April 3, 2012

Henhouse Rules Part II (Bloody Chickens!) VIDEO UPDATE

The morning that our second hen's round of chicks hatched. Everyone was co-existing happily and co-parenting seemed to be working for the two hens, at least for the time being.

By the next morning, however, the tone had changed drastically and one of the hens had done some serious pecking damage to another's head, as I described in my last post. After closer inspection it looks like the "aggressor" also sustained some pecks to the head herself, which might be what started the whole fallout. Three days after administering first aid and injections to the badly injured hen, she was finally drinking water and walking around again. One of her eyes is even trying to open again, though I'm afraid the scar tissue might be an issue.

I've since placed the aggressive mother in a pen of her own with the chicks for everyone's safety. I got some feedback from a friend that chickens can peck each other out of boredom and to hang something in their coop for them to take their pecking out on. I have to say that I really think it was just a freak occurrence sparked by a very strong maternal instinct combined with fighting breed genes. The hens had already been together in the nest box for 3 weeks with no problems, and only 1 day together with the chicks free in the coop. We've had problems with ranch hens getting aggressive with leghorns in the past, but that's when they haven't had access to the yard which they now almost always do.

I'll have to see when and if I can put the two hens back together in the same space—maybe not until the chicks become more independent. In the meantime, I hope the second mom makes a full recovery and can go on to raise another brood—this time by herself—because although she avoided certain death, she did lose out on the opportunity to mother the chicks that hatched from the eggs she brooded for almost a month.

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