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#77933 - 07/22/07 07:07 PM Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Mamacat Patch Offline
New Egg

Registered: 07/12/07
Posts: 9
Loc: Indiana
We have 30 chickens of various breeds [haven't figured out what they all are yet] and they are 'about' 18 weeks old. We've gotten two eggs so far, about a week or so apart. From what we can tell, it seems just over half are males.

One of them has crooked feet, so we baby her and have since she was small. She's always come to us, wants to be picked up and/or petted. I even hand feed her bugs. But the last month or so she's been pecking at us. She pecks at our feet, our legs and our hands, even pecks after getting picked up. Now hubby thinks 'she' might be a 'he'!

Earlier when I went out to close up the coop for the night, she began to peck at my hands and I grabbed her around the neck, not choking her but letting her get the point that pecking was NOT acceptable! Then I gave her a toss. She came back and I tossed her again. She got some good pecks in and I've got blood bruises on my hand!

If she is a he, he's not an alpha male but is mostly a loner. How do you stop a chicken from being so aggressive? Why would she suddenly start being so aggressive toward us? Any chance they are 'jealousy' pecks or 'love' pecks? Or is that ridiculous? This is my first flock! We have become fond of this one, but much more of this and I'm putting her/him on the dinner menu!

But I would like to try everything I can FIRST to stop this aggressive behavior if possible. I've already sent some of the roosters 'airborne' for aggressive behavior toward me, so I have some ideas on being the 'alpha male' already. HELP!!

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#77934 - 07/23/07 04:08 AM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello,

Quote:
so we baby her and have since she was small.
Well, THIS is your answer! Sorry if I sound rude, didnīt intend to do so. But itīs true, "petting" or "spoiling" your birds will make them aggressive, no kidding.

Bird behaviour is rather complex, and I think you should quickly forget about all this "Alpha-male" stuff and such. Not because itīs not true, but because you most likely will NOT have the possibilities at home to raise the birds according to their needs so they can develop and practice their social behaviour. Most people just donīt have the recources, keeping a bunch of chickens is not comparably(sp?) with a working flock-structure in nature, where the birds have PLENTY of space for example.

Again, didnīt want to sound rude,

best greetings,

Joachim

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#77935 - 07/23/07 07:51 AM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Hen Sense Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 03/09/07
Posts: 208
Loc: Ohio
Your hubby is probably right, as is Joachim, as this sounds to me like the behavior of a petted cockerel. You know the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt"? Well, that's the rule for roos, generally speaking. I've had several cockerels that ended up as biters after being spoiled as chicks (it's usually best not to pet cockerels too much--although some seem to do just fine with TLC--breed is a factor, as is individual temperament, and the frequency of handling/petting). Pullets seldom seem to have this problem with aggression and make much better pets. I know of no way to stop the biting once it starts. This cockerel, if that's what it is, will probably always attack you. Realistically, it may be time to get out the roasting pan...

Recently, I had a Brahma bantam that I was nearly sure was a pullet, so I petted it and hand-fed it treats. When it turned out to be a cockerel (the beautiful, shining saddle feathers were a dead giveaway), it began to attack my feet viciously when I walked into the coop (bantam, y'know). Its less petted sibling, which I always suspected was a roo, ended up being a nice, mild-tempered cockerel. But this one, well... So, yesterday, I got out the stew pot, then I walked into the coop, stood there and announced, "well, these feet aren't going to attack themselves," and sure enough, here he came running out to bite them, which at least made him very easy to catch...

Best of luck.

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#77936 - 07/23/07 03:07 PM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Susie Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 1902
Loc: Arkansas
I think it's just individual personality or perhaps genetics. I've had day old birds show aggressive behavior and chalked that up to genetics, as they came from a mean rooster. I've never had a link to handling them as chicks.

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#77937 - 07/23/07 03:13 PM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Oakie Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 08/30/02
Posts: 415
Loc: Oklahoma
I'll put a different spin on this from an experience I had. We had a deformed chick that we spoiled and fed as well and when she got older she would come up and peck at our feet and hands when we picked her up. I can't remember who told me this from the coop but sometimes when injured or deformed chickens become aggressive it is because they are hungry and because of the deformity have a hard time fending off other chickens that can push them around. Again, I am not disagreeing with the others just throwing something else out for consideration.

