Chicken bullying or pecking order? What to do if your hen is being bullied

Everyone knows that chickens have a pecking order. But there’s a big difference between the established pecking order and being henpecked. When should you intervene and what should you do about chicken bullying?

The main causes of bullying are stress, boredom, illness and overcrowding.

The pecking order is a social hierarchy within the flock. Which chicken rules the roost depends on her age and personality. An ambitious hen will start at the bottom of the ladder, gradually challenging and intimidating her shy fellow hens into having to walk on eggshells around her. Once a timid hen has chickened out, a dominant hen will usually stop harassing her, bringing an end to the chicken bullying.

However, is this aggressive behaviour continuing after the pecking order has been established? Then it could be that a chicken is being bullied. Sometimes this is as harmless as feather plucking, but it can also escalate into open cockfights...(oops, we mean hen fights), sometimes with casualties. The main causes of bullying are stress (moving house, introducing a new hen, change of food ...), boredom (especially during the winter when there’s nothing to do outside), illness (a sick hen will be cast out) and overcrowding.

Your chicken is being bullied: how to avoid and counteract it?

When you notice antisocial behaviour, try to figure out what's going on. Also, make sure the hens have plenty of room to move around and stick to a strict routine to keep things calm. If a sick chicken is being bullied to the extreme, you can place it in quarantine until it is healed.

Also provide enough entertainment for your ladies and make sure they can keep themselves busy. For example, install perches at different heights, let them forage in a bale of hay or straw, or sprinkle some healthy snacks on the floor so they can go on a treasure hunt.

If none of this works, you can put the bully in a confined area where it can still see the other hens. Life in the brood will continue without her, and the chickens will establish a new pecking order. When you put the culprit back with the rest of the brood after a few days, it has to start again from the bottom.

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