Why is my 6.5 month Buff Orpington being so mean and what do I do?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by salamanda, Oct 23, 2011.

  1. salamanda

    salamanda New Egg

    Oct 23, 2011
    Hi everyone, this is my first time posting although I've read through many previous posts and am a big fan. I'm a first time chicken owner and am having a problem with my Buff Orpington. Here's what's happened:

    Three days ago I came home in the afternoon and noticed that my 6.5 month Cuckoo Marans looked very very sick. She looked so sick, I wasn't sure she was going to make through to the next day. I didn't know what the problem was so I brought her in the house for the night and let her sleep inside a large dog carrier by herself. She was just very lethargic and I noticed her feathers didn't look right. She didn't want to eat or drink and had a hard time keeping her eyes open. Then she stepped up into my lap and tried to fall asleep (before I moved her into the dog carrier.)

    I looked for wounds and couldn't find any, but it's hard to move all her feathers out of the way to see. There were no signs of predators so I thought she was sick and that the other chickens maybe were picking at her. By the next morning, she looked much better and seems to be normal now. I kept her isolated from the other chickens for 2 days so I could watch her.

    Yesterday I put her back in the coop and was sitting with my chickens when I noticed my Buff starting to really pull hard on the Marans feathers around her neck. Really hard! Like she was pulling at food. That's when I realized it was potentially my Orpington who had been picking on the Marans throughout that day and causing her to feel tired and sick. So I removed the Marans again and brought her back inside yesterday. I let them be together in the coop and in my backyard again today while I watched and they were fine for awhile. Then I noticed the Orpington pulling at the Marans again and then turning to pull at my Americauna's feathers around her head.

    These chickens have been together since they hatched. I have four total including a Dominique and an Americauna. I drove up to Ideal Chickens Hatchery and picked them up back in April. The Dominique is the "head hen" but doesn't display aggression like my Orpington does. This behavior is fairly new though. I noticed that she tends to yank on the Dominique's comb sometimes but then will stop. They always have plenty of Laying Ration and clean water and I bring vegetable and fruit snacks at least once a day. They are all the exact same age - 6.5 months. The Orpington started to lay eggs about 2 weeks ago and has laid 3 now. The Dominique is the only other layer so far.

    Other factors about them - they have a very secure but smallish coop - about 10 feet by 8 feet. I let them out in my yard when I'm home for an hour or two and watching them about 3 or 4 times a week. I live in a predator rich area so I don't feel comfortable letting them out when I'm not home. They've definitely been more active and loud since it's finally started to cool off and they've started to lay. (I'm in Central Texas and they lived through a very hot summer!) My Buff has a pretty jealous personality. She wants to be held constantly and pushes the other chickens out of the way if I'm hand feeding them treats. She also drinks a ton of water all the time. Her poop is watery a lot of the time and I was thinking it was because she drinks so much liquid. Today when they were in the yard together and taking a dirt bath, the Orpington leaned over and pulled at feathers of anyone she could get to. Then she stopped and went back to her bath.

    I'm trying to figure out if she's feeling sick and that's making her mean lately. Or whether she's stressed, or hungry or . . . . I don't know. Maybe she's just mean. I thought Orpingtons were supposed to be sweet chickens though. I'm going to try to post a picture of the coop too.

    I really love all my chickens and I'm surprised that this one is acting this way now. Now I have the Orpington in the house and the Marans out with the others. I don't feel like I can leave her alone with the other three now.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Will I ever be able to let her live with the others again? I have another shed I can do some work on to make it into a safe coop for her. I was thinking of maybe separating her permanently and putting her with an Orpington rooster out there and letting her try to pick on him.

    Thanks for any feedback!

    P.S. Not sure how to post the pic of my coop. It's that Garden Coop plan I saw online. Lots of air and secured with Hardware cloth on all sides besides the the upstairs box. Just wondering if it's not enough space for them and if that's causing the problem.
  2. Davian

    Davian Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 8, 2010
    Vermont, USA
    How many birds do you have overall? Does that 80 sq ft the entire space including the coop and run? It could be a crowding issue.

