Apr 6, 2012

How to Reform a Bully Chicken

When chickens of any age bully other chickens, the behavior must be interrupted and the bully, reformed.
Chickens are very easily stressed and moving to a new home is one of the most stressful events a chicken can experience. Stress can have negative behavioral and physical manifestations in chickens, including, pecking, picking and bullying. When chickens of any age bully other chickens, the behavior must be interrupted and the bully, reformed. This is how I reformed a brooder bully, but the technique works with chickens of all ages.

There is a difference between establishing or maintaining one's place in the pecking order and true bullying. Enforcement of the social hierarchy with the occasional peck or nudge is to be expected, but repeated aggressive behavior causing injury is not. If feathers are being picked or blood is being drawn, the behavior should be stopped. Any time a chicken is injured, they must be physically separated from the other birds for their own protection until the wound is 100% healed. Failure to do so can result in cannibalism and death.
There is a difference between establishing or maintaining one's place in the pecking order and true bullying. Enforcement of the social hierarchy with the occasional peck or nudge is to be expected, but repeated aggressive behavior causing injury is not.
I had just bought three adorable, 6 week old Frizzle Cochin chickens: Monica, Rachel and Phoebe, when conflict erupted in the brooder. Rachel, the red Frizzle, was mercilessly pecking at the other two chicks.  Poor Phoebe took the brunt of Rachel's aggression and was often found cowering underneath Monica. I needed to find a solution to end to the pecking and help them become friends again. The breeder from whom we purchased the Frizzles assured me that Rachel had not been a bully prior to the move, so it was fair to deduce that stress from moving was the cause of her aggressive behavior.

Reforming a bully is fairly simple. I physically segregate the problem chicken from others, but allow the birds to be near one another so they can still see and hear each other without danger of further injury. The Frizzles were in a simple, cardboard box brooder, which was ideally suited to making a chick condo. To make the chick condo, I took a second large box and connected it to the first with duct tape. I then cut out a window in between the two boxes and secured window screening to the openings with a stapler. Hardware cloth could be used instead of window screening. Since the Frizzles were old enough to fly, I put some window screening on the top of the boxes  to contain them.
There is a difference between establishing or maintaining one's place in the pecking order and true bullying. Enforcement of the social hierarchy with the occasional peck or nudge is to be expected, but repeated aggressive behavior causing injury is not.
Rachel clearly wanted to get back to her brooder buddies and I feel awful about separating them, but it was necessary. In 4-5 days, the Frizzles were reunited without further incident. They have been inseparable ever since. If the separation is not successful in the first few days, a few more days in segregation should do the trick.
There is a difference between establishing or maintaining one's place in the pecking order and true bullying. Enforcement of the social hierarchy with the occasional peck or nudge is to be expected, but repeated aggressive behavior causing injury is not.
The Frizzled friends, a few weeks after the peace summit:
There is a difference between establishing or maintaining one's place in the pecking order and true bullying. Enforcement of the social hierarchy with the occasional peck or nudge is to be expected, but repeated aggressive behavior causing injury is not.
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63 comments :

  1. Love this. I may have to try this in a few weeks. One of mine is already being a bully occasionally.

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  2. OH, oh oh, where did you get the frizzels? We lost our little darling last year and have been unable to locate more.
    Thanks!

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  3. Thank you do much for this excellent article !

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  4. I think I may have a bully in the making....one of my 3 week old brahma's is bigger than any of the other chicks. Also has larger feet then the others. She really was pushing her weight around with a couple of the other chicks. Has me wondering if I got a male in the pullets. It was good to read your blog and know what I might need to do if she keeps this behavior up. Thanks!

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  5. chicken fever4/7/12, 7:48 PM

    I will use this next time! Such good advice! I had a bully that was horrible! Bully in my first cochin flock and I didn't know what to do. Thanks so much for all the wonderful advice!

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  6. Awesome as per usual. I really appreciate you chicken chick!

