Hens Fighting

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cuwiar
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Hens Fighting

Post by cuwiar » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:37 pm

Hi all! It's been a while - I hope you're all good - I'm going to have a scan of the posts to see what's been going on!

As ever, it's a problem that prompts me to seek advice!

All's been well with our flock (5 birds) until about two months ago when one of the hens started picking fights with the others. She was second in command and started picking on the lowest in the pecking order. The lowly one has always had it a bit rough but was generally fine, meaness from the top girl eventually changed into mounting cockerel style which was less stressful for her than being pecked and she seemed ok with it!

Anyway, these hens have all lived together for around 18 months now and the fighting has only recently started.

They have lots of space to roam (full veg plot), plenty of room in their house, plenty of food and water to access but the naughty one would start strutting around the lowly one, they'd both start pecking the floor, eye to eye and before you know it they're cock fighting mid air and pulling combs, chasing each other etc. It's strange that the lowest of the pecking order will actually rise to a fight, she's always run away from confrontation before. She's obviously planned to move through the ranks and isn't afraid of fighting for it but she's not the trouble maker!

The main target seems to be the lowly one but the mean one also goes for the one who is middle of the group. The other one stays well out of way!

After I would separate a fight the mean one would crow. Actually stand full height, stretch her neck and crow! I started thinking she was having a sex change!

She's been separated from the others for weeks now. She has got her own house, food and plenty of space for one but I'm worried about it getting cold at night and her being on her own.

I was hoping the time out would change the pecking order, in some ways it has as the lowly one is now very friendly with top hen and they hang together all the time. That has probably p!$$3d off the one who been separated!

The only one who hasn't moulted is the mean one - again I was hoping she would so that something might change hormonally? She can see the others and interact through the fence but there's still underlying aggression there. I let her out as a trial a few weeks ago and she straight away went looking for trouble (with the middle girl). After a kick off the whole flock are very unsettled and quite stressy. It's not a good situation for any of them but I'm not sure what to do.

Has anyone had any experience of this? Is it something that can disappear or will she always be aggressive? She's actually still laying every couple of days (non of the others are now) so she isn't sex changing! Or if she is it's very slowly! :-)07
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chrismahon
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Re: Hens Fighting

Post by chrismahon » Mon Nov 14, 2016 1:10 pm

Hi Cuwiar and welcome back. Good here now we have sold in England and bought locally- start the final move in May.

It's not unusual for the pecking order to shift about during moulting. The one not moulting attempts to bump herself up the pecking order by attacking those above who are moulting and therefore are at their weakest. The top hen is always the top hen and will not be challenged, no matter what her condition. So it seems this hen has got the process rather wrong? Or perhaps the one at the bottom wants to move up to 2nd place and actually she is the problem?

Crowing in hens is not unusual, here certainly. We have about 4 hens crowing (or attempting to) but no aggression either when in lay or not. Seems the top hens do it because they like to, even when they have a cock in with them although the main players are in 'hen only' groups.

It isn't unheard of for hens to apparently change sex. This is a result of a damaged ovary (only one of the two works), at which point she will crow, tread the hens and grow a large comb and wattles. The surge of testosterone is the reason. Now it could be she isn't laying and all this behaviour will stop when she is? Or she may be the one in a thousand that changes?

Of course the fighting will start again when the one separated fights her way up the ranks again. Difficult position, but I think separation was the right thing to do and now it's a case of waiting until all the moulting is finished and they are all in top condition before re-introducing her.
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cuwiar
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Re: Hens Fighting

Post by cuwiar » Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:43 pm

Hi Chris, glad to hear things are going well for you and good to hear from you!

The aggressive hen has never challenged the top hen, as you have noted! The aggression started well before the others started their moult though. The one starting the fights hasn't moulted at all and the one who she's really got it in for has only just started her moult - they've been separated for weeks! And the one who is aggressive was second in command anyway - she had no need to move up the pecking order!

Maybe the bottom one started to want to move through the ranks so stopped running away at confrontation and started standing up for herself which has worried the aggressive one so shes picking fights with anyone who doesn't back down?

I am doubtful it is a sex change to be honest. As I said the aggressive one is now they only one who is laying!

She can be comfortably separated for as long as necessary but on her own in a coop during the cold nights is sad and what if she never snaps out of her aggression!?

It's a dilemma!
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chrismahon
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Re: Hens Fighting

Post by chrismahon » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:15 pm

When were they last wormed? The reason I ask is an odd one of our Marans (the French ones with the feathery feet) gets decidedly grumpy and picks fights with the bantams when she needs worming. Once done she is fine and docile for months. None of our other breeds do this but she is the 'doodler' in that coop and goes broody at the drop of a hat- lovely brown eggs though, but then she plays football with them and scratches the colour off. As I said, she's odd!

Definitely not a sex change if she is laying. As you said Cuwiar, the problem may be that the bottom one won't back down and that has spooked her into seeing a threat from everyone. The moulting should be finished before the cold nights and you can try putting her back in. Failing that she's an evening house chicken- we've plenty of those. Chickens need a lot of patience.
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Marigold
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Re: Hens Fighting

Post by Marigold » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:51 pm

Hi Cuwiar, lovely to hear from you again, it's been a while.
I would cull her. She won't get better whatever you do, or for whatever reason the problem has occurred. If she's upsetting the whole flock and showing persistant aggression, she's more trouble than she's worth, in my opinion.
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cuwiar
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Re: Hens Fighting

Post by cuwiar » Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:39 pm

Hi Marigold,

Thanks for your reply, I feel culling is a bit harsh at this stage. I'm hoping she will moult and that could change her hormones.

I'll just keep an eye on her during the cold weather spells.
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