    Other possibilities include the BO simply needing more protein in her diet and/or a pecking order issue that should resolve itself once they figure out who gets to be head chicken.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2011
  3. mrpekinduck

    mrpekinduck Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2011
    Ducky Land!
    Sounds like feather picking. This can be caused by sickness, temperature change, or stress. Google "feather picking" and see what it seems like you're problem is. Good luck! [​IMG] [​IMG]

  4. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 31, 2008
    West Michigan
    My Coop
    I think you did the right thing removing your Buff Orp for now; it might take her down a peg. I agree you should check out the info on feather picking. I have heard that people have noticed some of their pullets get kind of ornery around the time they start laying and calm down again given time. I think you can try introducing her after a while and see what happens. At least you have the option of putting her with the rooster as a back up.

    Drinking a lot of water can create watery poop, but I am not sure why she is drinking so much now that it has cooled down some.
  5. PtldChick

    PtldChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    scratch'n'peck :

    I think you did the right thing removing your Buff Orp for now; it might take her down a peg.


    I would keep her out for at least a week before trying to reintroduce her. If she comes back in 'new' she'll be at the bottom of the pecking order and it might make a difference. I agree with looking into feather-picking. You might try a higher protein ration and add oyster shell free choice in case she needs more protein or calcium now that she's laying.

    Not all BOs are the Labs of the chicken world...​
  6. Nonny

    Nonny Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 16, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    The Garden Coop design can house up to 8 chickens, so I don't think crowding would be the problem if you only have 4.

    I noticed one of my girls moved up to the top of the pecking order when she was the first to start laying and she's stayed there ever since, although her only signs of aggression (that I've witnessed at least) are jumping on top of the submissive ones and pulling at the neck feathers for a second, then they all go about their business as normal, looking none the worse for wear.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011
  7. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 11, 2011
    I think your BO may have went up a peg in the pecking order when she started laying. My BO were very large girls, and while they were very sweet to me, they saw fit to push everyone in the coop around and act like a bunch of bullies. You mentioned that while they were dust bathing she pecked each of your chickens. This is a behavior I see my rooster do, I guess to put the girls in line and remind them who is boss. Perhaps that is what she is doing. Maybe she is a new head hen who has decided to act like a rooster (I've seen one of my hens mount another hen when we went without a rooster for a bit). I think removing her from the equation was a good idea. The other chickens will continue without her, and when you put her back she should have to earn her place among them again. Its really hard to say what's going on inside their little chicken brains. Good luck.
  8. Chickpeep

    Chickpeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2011
    West Kingston
    [​IMG] [​IMG] First I wanted to say Hi to you and all the other BYCer's here, just a short post to ask a clarification question or two? The original post was about a sick chicken. Is she still sick? How are the feather picking, which is a normal pecking order behavior, and the sickness related? Unless the BO is actually pulling feathers and injuring the other birds she is being the highest in the pecking order and showing it. So pardon my butting in but I am so confused [​IMG], can ya tell? [​IMG]
  9. salamanda

    salamanda New Egg

    Oct 23, 2011
    Thanks for the comments! I definitely appreciate them. The BO is still separated and I think I'll keep it that way for at least a week, although I did let them out all together in the backyard for a half hour this morning. She didn't peck or pull at anyone either. I normally give them Coyote Creek laying ration and have added some high protein snacks to their diets. I gave them cottage cheese mixed with ground up pumpkin seeds and ground beef this morning. I'll look into the Oyster shell free option too.

    One other thing I was noticing is that my BO was the slowest growing chicken throughout the summer. I thought all the heat we were experiencing was decreasing their appetites. Now that it's cooled off, the BO especially is ravenous! I'm hoping the bullying behavior is connected to her appetite and maybe the new egg laying. My BO acts like "howfunkyisurchicken's" BO's described in an earlier post. She craves my attention and pushes the others around to get it. She makes weird howling sounds when she sees me too - sounds like a goat or a crying baby. Weird.

    The Marans is much better and has looked better since she slept that first night away from the BO. She actually gave a good strong tug on the BO's comb this morning too! (The Marans has always been the lowest in terms of pecking order so not sure why the BO would pick her if she wanted to move up in the world.)

    Thanks again everyone! I'll send an update after I try to reintroduce her this weekend.
  10. AZBootsie

    AZBootsie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2010
    Congress, AZ
    My Coop

    Sounds like you are doing everything right. They have plenty of space. You could try to up the protein, sometimes feather picking can be a protein thing. If not, maybe you just have a cranky bird??

    Hope you find a solution soon!!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by