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#13984 - 05/01/03 04:36 AM One of our hens is being attacked by another

Hi All
We have 4 hens, 2 which we've had for years, and 2 young ones which we added 6 months ago. They all seemed to get along fine. Recently we noticed that one of the new hens was missing some feathers around her head and neck. Yesterday it bacame obvious that one or both of the older hens was attacking her, and there was a nasty cut on the back of her neck.

I put the injured hen in a mesh fronted box within the main run over night. This morning the wound looked like it was clotted, and she seemed quite happy. I shooed the older birds back into the coop, shut the door and let the victim out into the run. After half an hour or so, she looked fine, behaving normally, so I let the old birds back out into the run. After just a few seconds, one of the old birds launched into a vicious attack, opened the wound again and there was a lot more blood. I had to rescue the poor thing and put it back in the isolation box.

Does anyone know what causes this behavior, and is there anything we can do to prevent it? I think the old birds will kill her if we can't sort it out. It's all quite distressing.



#13985 - 05/01/03 04:48 AM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another

It sounds like you have some hens that are getting their pecking order established which is a common occurence in adding new birds to an existing flock. First old are the new birds you are adding?...if they are reasonably close in sizes then what I would do is first..the injured hen that is getting hammered...seperate her out and get her wounds healed first. Then get some Blu-kote or pine tar and put that on her picked areas. You may try building a "jail" pen within your main run and keep the new birds in there with food and water so the other birds get accustomed to them...keep them in there a week or so..then at nite when your birds have gone to roost try introducing the new birds into the roost area...this is just what I do when I bring my new birds out into my main coops. I'm sure you will get more responses than this one...
Good luck and hope they all adapt!


#13986 - 05/01/03 05:03 AM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another

Just thought I should add, the new hens are White Sussex, and have been getting along fine, since last autumn, with the old birds which are Welsummers. It's the bigger of the 2 new birds which is being attacked.

You can see a pic of them all before the trouble began at

Thanks again

#13987 - 05/01/03 08:39 AM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8501
Loc: Montana
David, Chickens are just like people in a few respects. One is "getting along"! We do not see the body language that may trigger the attack, but you may be sure that the poor hen that is being beaten up, will forever show fear when she is in the pen with her tormentor--and that is a signal for "attack". Hens frequently show preference for their own color--even if they lived together for some months peacefully.

I have never found that penning new birds next to older ones to "get acquainted" ever worked!! While the newer or younger ones could not wait to mingle with the others--the older birds were just making plans to "get the new ones" the minute the fence came down--and so I never mix any new birds with older ones, except in unusual cases. Even setting hens sometimes can never go back with their original penmates after hatching. She is "new" and they won't have her in the pen.

Indeed your hen will be killed, if the situation continues. Only after every sign of the injury is healed, can she be put back with the others. You might, at that time, take out the hen that is so mean to her--and let her have a week or two of isolation. It might give the white hen a chance to regain some position with the other hens. So sad that these things happen when least expected. It is up to us to figure out what is the best action to take--maybe trying several!
Good luck, CJR

#13988 - 05/01/03 02:20 PM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another
Bill Ludwig Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 2582
Loc: Ohio
Hi David

You said they have gotten along since last fall. In my limited experience with poultry, it seems that tempers flare in the spring. My flock has been together for just over two years but each spring the peck order has been challenged. This may not be typical but its what I've seen in mine. Sounds like you are going to have to keep a close eye on things. Good luck.


#13989 - 05/02/03 05:48 AM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another

Thanks for your replies - I didn't realise how brutal these cute little cluckers could be. I think a challenge for 'boss hen' probably sparked this one off.
The injured hen is now in isolation 'til she's better. The wound has scabbed over and she seems quite happy, more concerned with why she's locked up than her near death experience yesterday! Of course she's stopped laying aswell!


#13990 - 05/03/03 01:46 PM Re: One of our hens is being attacked by another
Kaalnek Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 415
Loc: California
I think you figured out the most likely cause- she challenged the older hen.

The older hen is exhibiting perfectly normal behavior in this situation. It becomes a "problem" only when the loser cannot get away from the victor or somehow gets cornered.

It is possible to remerge her, the old hen will want to be extra bossy on her for a while though so better let them interact freerange (if you lets yours out of the coop?) so she can chase her around to her heart's content and she will ease up on bossing her around so hard eventually.

One thing though.. if it all came about because she did challenge the older hen, if you keep her isolated until she heals, she may regain the courage to challenge the older hen upon re-introduction. In this case, if you let the hens freerange I would recommend letting all out at once soon- as in tomorrow or 2 days later(and close the coop so she cant get cornered in there should she go in while you aren't out to observe). Her defeat would still be fresh in her memory and she should not try to challenge her again this soon.


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