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Pecking Order Probz

 
Nick Segner
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Hi All!

Thought I'd pick your collective brains on this one.

We have a young layer we got a few months ago as a pullet. Since we got her (thanks again Craigslist), we noticed she was a bit disabled- not sure what is wrong but one eye much bigger than the other and she has poor vision and has some trouble foraging/feeding, though she does OK now.

Anyway, the problem is: the other 8 hens try to kill her daily if she is in the Electonet fencing with them.

She has chicken PTSD from repeated attacks so now she runs around in a panic the moment the hens get near her. She also submits when anything comes from above her so when they're pecking her head she just lies there and takes it.

We recently culled a rooster who was abusing the whole flock way too much (think abcesses) and the hens seemed to take over that same aggression towards her once he was soup.

Anyway, we built a chicken tractor for the garden recently so she's been separated from the flock but it's no longer practical (time-wise) for us to keep her apart from the flock.

We've tried reintroducing one hen at a time (the 'nicer' ones) but to the same result.

I know some of you will say "survival of the fittest" but do you have any other suggestions for reintroduction techniques, other solutions etc?

A neighbor would take her but i fear she'd have the same issue over there with their two hens..

Nick on the gorgeous but dry Olympic Peninsula
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Hey nick,

It sounds like the hen has had a difficult life. No easy way forward apparently. I think many here on permies would tell you to cull her, but i am sure you have your reasons for exploring alternative options.

That being said, it sounds like a change in flock dynamics is in order.

When i moved my hens into a new coop recently i confined them for a time to let it sink in. If the rooster was not there in the pen then one of the older hens would start to beat up on a certain other hen. As soon as he was returned to the coop the peace was kept. Also if they were unleashed in the yard the other hen would simply avoid the attacking hen and peace would be kept.

Is there a way to give the hens more things to keep them busy while the hen is reintroduced to being inside the netting with the others? Usually my hens are just busy eating bugs, no time for beating up on each other.
It is possible that if they dont kill her then the ass whooping will only be temporary as the memory of the aggressive rooster fades.

 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I have a personal belief in a swift kick or a grab and carry. It doesn't always work, and if it doesn't you should do that hen a favor and end her suffering.
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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It's likely the hen will never gain acceptance in your flock, animals have their own unique social structures and can detect things you or I may or may not. You have noticed something not right about the hen, so have the others. I have watched a lot of animals do what your describing and not know why they wouldn't accept the individual. One thing you might try is to separate the hen, completely from the others, no contact at all for several months, bring her up to good health and let her get used to being the only dog then when she is re-introduced she may be willing to earn her place in the status ladder that leads to the top dog position.
 
chad duncan
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Nick Segner wrote:- not sure what is wrong but one eye much bigger than the other and she has poor vision and has some trouble foraging/feeding,


When you say one eye is bigger than the other, are you referring to it's pupils? If so, looking closely at the smaller pupil is it oddly shaped, as in not perfectly round. Does it change in size with differing light levels? Is the color of that eye (or the other) turning grey or pale towards the center?

Odd sized pupils, poor vision and trouble hitting the mark when feeding are some of the symptoms presented with Marek's disease. I would quickly quarantine that bird. If it is Marek's then it can/will quickly infect the rest of the flock. I'm not trying to sell panic but marek's is something that you will never get rid of once you have it. It is spread by chicken dander and can live dormant in the soil for many years. It can also come with a very high mortality rate.
 
chad duncan
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Here is a link showing some likely Marek's infected birds of mine.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1011890/unusual-pupils-on-my-chickens-recently-had-a-chicken-lose-mobility-as-well
 
Nick Segner
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Hi guys, thanks for your replies!

First to Chad - thanks for bringing up Marek's which wasn't on my radar. I took a look at that link and your photos- strange! But in our case, I don't think so. Rather than her pupils being different sizes, her entire L eye is smaller than her R. She has a smallish head too- perhaps an old trauma or some other problem..

Elle, good suggestion- I may try those mild physical strategies sometime!

Tracy, I think you may be spot on. We have tried reintroductions perhaps too frequently and now I think we will give her some time off to get over the bad memories before trying again. She's now on our front porch where the dogs sleep and is almost flocking with them now. And with us when we roam around the farm. Will give this more time to try and figure something out.

Zach, yeah maybe having (a much smaller) rooster again would help keep things calmer in the pecking order. May try that but I want to get a few more hens first to up the hen:rooster ratio to at least 12:1.. They do all get along when initially fed together but after a few minutes they target her when she's in the electronet with them. They have 350' of it part woods part field with compost to pick through etc, so they do keep busy bug-searching and dust bathing but they still seem to prefer terrorizing our poor Weansel.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Nick Segner wrote:Hi guys, thanks for your replies!

First to Chad - thanks for bringing up Marek's which wasn't on my radar. I took a look at that link and your photos- strange! But in our case, I don't think so. Rather than her pupils being different sizes, her entire L eye is smaller than her R. She has a smallish head too- perhaps an old trauma or some other problem..

Elle, good suggestion- I may try those mild physical strategies sometime!

Tracy, I think you may be spot on. We have tried reintroductions perhaps too frequently and now I think we will give her some time off to get over the bad memories before trying again. She's now on our front porch where the dogs sleep and is almost flocking with them now. And with us when we roam around the farm. Will give this more time to try and figure something out.

Zach, yeah maybe having (a much smaller) rooster again would help keep things calmer in the pecking order. May try that but I want to get a few more hens first to up the hen:rooster ratio to at least 12:1.. They do all get along when initially fed together but after a few minutes they target her when she's in the electronet with them. They have 350' of it part woods part field with compost to pick through etc, so they do keep busy bug-searching and dust bathing but they still seem to prefer terrorizing our poor Weansel.


On the eye and head thing, eye infection when young would be my guess. Turkeys are prone to eye infections and I had one get a pretty serious one as a poult. I was able to clear it up but for his entire life that side of his head was messed up, eye smaller, head disformed.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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