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  7. I am so new to raising chickens. I thought there was nothing to to it but boy did I get a HUGE surprise! Thank you for all the great advice!

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  8. Lol poor Pheobe. Your chickens are adorable. Thanks for sharing this Kathy :).

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  9. Does that work when u integrate new chicks w the big girls. They seem to keep chasing and pecking at the teenage girls everytime they try to come to the feeder to eat.

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  10. I have six chickens and cannot figure out which one is bullying two of the others.  Its bad enough that the two have bloody spots.  How do I figure out which one of the other four are is the criminal?  Any suggestions?

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  11. TheChickenChick1/26/13, 1:46 AM

    You'll really just have to spend time with them and observe, Sydne.

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  12. Thanks for the great advice! We had a bully hiding among the chicks. It got to the point we weeded out the bully by the only "unplucked" chick. We are on Day 2 of solitaire and she looks very pathetic all alone watching the other chicks but we didn't know what else to do. We were told we had to get rid of her...but this is worth a try.

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  13. aww. they look like my frizzle chicks, I have a red and a white also... my two black cochin chicks I think are smooth.... :) I love seeing these pictures, I can picture my babies as big girls :)

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  14. Loni Van Duzer3/16/13, 11:09 AM

    I just picked up 3 red frizzles and 3 white silkies they are all together in a brooder in the house after being at the salon all day yesterday (lol) They cuddle puddle quite nicely but quite often they segregate themselves by breed. I find this really interesting as they are less than 48 hours old.

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  15. Got a cage to separate the one I believe is bullying the others. I hope it helps! ...pretty sure I know which one it is, she does it only when I'm at work. :(

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  16. Haha! That's what I named my three chickens! Love Friends! Except Phoebe is the B at our house :-)

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  17. Vickie Redmond11/3/13, 10:33 AM

    I'm having serious rooster issues. I have 2 roosters that have completely separate areas to live in lots of open space and plenty of hens for each. The boys were always together till last November when I had a man to watch them for a few days and he called and said one of them was hurt. So my husband being a good sport we drove 15 hrs back home to take him to the vet. The vet said to keep him confined in a small place where he could heal apparently he must have been kicked hard no broken bones. But since then my boys cannot be together and my other rooster has just become mean and not just at others anymore me too. Any advice would be helpful.

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  18. TheChickenChick11/3/13, 9:47 PM

    If you want to keep them both, you'll need to keep them physically separated.
    Your husband is a good egg. ♥

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  19. Emily Usina Bowers12/22/13, 6:32 PM

    Great information =) We have just recently gotten 8 chicks... 3 easter eggers, 2 barred rocks, and 2 buff orphingtons. One of the barred rocks kept trying to peck the others eyes out. We took him/her out for a bit where all of them could still see each other as you have described here. Though it did not take days and now they are all getting along. Thanks Kathy! The frizzled girls are adorable by the way!

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  20. Cheryl Lindsay12/22/13, 7:30 PM

    Great advice!! Wish I could have one of every color! Too many breeds, so few allowed in the city!!
    😔

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  21. I know that is not the one and only daily Rachel, lol. Funny thing I only wanted hens and the sweetest chick ended up being a rooster and really aggressive. Had to give him to someone to keep neighbors happy and to stop from bleeding everyday. But it was still a sad day.

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  22. My Silver Lace Wyandotte seems to be behaving herself for now. Her constant pecking hadn't gotten to the point where it was drawing blood, but the others were starting to have bedraggled tail feathers. When she jumped full on the back of another chicken with all her claws out, I knew it was finally time to move her to a separate pen for a few days. They were in eyesight/earshot of each other, and when I let the the other three loose they would come hang out next her in jail. Unfortunately, the new pen doesn't have the same weather protection of the main coop/run. For one thing, she is directly on the ground whereas the run has roosts so they can avoid the cold! There was no coop, just a cat carrier that I brought in at night so she also didn't have the same wind barrier during the day. Since she is going through a random and badly timed molt, I moved her back after just 3 days. She picked a really bad time to be a PITA. I am keeping an eye on her as she is already pecking the others on the head again. There is one that she just goes after all the time, and sadly, that one seems to like her and want to hang out with her. My other three are just too passive to deal with her crabby butt. I am hoping that the excessive aggression is related to her looking like a porcupine's butt and that she will calm down again soon after she is done molting.

