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Andrew W

Pecking order problems

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I have had chickens on and off for about ten years.  After a bit of a gap, in May we got four point of lay birds.  They are in an Eglu Cube with 1m extended run and through the day they have a further extended run behind an electric fence, so they have quite a lot of space for four chickens.  In their run, they have several hanging peck toys, I have built them a climbing frame in the run and each day I feed them food to scratch for, alongside their Omlet feeders.  I mention all of this because space and featureless coops can cause pecking problems.

Late summer one of the birds (Mabel) had her back stripped of feathers, to the point she was bleeding quite a lot.  This happened quite quickly out of the blue.  I isolated Mabel in her own small coop until her feathers grew back, I covered her with anti-peck spray and put pinless peepers (chicken goggles blocking their view) onto the other chickens so they could not see her to attack.  This made little difference, they stripped Mabel's back feathers again.  I isolated Mabel again until her feathers grew back, this time fitted the Omlet Bumper Bits to the other chickens, to stop pecking and again soaked Mabel's feathers with anti-peck spray.

Yesterday I put the all the chickens back together again, for a few hours yesterday and again today, with Mabel put in her own coop over night.  In two days, they have stripped her feathers again, despite wearing bumper bits and anti-peck spray being used.

Short of removing the chicken (Lilly) at the head of the pecking order, any idea what I could do next?  I am considering letting Mabel back in the main coop when her feathers have recovered and putting Lilly in isolation for a couple of weeks, to break the pecking habit, but I am running out of ideas.  Any thoughts please...?

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Well, it does seem like you have tried everything to stop the attacks.

I think putting Lilly somewhere on her own for a while might be the only option you have left.

If that doesn't work then maybe you will have to consider rehoming Lilly.

Alternatively do you have enough room to give Mabel her own space with a couple of new friends ?

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Sounds like you are all having a miserable time. I think the fundamental problem here is lack of space and I know you have tried to enrich that. I agree with Luvachicken, splitting them up is the only option and it sounds like Lilly has developed a feather eating habit that you may not be able to break. We have been in the same situation and eventually despatched the problem hen, having tried everything (including a two month separation), like you, to resolve the situation. Perhaps Mabel needs a new home with a pair of younger hens?

I'm not a fan of anti-peck spray as it stops the injured hen preening, so it needs more drastic measures to protect her. Difficult situation and I hope you can resolve it.

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