Do you ever have that one mean, troublesome and bullying chicken that disrupts the peace of the flock, pecking at the weakest chickens? Some even go as far as to pecking other chickens’ combs, and even worse, they peck them to death. If you have such a chicken, there are a few things you can do to prevent this.
Why chickens peck each other
Pecking order is a cycle that hens go through. It is how older chickens respond to the addition of new chickens to a flock. They peck and chase the new visitors, so that they can keep their spot in the order. In other words, they want to be the “queen bee” or the “top hen.” The hens that peck are the ones that get the most treats and food, and get to choose where they sleep at night in the coop. Surprising right? Well chickens have brains too!
Unfortunately, the hens at the bottom of the pecking order get pushed around, pecked daily, get small, quick meals before the top hen chases them away. The top hens push the lower hens into a corner at night, and pluck out their feathers. Funny how this could directly relate to us humans. When you’re in charge, you get more space, food and more respect.
Hens take their nests very seriously
Pecking can make you worry about your flock. Top hens bully new hens in the first few weeks. They peck, chase and pull out their feathers. However, once the new hens settle in, the flock becomes peaceful. They will only peck each other when they want another hen to leave the food or go away. The lower class hens then mingle with the top hens and can be with them all the time without any bullying.
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Broody hens peck too
When a hen is broody, she will sit on her eggs all day long and only get up to get food and water til they hatch. Even when she gets up to eat, she rushes back as soon as possible to her nest and sits down again. Such a hen can bite and attack anyone that comes near her, human or hen. It sits on eggs for 21 days, and hatch them. Most hens go through this in their life. They have the urge to be a mother. So, be patient if you’re not growing your flock and eating the eggs. Breaking her of this, can be hard because she is very persistent at this stage.
You have to diligently take her out as often as you can. However, be careful when you pick her up because she may try to fight back. Place her next to some food close the coop. She goes back to her nest at night, and in the morning you have to take her out again. It’s not a short process, but works eventually. You have to make her want to be outside so that she doesn’t want to be broody anymore.
When a hen is sitting on imaginary babies!
A good way to break a broody hen sitting on imaginary eggs is to take a wire gauze and let the broody girl sit there. The bottom should have air flowing through it. This way, she won’t be able to generate warmth, and can’t keep her imaginary eggs warm. Within about 4 days, she will be back to normal.
What to do about a bullying chicken that isn’t brooding
A lot of times a hen becomes mean for no particular reason. Some hens will hog the food bowl and not allow the others eat from it. She could be bored especially if you keep them in a coup all day or just tired of being in a small pen. If this is the case, let them out more often to wonder for a couple of hours.
Another way to treat a bullying hen is to separate her. This is called the “Separation method”. You have to put her in another pen where she can’t see her flock. Give her water and food, and have a crate ready for when it gets dark. If you allow her to see or come in contact with other chickens, this method will not work. What the separation method does, is makes her and the flock forget about each other. Bring her back to the flock after 10 days. They will go through the pecking order again, but once the process is over, the fighting stops. If she starts bullying again, repeat the process for a longer period or serve her for Sunday lunch!