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#77938 - 07/23/07 03:34 PM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
CJR Online   content
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8490
Loc: Montana
Chickens are wonderful "pets", but not in the same way that kittens and puppies are. I think that is one misunderstanding about chickens. Few birds, and this also means cage birds, like to be held or have their wings restricted. Most will tolerate it (mine have to at times, and so do Show birds, as they are handled by strangers during judging), but it is not their natural response to handling. A good many birds that seem to "like" being cuddled and held, have other conditions that tolerate it. They come at a whistle or call, for feed,not because they like us. (But they DO know us and may fear stangers.) Rare are birds that truly like to be held. Why is it that the cuddly one is the one that gets sick and dies young? Sometimes that sweet bird has been ailing for some time and has not been displaying its weakness. And the tamest one is at risk for injury by dogs or varmints because it has lost some of its natural fear and does not flee or fly in time.

Mean or aggressive is both a way to communicate "leave me alone!! I"m tired of being handled"--or "I am King and you are not to offend me by your presence!"

All of my birds tolerate handling for inspection and smoothing of feathers--brief encounters. Some are very easy to catch and hold. All setting hen tolerate inpspection of their eggs and chicks, even if it means wearing a glove on one hand--few are that protective. And cocks are not teased or provoked when handling "their" hens--are given respectful position before picking up any hens.

Aggressive birds are related to the same personality as Fighting Cocks--just a lesser degree. Most chickens, when confined, will come to the aid of another chicken that is displaying a fright or fear reaction. They can't do anything about it, but there is a group defensive hint of display. Cure an aggressive bird?--not dependably--either take precautions or remove the offending birds!

Not all will agree, but it works for me! CJR

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#77939 - 07/23/07 04:32 PM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Hen Sense Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 03/09/07
Posts: 208
Loc: Ohio
Susie, yeah, I handle all of my chicks too, and I agree that there are always variations in temperament. But I've genuinely spoiled and petted a few of my birds over the years: this goes beyond ordinary handling and usually involves singling out one bird for extra TLC (not because it is ill, but because, perhaps, as in one case, it comically flies up on the waterer every time I open the brooder lid, trying to get to me). I find that there's then a correlated problem with the roos. Often, these roos were anything BUT aggressive as chicks. As a matter of fact, the reason I was petting them was because I thought they were gentle little pullets. These cockerels will change drastically when they begin to reach maturity, in much the way the OP describes.

On the other hand, Oakie, I enjoy keeping the spoiled hens, as they are very familiar and calm, and they only lightly peck at my clothes and shoes for attention and do not intend any harm. Spoiled cockerels, on the other hand, will sometimes begin to attack and bite, meaning to draw blood. There is no mistaking this behavior for the other. I think it is because they are trying to establish dominance.

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#77940 - 07/24/07 03:30 AM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Susie Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 1902
Loc: Arkansas
Hensense, I wonder if what you've experienced is not a "friendly" chick but rather the ones who are more curious and more willing to come to your hand in the brooder, are in reality more aggressive personalities. I have definitely had that happen before.

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#77941 - 07/24/07 06:47 AM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Hen Sense Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 03/09/07
Posts: 208
Loc: Ohio
Susie, yes, this could be part of it, although these also seem to be the ones that, if pullets, are more genuinely "friendly" as they mature. I have a Rhode Island Red hen that was this sort of chick; and she's still curious and social, seeking out human contact, and is one of my favorites. If she had been a rooster, though, I wonder. Perhaps whatever it is that we mean by "friendliness" in a chicken can become aggression when the male hormones kick in. It's certainly an interesting part of chicken behavior.

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#77942 - 08/10/07 06:06 AM Re: Suddenly Aggressive Chicken
Mamacat Patch Offline
New Egg

Registered: 07/12/07
Posts: 9
Loc: Indiana
I ended up separating the roosters from the hens by dividing the run in half. We tried to find someone to process the roosters but were not successful.

So, we let the roosters run by putting a "door" in their side of the run so they can come and go. Now they basically have the "run" of the yard, woods, etc. Two were killed the first and second day out when they flew into the fenced dog area where our three dogs are. Glad I didn't witness it, but we did find the feathers in their part of the yard and ultimately the carcasses which they didn't eat. Guess the dogs saw the roosters as invading their domain.

Eventually, we are hoping that the roosters will be fewer, and we do plan to process some ourselves before winter. Hubby assures me he knows how to do it.

Meanwhile the hens and the alpha rooster are happy in their coop and run. Still weeding out a few that I can't tell if they are hens or roosters; but all in all, I've learned a valuable lesson and a tragic lesson with it all.

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