Why is my chicken such a jerk?
April 9, 2012 7:14 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop my chicken from pecking my other chickens?

Ok, I have 9 chickens - 8 hens and one rooster. I got them as chicks, so they've grown up together. I have a nice little coop that they sleep in at night, and during the day they have a fenced area outside that they can run around in. They're about 5 months old and have been producing eggs for about a month. They seem happy and healthy.

HOWEVER. one of the hens keeps pecking at the back of the rooster and one of the other chickens. I've googled how to stop this kind of behavior, but everything I've found seems to suggest an overall problem, like the chickens are bored or they're not getting enough calcium.... but it's only ONE chicken who's doing it. And she's always doing it to the same two chickens, the rooster and one of the hens. Which makes me think it's some kind of jealousy thing.

I"m so worried! What can I do?
posted by silverstatue to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, yeah, bitches be crazy.

Ahem. What I mean to say is: the idea of the "pecking order" is definitely something you'll see play out all the time. Chickens' social order doesn't seem very stable -- everyone's just waiting for someone to have a bad day so they can move up.

Unless she's pecking them to injury or feather loss, I wouldn't worry too much about it -- she may just be a jerk. I had one of those, and none of us were too sad when she mysteriously disappeared one day. The problem is, if you've got a latent jerk in your flock, if she leaves or is "dealt with," that one may take her place.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:25 AM on April 9, 2012

I don't try to reason with poultry. It is a waste of time and annoys the poultry.

I'd say Jerk Chicken is trying to establish the pecking order (no accident it is called that). They have gone through their chicken puberty and are sorting out who is BossChook. You might want to separate her and try reintroducing slowly. Can you enclose her in a portion of your chicken house?

On preview, what fiercecupcake said right down to calling the bird a jerk. :D
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:28 AM on April 9, 2012

The traditional solution to a problem hen is to eat her for dinner.

The reason we acquired a pet chicken is that all of the other hens were picking on this one hen in my friend's flock, pulling out every last one of her tail feathers, and pecking off her poor comb.

Our friend decided the only solution was to find another home for the abused hen, and talked us into taking her. She brought us the hen in a cat carrier, let her out in our fenced backyard, and introduced her to us, saying, "Meet Buttless Bob." She became a very attractive chicken after she recovered from the abuse the other chickens had heaped on her.

Turns out that, while chickens are happier living in groups, a solitary chicken can get by fine with plenty of human attention. We liked ours so much that, after she was tragically eaten by an opossum, we got another hen.
posted by Ery at 7:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have never raised chickens. However, in a conversation with someone who has raised many, I was told that two solutions for bad chicken behavior was a) picking them up and cuddling them, which destroyed their reputations and b) grabbing them by the feet and holding them on their backs on the ground, which would encourage all the other chickens to gang up on them. This apparently led to chastened chickens for a few days to a week. I cannot vouch for the accuracy, but she seemed confident.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:31 AM on April 9, 2012

I do not have chickens yet but I hear that if you separate the aggressor for a few days they come back lower on the totem pole.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:39 AM on April 9, 2012

My family had this problem with several otherwise charming chickens. We tried a lot of things before landing on poly peepers. They're small, plastic eyepieces that (gently and non-harmfully) attach to the bully chicken's beak. I know it seems cruel, but it's a lot kinder than allowing the bully to keep picking on everyone else.
posted by pie ninja at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

She's definitely harming the other two. The rooster in particular is all red and raw where she's pecked him (all the feathers are gone on that spot on his back). I don't understand why he isn't standing up for himself. He's twice her size!

I will try to isolate her for a couple days and see what happens. If that doesnt solve the problem, I can look into the poly peeper things.
posted by silverstatue at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2012

My dad had this same problem with other chickens pecking at two particular chickens. The 2 on the bottom of the pecking-order were all raw and plucked bare of feathers. He got the two who were being tortured the hensaver and that seems to have solved the trouble. Yeah, they have to walk around with jackets, but at least they aren't bloody and sore.

Oh, and he tried the other stuff like putting more protein in their food, etc. None of that worked.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:36 AM on April 9, 2012

They also make saddles for chickens that could help with the back-pecking.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:37 AM on April 9, 2012

I've had chickens for years,and based on my experiences, although the separation thing *might* work, the hen may come back even grumpier than before, and redouble her pecking. Is there any possibility of finding her a new home?
posted by PlantGoddess at 9:26 AM on April 9, 2012

You can try Blue Kote or pine tar on the picked chickens. It is said to taste unpleasant and may stop the chicken from picking for a while. I would also look at increasing the salt available to you hens. And if all else fails there is always Coq au Vin.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you let them roam free? If they can get away from each other it helps. Otherwise, chicken soup is a time honored method for dealing with this.
posted by fshgrl at 11:13 AM on April 9, 2012

Or better yet Jerk Chicken
posted by The Violet Cypher at 11:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

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