Establishing Pecking Order - not quilt related in the slightest

Recommended Posts

Hello, this question is not quilt related whatsoever, but the forum did say "talk about anything" so.....


Back story:

Maybe two years ago I bought four day old buff orpington chicks from our local feed store.  Three survived, but one turned out to be a rooster.  Kept him anyway.   All three are doing well in their own coop.


Last summer I bought three red sex link hens and love love love them.  The Buffs are not friendly birds at all.  I think this is because the rooster (Edgar) is very protective of the girls and doesn't let them get close to anyone else.  Anyway the Reds are very friendly -- jump into my lap, follow me around the yard, come when they're called.  I just love these girls.  Because the Buffs are so mean, I keep the Reds in a separate coop. 


Sadly last month, two big ole dogs (an Akita and a Husky) broke the door off the Red's coop and killed two out of the three girls.  I was DEVASTATED!!!   The dogs were actually very gentle -- didn't growl at me when I yelled at them, didn't try to run away, didn't seemed bothered in the least that I was going off the deep end and trying to shoo them out of my yard.  They were just playing and apparently had never encountered chickens before (so said the owner of the dogs). 


Okay, so I ordered three new Reds that are "teenagers".  Because they are so much younger than the other chickens, I put them in the Red's coop and put my older Red in the Buff's coop. 


I know chickens establish a pecking order (literally), but the Buff's are just downright mean to my lovely Mable (that's her name : ) They won't let her eat, and she is afraid of them.  I let her out every night when I get home from work and she's so excited to see me walk up.  She puts herself back in at night when she's ready for bed, so all I have to do is lock up behind her.  She's such a good girl.  :wub:


However, I can't leave Mable out during the day for fear of predators (like roaming dogs), but I know that while I'm gone she's being bullied (hate that word) by the other hens.  The rooster only occasionally pays her any attention and in fact is protective of her as well when they are all roaming free after I get home from work.  



How long does it take before the bullying stops and they all get along?  Does it ever stop?  Is there anything I can or should do? 


Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks. 




Link to post
Share on other sites

Ours took a few weeks to sort themselves out.  We had one that was a terrible bully and we chased her around the yard a bit when she was being extraordinarily horrible to the 'newbies'.  
I recommend more than one feed/water station separated in the run if possible and make sure Mable has the ability to get up on a roost away from the others if possible.

I'm surprised your Buffs are so mean... they are usually pretty docile.  Can you put Mable in with the new reds instead?  She might be the mother hen?

Best of luck with them!

Link to post
Share on other sites

YEs, I would try putting her in with the younger ones and see how that goes, poor baby. Sometimes they will kill the one they are picking on. Be very watchful that the bullying is not escalating. My Dad used to have to completely remove a hen from the flock on occasion.

Those dogs were not playing. Those Akitas are often killers. They haven't done it before because they didn't have the chance before. They will do it again at the first opportunity. Once dogs start killing chickens, they do it for the pure sport.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, IMHO Mable may not make it if you don't keep her separated. I have lost a chicken more than once to a bully or two. I have not had good luck adding a new hen to the coop, the established hens just pick on the new girl. If I don't have a rooster I can throw him in with no problems. Good luck, Rhode Island Reds are my favorite breed.

Link to post
Share on other sites



Thinking more about it, I hope you reported the attack by the two dogs to the authorities.  This way, if it were to happen again there would be a track record of the dogs prior behavior.  Also, I hope you held the dog owner accountable for your losses.  While you lost some chickens this time, it could be a small child or older person next time.  The dog owner needs to know that they have to control their animals, and that dogs may be less friendly then they appear. Best of luck working things out.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Cagey -- funny you should mention throwing Edgar in the frier.  My son has the same seniment OFTEN.  :P But Edgar is not the problem.  He's not picking on Mable, the other Buff girls are.  I got them because they were suppose to be friendly, but they absolutely are not. 


As for putting Mable in with the babies, I gave that a try hoping that she would indeed be a mother hen.  She was not.  Even with me in the run with her, she attacked the babies.  I'm hoping as they get older, she will be nicer to them.  Geeze, you'd think that since she didn't like getting pecked, she wouldn't do that to the newbies.  :( 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, you're in a bind.  She won't fit with the buffs because she's the lowest in pecking order, & they pick on her, but with the youngers, she wants to be top hen and picks on them. 


We've had that too, and it's sad to see because the chickens like to be in a flock - not loners.  Maybe putting a couple of the buffs into "time out" cages for a week (we use dog kennel/cages when we have to resort to this.)  If you have a place to keep them separated, maybe in a garage or barn - out of sight and hopefully isolated. 


Leave the buff you think could be lowest in the group of three with Mabel.  One on one those two might get along a bit and forge a new pecking order between them.


When you bring the other two back into the flock there will be a reshuffling and Mabel might not be on the bottom.  But I always make sure that the day I reintroduce the 2 from time out is a day I can be outside with them and very close by - you never know how it will shake out and sometimes I have to intervene again.


The only other thing I can think of is to bring in a single bird (same age and size as Mabel) - put her in a pair first with Mabel.  Let them bond and become a pair for a week or two - separate from the rest if you can so they have to make friends, then mix them with the teenagers and see how she does with an ally/friend?


Good Luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Kat.  I like the idea of getting a friend for Mabel.  Poor sweet thing.  Right now she doesn't fit with either group.  A new friend may be just what she needs.  I have to go to the feed store this weekend anyway, so I'll see what they have on hand.  Thanks for the idea.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.