatomaceous earth add this to there bedding area and sprinkle some to their food this will add minerals to their diet and get rid of worms and mites,
     
  6. cackleberrycam

    cackleberrycam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could tell for sure if they started loosing feathers all around thier body.
    Good luck with this!
     
  7. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    This is not regular molting and it's not normal pecking order behavior. What you might have is a flock with a bad pecking habit. If sounds like they were kept in far to small a space in their previous home and if they've developed this habit from stress and poor nutrition you may not be able to break them of it. Very hard habit to break.

    I would absolutely pen them separately from your existing two birds until you can sort this out. You may have one bird who is an instigator and gets them all started or you may just have a flock of 8 new hens with a terrible habit. Not a good situation. You'll just have to spend time watching them closely and see if you can figure it out. In the meantime make sure they have good nutrition and above all plenty of space, the more the better. A flock like this will need a huge amount of space if they are going to have a chance of forgetting this habit. Give them things to do, flakes of alfalfa hay are great for them to scratch apart and good nutrition in the leaves as well. Anything to get them out and just foraging and acting like chickens instead of picking.

    If you do notice that one or two birds seem to instigate this activity you can separate them out for a week or so and then try adding them back in. May or may not work.

    Edited to add: Check them all carefully for lice/mites and it would be a good idea to deworm everybody. They don't need the added discomfort of any parasite infestations on top of everything else. Since they are new to your property I'd also keep a close watch for any signs of coccidiosis in either the new birds or your existing birds. Very common to track in new strains from other property.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
  8. chickenkim

    chickenkim New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2013
    I actually have been able to let all of them roam for a good part of each day since I've had them, as I've been off work and able to stay outside with them to ward off the coyotes. My existing birds don't seem to have any injuries at all, but they are terrified and just cower in the corner if they're penned with the new girls. Unfortunatly, I've got to go back to work Monday. [​IMG] I'll have to find a place for my 2 earlier birds. The weird thing is, I've never actually seen anyone really actively plucking feathers. Very occasionally, a squabble will result in down on a beak, but that's really the extent of what I've seen. There are of them that seem to primarily attack the first girls, but I have no idea if they are the culprit(s) in the feather picking. I may try separating them out for a bit.

    I will definitely check everyone for mites/lice. I can't believe I didn't think of that myself! Thanks for your thoughtful advice!
     
  9. chickenkim

    chickenkim New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2013
    Update-

    I've been out this morning catching (whew!) and checking over the new birds. I didn't find any evidence of lice or mites. I looked up some of the helpful links on BYC, and I'm fairly sure I knew what I was looking for. Yippee! I also noticed that new feathers seem to be growing in. Aside from looking not so pretty, they seem to be pretty healthy.

    I'm hoping that based on the fact that I haven't seen them feather picking, and new growth is underway, maybe the active picking is over. My plan for now is to just keep a close eye on everyone. Keeping my fingers crossed! Thanks for all the advice....I'm always open to suggestions!
     

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