Hen Pecking Problems

Hen Pecking Problems

Unfortunately, my older hens (the Golden Wyandotte , the Giant Black Jersey and the  Buff Orpington) started to beat up on the white California Leghorn, so I had to separate her from the flock.  Her sister, the Road Island Red, who was raised with her since they were chicks didn’t do any of the hen pecking.  It was just the other three.  The Wyndodette was the first to start the abusive behavior .  She started bullying the Leghorn in the mornings while they were still in their hen house.  The poor thing wouldn’t even come down the ladder until I opened the door to let the other hens out of the coop.  After a few weeks the other two hens started to chase her also, and eventually they too started attacking and pecking on her.

I decided it was time to remove her from the back area when I saw all three jumping on her and pecking at her relentlessly.  It was obvious that they were trying to kill her.  I was in the potato bed at the time digging out the last of the potatoes when I saw the extreme abuse going on.  Somehow the Leghorn managed to get herself out from under all three hens who were on top of her, and she ran into where I was in the potato bed and hid herself under a big mound of straw.    I took her out from under the mound of straw and was horrified to see that it looked like one of her eyes had been pecked out!  She was weak and frightened, and her heart was beating very fast.  I knew then that I had to remove her immediately or this might be her last day.

I set up another feeding area near the old hen box near the fence for her to nest in.  I didn’t know what to do about the eye, so I just left it to let it heal on its own.  After about two weeks, it looked as good as new, so I guess it hadn’t been pecked out after all.

Later in the fall when I start letting the hens out into the larger backyard in the evenings, then I’ll see if the hen pecking will stop and let the Leghorn stay with them again.  During the winter, she’ll need a dry place and warmth at night when it gets freezing cold.

Now that I have this hen pecking problem, I have had to get information on it, so naturally to Google I went.  Here’s some of what I found:

Reasons why hens peck each other

  1. They are too crowded in the coop or in the nesting beds.
  2. They are bored and need more distraction.
  3. They see blood and it triggers them to keep attacking.
  4. They don’t have enough protein and other nutrients in their diet.


Suggestions and Possible Solutions:

  1. Separate them.
  2. Give them a bigger area to run in with places the attacked chicken can go to hide.
  3. Give them a distraction, like greens to eat such as corn cobs, cabbage, pumpkins, etc… Hang them if they are in a more enclosed area.  Throw them on the ground if they have a larger area to roam.
  4. Give them more entertainment to relieve their boredom like perches, toys, etc…
  5. Provide more than one food or water area so they can eat separately.
  6. Give them more protein like in a can of cat food now and then.
  7. Give them crumbles, it takes them longer to eat them.
  8. Spray the bloodied area with some purple antiseptic spray and it will also camouflage the area so the hens can’t see the blood.
  9. Use anti-pecking spray (don’t ask me what that is).
  10. Throw in a barrel of leaves to give them something extra to scratch in (only works in the fall)
  11. Use a water spray bottle on them and if they’re close enough then press down on their back like a rooster would do to interrupt their behavior
  12. If it’s just one bully in the bunch, remove her.  Cull the bully!
  13. Add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water until they stop.

I’m sure there are other good suggestions out there on the internet, but this is enough for now.   I’m optimistic that I can get a handle on this.  I’ll follow up later with another post when I get the final results.

The photo to the right is a shot of the New Hampshire Red.  She still misses her sister even after almost 3 weeks of separation. Everyday she squawks and paces wanting to get to her.  I’ll probably start letting her out in the outer garden too now that most of the vegetables are harvested.  One chicken is just tolerable, but two chickens is just about the limit.

When I let the white Leghorn run around the yard, she always runs into the house the first chance she gets so she can eat the cat food.  She loves the canned food, the dry food, and really anything else I’ve got in the bowl.  She’s eaten salmon, beef, and even chicken!  Anyway, I think it’s good for her to get more protein into her.  After the incident with the hen pecking, and when she had to be separately, she was so traumatized that she didn’t lay an egg for over a week.  Now she’s laying an egg almost daily.  She’s much happier and healthier, but she misses the other hens and still wants to be back with them even though they were so abusive.  I hope it will work out later.

Here is one Website link on hen pecking.  I’ll put up some more later if I can find some good ones:

This man’s website is so lovely.  Lots of great photos, and even though he’s trying to sell some items, it’s not a website cluttered with advertising.   His photos of his chickens and farm animals are wonderful!

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