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  23. Just as I think I have it sorted out, they come up with something new to scare me silly. *sigh*

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  24. Where do you order these chicks from

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  25. TheChickenChick12/22/13, 8:26 PM

    You can get Bantam Cochin Frizzles here, Liz: http://bit.ly/X21jya

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  26. JessicaHughett12/22/13, 8:58 PM

    Do you still have the others??

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  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! I have been having problems with one of my roosters, pulling feathers from my hens backs. He is is the 3rd of 3 roosters with only 9 hens. The Biggest rooster has a harem of 6 BO hens and the 2nd claimed the 3 RIR's, and the third is a bit frustrated I guess. He gets chased off when he trys to mate. I have seen him run up to hens, take a beak full of feathers and spit them out before the other roosters get to him. I know we have too many roos, but I want to get more females in the spring so I hope it all works out. I am going to try to change his behavior with the cage suggestion. I know that your suggestion for broody hens worked wonders as I experienced my very first broody (Grace). It only took 2 1/2 days to break her. It did seem to affect the egg laying as I should have caged her away from the others...I noticed that when I went back to read again...production went from 5-7 a day to 1-3 a day, but it is back up now. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the information that you put together and provide for those of us just getting started. Thanks, so much! Merry Christmas!

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  28. WOW Ok so its "Viewable Timeout" / separation! Very interesting to know! My QUESTION IS....Wud this same scenario of timeout work on a MALE GUINEA BULLY? both my male guineas was/is a bully always ripping on any other chickens that comes remotely close to him ive even noticed him chasing dwn chickens just to flog them or rip their feathers out i got rid of 1 for that reason & now this 1 does it ! Is just their nature to be bullys to chickens or is it sumhow i ended up w/ some mean 1s?

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  29. TheChickenChick12/24/13, 12:34 PM

    Great to hear, Emily!

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  30. TheChickenChick12/24/13, 12:35 PM

    Bummer. Been there. :(

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  31. TheChickenChick12/24/13, 12:37 PM

    Nope.

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  32. TheChickenChick12/24/13, 12:39 PM

    You have TWO too many roosters for 9 hens. Each roo should have 12-15 hens for himself.

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  33. TheChickenChick12/24/13, 12:39 PM

    I don't keep guineas, but it's certainly worth a try.

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  34. =( I know...I suggested that we get 25 more females...My husband laughed. I think he has another alternative in mind. I don't know how I would decide. Captain Morgan was a favorite because he loved to be held (until he became head honcho) and Gentleman Jack is very good to his girls...very protective and watches over them while they eat, and comes to their rescue when they squawk. The smallest hasn't been named and has an attitude but that might change if he had his own girls. I love my chickens and want to keep it balanced, but as we had to cull 16 already, I really don't want to ever do that again!!! The 3rd roo was thought to be a hen until then, suddenly developed his roo-ness. Thanks for your response. I will do what I can to fix the issue.

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  35. Victoria Gordon Homeier3/2/14, 11:35 AM

    I have a new batch of babies and I already have a bully at 3 days old. We are calling her Psycho Chick. I initially only had 2 chicks in the brooder but got a couple older ones to put her in her place. I am hopeful that is was just the stress of the move but the jury is still out... She is tiny but MEAN, chasing everyone and pulling at tiny feathers and pecking feet! Wondering if I got a roo...

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  36. This is great to know..thanks for sharing..great info :)

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  37. Kim Johnson3/2/14, 1:30 PM

    My roo that lives with my hens bullys my girls and attacks me. I have to come in to the kennel area with a stick to keep him off of me. He is that way with everyone. I had someone say I should put him down but he was the grand champion of the county fair last year and he is beautiful. Hes my pet. I dont want to kill him??? What to do??

