When hens attack...

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by gcvmom, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Okay, I understand all about pecking order with hens, and why cannibalism can occur. But I'm am baffled by a recent change in the behavior of one of my hens.

    For several weeks now, Coco, a black hen who is the third smallest of the four, has been attacking Butterscotch, one of the two large red hens (they easily outweigh the offender by double). Coco only singles out Butterscotch, going after her head and sometimes draws blood on her comb. Butterscotch is now intimidated by Coco and avoids her.

    These hens are all about 10 months old, and were all raised as chicks by us, so it's not like they are new to eachother. None of them seems sick and egg production has not dropped off.

    Any ideas about what's going on here? I'm wondering if I should separate the offender from the rest of the group.
  2. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

  3. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    My guess is that Coco is making a move up the pecking order... she needs to get Butterscotch out of the way. Nature is very cruel.
  4. lmf64

    lmf64 New Member

    Sounds to me like Coco doesn't like Butterscotch. sorry I'm no help, but hey sometimes someone does something that makes ya mad and until you run em off ya just gotta peck at em.
  5. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    It sounds like Coco is pretty smart. It's tough being little and she sensed a weakness in a larger bird and took her opportunity to "move up the ranks", as it were. I think it's Mother Nature at work...

    However, if you would like all the chickies to work and play nicely together, you may have to pull Coco aside and explain that while you love her, you do not approve of these types of behaviors. Warn her that if she continues to pick on Butterscotch, you will separate her from the other hens.

    And don't let her give you any lip...er, beak...about it either. You don't want to have to tolerate any disrespectful back-talk.

    That should do it...doncha think?

  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Ok....now I know he will think I am crazy but maybe we should just put Jamies phone number on the board and let him be our animal guru...lol.

    Ok...Im gonna call Tony.

    Ok he says this is the natural pecking order thing and Coco has sensed a weakness and gone after Butterscotch. Unless...and this is unlikely, Coco is pecking at the tail and pulling out all the tail feathers to get at the blood which could show a vitamin deficiency.

    Most likely its the pecking order and Coco is trying to climb the ladder and she is going up and Butterscotch just moved out of the way and until one of the others tries to mess with Coco, that is how it will be.
  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    What the cluck? Yeah, no beak talk, I mean, back talk tolerated here! Oh well.

    Actually, Coco IS quite smart. She reminds me a lot of Herbert. :( The reds are rather docile and dumb, and they stick together. Coco's more of a renegade. I would have thought she'd pick on Minerva, the runt of the group, but I guess she poses no threat, so why bother. So Janet, how long will this power play last?

    If it doesn't improve soon, I may just separate her from the flock for a bit. Sheesh, now I can't even get my chickens to behave!
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Power play lasts until she is Queen of the roost. Problem is you have no King!
  9. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Yes, that is true. I only have a Jester... :tongue: But don't tell him that -- he thinks he's wearing a crown, when in truth, I'm the one with the tiara!
  10. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I imagine that Coco has found some sort of flaw or weakness in Butterscotch and is taking advantage of the opportunity to move up in the flock.
  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    If Butterscotch is docile and dumb, and staying in the ranks isn't important to her, she'll likely learn to move out of the way quickly.

    But, chickens will peck at anything that's not "normal" to them, so if Coca has caused bare spots or scabs on Butterscotch's head, that may be the reason for the repeated attacks. It may be better to pull Butterscotch out and let her heal and allow Coco to have her position in the flock un-opposed. But I'm not chicken guru, so...
  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Shari is right there too. You may not notice this but if Butterscotch has a boo boo and flies get on it, they can lay eggs which produce maggots. (Yeah I know...ewww)

    Chickens love maggots. So Coco would be picking at the boo boos to get at the maggots too.
  13. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Fortunately, there is only one or two very small, and I mean VERY small scabs on her comb. She doesn't wait around while Coco does her pecking -- she gets away as quick as she can and is even starting to avoid her. So I'm not too worried about a maggot infestation, but I'll keep my eye on it.

    I'm also going to try to let them roam around more in the yard this weekend. Maybe getting out of the run for more than just an hour or two will help.
  14. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    Queen of the chickens? OMG - I'm going to get FIRED for sure. ROFLMtiara off. :tongue:
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I respect the theories of mineral deficiency and perhaps maggot hunting, but tis sounds to me exactly like a power play move. Chook size doesn't matter here, it always comes down to - can I beat that hen into being subservient to me? Presence of rooster or not makes little difference, I've seen hens push them around. I've even seen subordinate roosters imitate lower pecking order hens in order to avoid being beaten up. We had a young rooster that had to go, so we gave it to neighbours who were rooster-less. Our neighbour's hens scalped the young rooster, he got pulled out and segregated just in time. Once he was older and bigger (we called him Turkey) he grew to be a beautiful bird with a scar on his head. But when older he was able to rule the roost, but not well enouh to stay. We finally had to get rid of him, he was just too noisy.

    It will settle down. It's possible that Buttercup is unwell at the moment and Coco is smart enough to notice this. Flocking birds hide any ilness or infirmity, in order to avoid being attacked for it. But if it continues you probably need to remove either Coco or Buttercup for a while.

    You said they're young and you hatched them out. How sure are you of their gender? Also be aware - some hens can be hermaphrodites. We had some that had both sets of sex organs (we discovered on autopsy). We learned to despatch the roosters (because oterwise they would either fight to the death, or crow and disturb the neighbours) and a few times we found, on cleaning the chooks, ovaries AND testes. It was often these hermaphrodite birds that were the most aggressive.

    I had a neighbour, an old retired farmer, who gratefully accepted gifts of giblets etc. I took him these testes and he commented on the large size of them (compared to the small size of the bird they came from). He said he was nervous about what eating those testes would do to him, but was also nervous about feeding them to the magpies on his balcony. We envisaged Jurassic Park resulting, with what could happen if we loaded those raptors with more testosterone. Or if one of the native parrots got hold of the testes, would we come out one day to find a 300 pound parrot on the balcony, saying, "Polly want a cracker - NOW!!"

  16. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    What the cluck?:devil:another one that got around the board censor. You must be feeling frisky....
  17. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Marg, they are definitely hens -- they've been producing eggs for six months now :) Whether or not Coco holds a bonus surprise inside somewhere will forever remain a mystery (no way easy child would ever allow a necropsy after their eventual passing).

    I'm hopeful things will settle down soon.

    3S... I can be sneaky sometimes, eh? ;)
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    OK, I get that you'll never be able to find out for sure. Just bear in mind, it does happen fairly often, especially with backyard chooks which can get inbred (or the ones you get can come from inbred stock).

    We had another wonky gene in our chooks - an extra toe on some of them. Often the ones with the extra toe were also hermaphroditic, but we had many more with the extra toe than had the double set of sex organs. And yes, we did get eggs from some of the hermaphrodites too.