A Bullied Hen and a Small Cut

Naomi :  My family has six chickens. One of them (Patterns) has a cut under her nail on one of her claws, it makes her limp a little but other than that she seems fine.

We cleaned it and made sure it didn’t get worse for the first day but she kept deliberately covering it in dirt again. Is there anything we can do to help her with it or should we just trust her instinct and let her cover it in dirt?

A chicken in my flock gets attacked and chased, her name is Pecky and shes very gentle around everyone in my family. We started out with 4 chickens and than bought 2 more. Pecky was one of those 2 and has been bullied from the beginning. I’ve tried just giving it time but I don’t think it will make a difference because the other chicken that we got at the time have become a true part of the flock and fit in as if they were always there.

I get really worried about her and sometimes she flies onto my shoulders to get away from the others. I really hope that she starts to fit in but do you have any tips about what to do to help her?

My Reply : It would probably be better to keep the wound clean if you can to help prevent it from getting infected. There is a product called vetrap (and a few similar ones) which can make bandaging chickens easier as it kind of sticks to itself (there is a video on the blog about treating bumblefoot http://successwithpoultry.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/bumblefoot-chicken.html which shows someone cleaning and wrapping a chickens foot).

With regards to Pecky if she is being kept away from the food and water (a common thing which can happen when being bullied) it can help to have extra food and water bowls in different areas as they can’t guard everything at once. There are some anti-peck sprays which may help deter some of the pecking if that is what they are doing and a few general tips for ‘entertaining’ chickens are on the blog here http://successwithpoultry.blogspot.com/2009/03/keeping-chickens-entertained.html which may help a bit by giving them distractions. If they are pecking it is possible that they have an urge for more protein in their diet and Pecky just happens to be the unlucky one at the bottom of the pecking order they are taking it out on (black oil sunflower seeds as an occasional treat can sometimes help with that). In a past issue a subscriber recommended standing on guard with a water gun to squirt the attacking chicken during an attack as a kind of aversion therapy (a bit time consuming but apparently it works). If Pecky is ever bleeding she should be removed until healed because blood can attract pecking from everyone else in the group and chickens can be relentless. If things still don’t improve another thing you might want to try if there is one particular ring leader is a temporary separation whilst still being able to see / hear everyone – sometimes removing a bully hen for a few days can make her lower down the pecking order when she returns to the flock and that might help if others were just following her example (the removed hen doesn’t necessarily have to be kept on her own – she could have a friend or two with her). Other general things to watch out for are parasites such as lice, mites and worms – if Pecky is weakened from something like that the others might be picking up on that weakness and that could add to her being picked on (if she does have parasites they all will, but some get affected more/quicker).

Naomi’s Reply : Patterns is still determined to cover her wound in dirt but it is working and she isn’t limping any more, she seems happy about it so we will just leave her alone. Pecky seems to be fitting in fine, the water gun seems like a good idea but if it doesn’t work she does still get food and water so it won’t kill her, she gets plenty of attention from us humans so she doesn’t act as lonely any more, hopefully she will get better and more social.


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