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  38. Rachel Farmer3/2/14, 2:48 PM

    Just did this with my babies lol, had one picking on 3 others we will see if he gets along better in a few days. I almost think i might have 3 roosters out of the 4. I know one is a rooster he is old enough to tell.

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  39. I have a grown Hen that picks on me every time I go to the house. HELP

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  40. Darcey Byrne3/2/14, 3:31 PM

    Super great story about our Rachel!

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  41. Found that really helpfull. I'm new to this keeping chickens but loving every minute of it. By the way, You are beautiful. Kind regards from Ireland..

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  42. TheChickenChick3/2/14, 5:50 PM

    Welcome to chicken-keeping. And thank you. :)

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  43. TheChickenChick3/2/14, 6:41 PM

    Re-home him. You're not going to change his natural inclinations and to try would be wrong.

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  44. We had to rehome our rooster because he was very aggresive to our girls. I missed him so, but it was wrong to allow him to be so aggresive.

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  45. We have nine pullets and one cockerel all within the 9 to 10 month old range. One pullet was targeted by the rooster and he would chase her away from food, run after her, attack her when she would try to leave the coup and yesterday, I heard loud banging noises (no chicken sounds just loud crash sounds) coming from inside the coup, I ran in and I caught our cockerel cornering one of our girls and attacking her. She was frightened and panting. It was sad. We immediately separated him from the flock. A few months a go, we lost a pullet and we had now clue as to how she died and now I wonder if it was him. He picked on her as he started with this one, but I never saw him corner her, although it cold have happened when I wasn't there. He also attacks me when I put food or water down or pic up one of the pullets. He is good with my husband and the other pullets so my husband considered him friendly. We hate to get rid of him but I can't have him purposefully attack and kill our pullet. Can he be re-homed? Why would someone want a mean rooster? I feel awful because I am fond of him, well I was until yesterday. Any advice? Thank You

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  46. Gloria Mabry3/19/14, 1:14 AM

    I'm new to chickens as well. (Actually, still in the chick stage...) I have an Ameraucana that will reliably peck at another chick if the other has been picked up. It's not biased and will peck at any of the other 1 week old chicks that happens to be handled at the moment. It stops when the chick is back down but the Ameraucana will jump and nip the entire duration another is being held. Is this an early sign of bullying?

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  47. TheChickenChick3/19/14, 9:21 AM

    Not necessarily, but certainly keep an eye on him/her.

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  48. Cynthia Cook4/16/14, 7:39 PM

    I JUST brought home 7 day old chicks...2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 auracanas and 1 odd Ancona. The Ancona started pecking at the other's eyes on the way home. I thought it may have been the close quarters so we got home and set them out in their temp home with water and feed. No go...still pecking rather aggressively at the others. I've set some hardware cloth in there to separate it from the others and it immediatly started attacking the wire. Now it settles down and then starts up again. I am going to give it some time but I'm really hoping this is a very temporary thing. They will all eventually be put out with my current flock of Buff Orpingtions who all get along famously....dont need a trouble maker lol. I'm VERY surprised that they can be this aggressive so young. Hope it's not a roo.

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  49. Thanks so much for your great advice. I'm new to 'chickening' and absolutely LOVE it! I have one Faverolles girl & 4 Brahmas, all around 2 weeks old. One Dark Brahma is bigger (one week older) and is a bit of a bully to my Faver, pecking at her. So the Faverolles (Barbie Q- don't judge) just keeps trying to treat the Brahma like a Mama -whenever the bigger one pecks, under the chest she goes. Guess it's one way to overcome a bully, love 'em up!

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  50. We have three red comets and one Belgian d'uccle. The Belgian D'uccle is bullied mercilessly by all. They mount her end pull the feathers out of her head. Should I separate her from the others?

