It's a beautiful day, and you poke your head in the chicken coop to wish your flock a good morning. Suddenly, you notice one of them is missing a sizable portion of feathers. Even though last night was spa night at the chicken house, you’re sure she didn’t pluck her feathers after shaping her eyebrows. What happened to your backyard chickens?! Unfortunately, you’ve probably got bullying in the flock.
While chickens are usually sweet and beautiful, some of them want to be the "Alpha." While determining the pecking order, unfortunately, they pick on each other. While a little squabble is ok, bullying can escalate quickly, leading to severe injury or death. So what can you do to prevent your backyard chickens from being henpecked?
Causes and Solutions
Causes: If we were playing Family Feud, overcrowding would come up as the most popular answer for henpecking. Each full-grown chicken requires 4 square feet in the coop and 8 square feet in the run. Similar to being confined during hurricanes or blizzards, no one wants to be with their family that much.
Solutions: There are two solutions to overcrowding. The first is expanding their coop and run space. The alternative is to remove the henpecked members to a different coop.
Causes: As we mentioned earlier, chickens establish a pecking order. Just like when you’re the new kid at school, newbies are naturally at the bottom.
Solutions: If you have a fully established flock, the newbies have the best chance of getting off on the right foot if they join when they’ve reached full-size. Additionally, when you put them in the coop, separate them from the other chickens but ensure they can see each other. After a week or two, try introducing them into the group.
Causes: Chickens have incredible intuition and can quickly discern if one of them is ill. If they weren’t domesticated, sick flock members would be driven away. This behavior remains today.
Solutions: Get medical care for your hen and separate her from the flock while she recovers.
Causes: Like many animals, chickens love a routine. Any change in the flock or the presence of a predator increases their stress. Also, anything that changes their routine can lead to stress.
Solutions: If you’re already sticking to your routine, other trivial things can be causing stress. For instance, if a light is left on all night in the coop, it disturbs their sleep. If a predator is lurking, keep them away from your peeps. Boredom can also be a stressor.
Causes: Boredom is most prevalent in the winter when they're "coop"ed up. Chickens don't like inclement weather, so to entertain themselves, they may pick fights.
Solutions: Try introducing new foods, perches, and items for your chickens to climb on, roost on, and dig through. Here are some really great boredom busters, too!
P.S. Check out our chicken fun ball as another option to boredom bust. Fill 'em up with grub bugs, scratch, bits of herbs... so many possibilities! Watch your hens have a blast chasing and pecking.
Causes: Many urban chicken parents aren’t permitted to have roosters. However, if you have one, they are at the top of the pecking order. Additionally, they can be too rough when mating.
Solutions: Unfortunately, the only way to stop roosters from bullying is to remove them from the flock.
If the above solutions aren't working for your flock, try these on for size:
Multiple Feed and Water Stations
The ratio of chickens to feed and water stations is 4-5 per station. When food is scarce, or there aren't enough feeding and watering stations, the smallest chickens can be kept from eating or drinking. This can cause them to grow weaker and increase the chances of bullying.
Who doesn’t love a place to hide to get away from it all? You can add additional perches or hay bales to create hiding spots. A note of caution; when creating hiding spots, ensure they can’t be trapped there.
Isolate the Henpecked Member
Offer protection while she rests and recovers but also gives her extra space where the rest of the flock can see her. The extra space elevates her rank in the pecking order. Therefore, when she rejoins the herd, she will have a better position.
Isolate the Aggressor
When you isolate the bullying hen, this decreases aggression. Additionally, it will move the bullying hen from the top of the pecking order.
All chickens are exceptionally social; therefore, you want peace in your hen house. Preventing bullying in the flock before it starts will keep them happy and healthy. 🐥🐤🐣