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Chicken Bullying! (Feathered hens VS featherless hen) Please help!

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We rescued 3 ex-cage hens 2 weeks ago,

  1. Spock (top of pecking order) [feathered] 
  2. Donna (middle) [feathered] 
  3. and Maurice (bottom) [featherless] 

Maurice arrived practically looking like a supermarket chicken, with just her wings and neck feathers in tact! 

Week 1 – Pecking order or brutality!?

Spock immediately established dominance and Donna took the pecks calmly. But it was clear from day 2 that Maurice was going to have a hard time. Spock grabbed onto her tail feathers with her beak whenever she came within a 1-foot radius.

Spock then backed off and Donna became (and remains) the most vicious, grabbing on to the part of the feather attached to Maurice's skin and pulling at it until she breaks away, constantly! It has been so upsetting to watch and I feel a sense of regret for going into this without fully understanding how mean they can be to each other! 

During the day, Maurice would stand around alone or go in circles trying access food 😭. We ended up adding several eating and drinking stations and used blue spray whenever spots of blood were drawn.  

When I'd open up the coop every morning, Maurice would be cornered in one of the nest boxes squealing, being pecked at by the other two. Or staring blankly at a wall in a kind of dissociative state. She began to refuse to go into the coop at night, trying to hide or perch under different things in the run, so we had to pick her up and place her in the coop (much to her displeasure).

After 4 nights of this chaos and relentlessly rainy, zero-degree frosty weather, we decided to bring Maurice inside to roost so that she could get some peace, keep warm and conserve energy with such few feathers. 

Week 2 – Separate sleeping quarters, next steps?

The weather has been so cold and rainy that we continued to keep Maurice inside – and her health has improved so much! She is sleeping so much more, has massive feather growth on her back and tail and is running around, perching on stumps and even snuggling up to us! It is clear that she has so much more energy and curiosity than before. 

She has been spending every day in the run with the other two since they all arrived and the general pecking has reduced. Spock now tolerates Maurice standing and eating within her proximity! However, Donna is still super aggressive and pecks at Maurice's tail area... seemingly for the fun of it? 😰 She seems intent on pushing her out of the flock.

I've become very attached to (and protective of) Maurice, giving her lots of cuddles to keep her cosy and warm! Tonight she perched on me and snuggled under my arm and almost refused to get off and roost in her normal indoor spot! It is clear that she has had such a hard life and I would hate to cause her any more unnecessary stress or pain. 

As soon as the evening weather warms up (hopefully tomorrow!) we plan 🤞 to place her back in the coop at night with them after they've settled in to roost. We don't want her to get too attached to indoor sleeping, or to be sad all alone at night! 

Questions 

  1. Would separating Donna (the main bully) for a few days help, or do we think that Maurice's frail appearance is the leading cause of the bullying? 
  2. Should we build another coop for Maurice to sleep in and rescue a featherless friend for her? (we can only afford to keep 1 more hen, maximum) 
  3. Should we continue to keep her separate at night until her feathers are fully regrown? 
  4. Should we rehome her? 😥

Thank you so much in advance, it's been so stressful! 

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Firstly well done for rescuing them.

I think if they were mine I would keep doing what you’re doing with Maurice until she’s fully feathered. Let her in the run with the other two each day and just keep an eye that no blood is drawn, and then have her indoors at night.

Then when she’s ready to move back in overnight too I would put something in the run that could serve as separate sleeping quarters. This could be just a cat box or something. 

Continue to have lots of food and water stations so she can get plenty.

Let us know how you get on.

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I agree with @mullethunter

Re-introducing her gradually is definitely the way to go.

Sounds a bit mean but you could always squirt the badly behaved one with a water pistol - we used a cheap garden pump spray thing from the pound shop.

It does take their mind off of doing the pecking.

We used to do this for a very noisy one that I had and eventually as she saw the squirter coming she would stop the noise before it got squirted.

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We have quite the bully hen and we separated her from the all of the hens for 3 weeks before she would reintegrate. The old bully is now very kind to all of the other hens. For the first week she couldn't see the others but then we removed the "wall" so they could all see one another. 

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