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  51. Kim Ferguson6/19/14, 11:29 AM

    We have 4 hens and 2 roosters who are 41/2 months old. We have had them since babies, but now our roosters are pecking 3 of our hens. Both roosters have taken chunks of the hens combs, pecked holes in their beeks , heads, and grabs them by the back of their necks. Last night we put a fence in their house to separate the roosters from them. Do we keep them apart for good. I feel bad both ways. We also have 5 girls that are just 4 weeks old to join them soon, I have no idea what to do. Please any advice, guidance would help.

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  52. Hi I have a really nasty hen she is picking on one of my other hens to the point she has plucked out allot of fethers and her wings are now bleeding this nasty hen is also picking on my dogs and duck any help on how to deal with her

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  53. Hi I have 3 hens one has allways been a little nasty but never realy hurt any of the other hens but latley she has been a real nasty s,o,b she has plucked out allot of fethers drawn blood on one hen and she is petrified on her now the nasty hen allso attacks my duck if alowed out together and one of my little dogs allso gets picked on as he gets on top of him and attacks him what can I do with her I realy need help or im going to have to get rid of her and if I cant even worse kill her im a massive animal lover and cant bear to do either especialy the latter please help

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  54. Have you tried what I described in this article? That would be my suggestion.

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  55. We have a flock of 3 bantams and it used to be 4 but one was killed by a hawk. Sassy used to be the leader of the pecking order and would protect her sister gwen who is blind in one eye. Gwen can't see everything so Sassy would show Gwen where the food and water was and make sure she had enough to eat and drink before she would eat and then the others and keep lillianna from over picking on Yuki the baby. Gwen used to lay eggs but has stop so I was wondering if chickens go threw a morning period.

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  56. They definitely do mourn the loss of their friends. :(

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  57. When will she be ok again? Its been 3 weeks and I'm worried she's gonna get sick.

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  58. Its my middle chicken who is the bully. I have 2 big red hens (hybrids of undtermined background) and a leghorn hybrid who are all around 6 months old and then 2 SLW's who are a month younger. I introduced the Wyandottes to the coop very slowly this past June and for awhile all went well, but lately Marshmellow has just relentlessly chased them and pecked them. The big red girls mostly ignore them unless they get in their "spot" on the roost while running from Marshmellow, but she bugs them all the time. She's my cranky middle child! The wyandottes are actually almost the same size as she is, but they don't seem to realize it. I think they could defend themselves if they weren't intimidated.

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  59. Josiah Fosdike11/17/14, 2:50 AM

    I have a 2 silkie hens, 2 isa browns and 1 frizzle rooster. 1 of our silkies is broody and laying on a pile of eggs. Do we have to remove the frizzle rooster before the eggs hatched as last lot of chickens we had the rooster trampled all the chicks. (Different hens and rooster)

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  60. Hi, I have two isa browns and new to the hen house is re-housed pekin bantam. As I suspected the two isa browns bully the pekin, jumping on her and pecking. I have separated the pekin from the other two, where they can see and hear each other. I had hoped to isolate the worst bully and put the pekin with the other isa but both isa's seem to be just as nasty. What do you suggest? Will separating them all for a few weeks help?

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  61. Dianna Valadez Castillo1/17/15, 10:38 AM

    What does one do when you bring in an adult rooster, and one of the other roosters is dying to get through the cage to fight? We were given two Phoenix roosters, and I'm keeping them away in a separate pen, but two of my other roosters are wanting to fight with them. They were not aggressive before, and never with each other. Never wanted to fight with any of the other roo's until these came. I don't want to get rid of the new roo's, how do I handle that situation? Can you give me some advice please?

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  62. I have a Rhode Island Red who is bullying my australorp. We separated the bully from the other hens for a week. She returned to the coop and continued her feather picking comb pecking ways. She's had peepers on for months and that doesn't help anymore. Tried Vicks on the australorp and it does nothing. Anybody have anymore ideas? I have twin third graders. This is very overwhelming taking care of two coops! I'm looking for someone to take the bully. But who will take a bully to let them after their own flock?

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