Are you having problems with one your hens getting picked on? Is she missing feathers on her back even to the point of being bloody? These could be signs that you have chicken bullies on your hands.
Are you struggling to decide if it’s just the flock going through their pecking order or if it’s bullying?
Let’s look at how to tell if your hen or rooster is a bully and tactics on how to stop that bad behavior!
Chicken Bullies and Tactics to Stop Them
The pecking order in a flock is a reality.
Hens, as well as roosters, establish a type of hierarchy in the flock with each chicken creating their rank ‘n’ file. There are a few factors that come into play here, personality, age, breed of chicken, among other things.
When a flock comes together, or some new flock mates are joining, there will be what looks like bullying. There will be chasing, picking feathers and wing slapping. Thankfully, it doesn’t last for long, and then the flock settles into its new pecking order.
Bullying, however, lasts much longer and if not stopped, may be fatal.
What Causes a Chicken to Bully?
First, let’s take a look at reasons that can cause bullying.
Sickness in a chicken can cause the rest of the flock to be on high alert. Their instinct is to remove the sick one from the flock, and they will begin pecking and pulling feathers to get them to leave.
Stress is a significant factor, and chickens become stressed during the hot months of summer when they have changes in diet, they lose or gain flockmates or have a new coop. Chickens are touchy to change, so be on the lookout whenever you make changes with your flock.
A broody hen can be isolated and pecked by other hens. The other hens could keep the broody hen from getting food and water and when she comes out of the nest, attack her for not doing her part in the flock.
If chickens don’t have enough room, this also can cause bullying. Their instinct once again is for survival, so if they don’t have enough room, they try to make the others leave to alleviate the situation.
Measures to Take
The first measure is to check over the hen to make sure she is not sick. A thorough once over will help you decide if she needs to be removed to the chicken hospital or not. If so, letting her recover, there is the best option for reducing the risk of spreading the disease. However, it comes with a risk of more bullying for the hen. If you can treat her and place her back in the flock, it is best.
If it’s not a sickness in the hen, then check for stressors. Is there anything you’ve changed recently or a stressor you see that you can alleviate?
If it’s during one of the seasons where the flock doesn’t get out as much, such as winter, there are several boredom busters you can add for your flock such as throwing mealworms in with new bedding for the coop and adding entertainment into the coop such as mirrors, hanging cabbages or new roosting areas.
To help broody hens. lock them outside of the coop for a day or so. This strategy can break their broody behavior and go back to their place in the flock.
If overcrowding is the issue, you may have to separate your flock or re-home some of them to help the situation.
How to Stop Chicken Bullies
There are several ways to deal with chicken bullies:
Behavior modification can come in a variety of ways, and using a Squirt gun on the bully when she is aggressive can change her behavior. This method is time-consuming for the flock owner but costs very little.
Pinless Peepers restrict the view directly in front of the chicken. These “glasses” don’t inhibit all their sight as they can see to the sides, but it stops the picking of feathers on another hen. They’re quite inexpensive, and it’s recommended to use a unique pair of pliers to place them on the hen.
Incarcerating the bully is a great way to modify her behavior. Separation from the rest of the flock while still in view is preferable. Chickens are social birds, and hopefully, after a few days, you can return her to the flock where she will have to go through the pecking order once again.
If you’re having problems with more than one hen being a bully, then isolating the flock in their coop and run and allowing the bullied hen to roam free and forage quickly changes the pecking order. The bullied hen is raised in status, while the rest of the flock lowers.
Alas, you may have tried all types of gentle behavior modification but to no end. It is time to think about rehoming the hen to a different flock. Rehoming is definitely the last resort but sometimes is necessary.
Hopefully, your flock lives peacefully together, but if not, here are some causes and solutions to the problem of bullying in your flock.
How do you take care of a bullying hen?
We’d love to hear about it in the comments!