But last month, Peep started picking on three of the other hens. Seemingly out of the blue (from my human perspective). She was especially mean to sweet Harriet, which didn’t sit well with me, as I’m always for the under dog. I kept watch out and hoped the problem would disappear as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared.
Before long, Harriet refused to come out of the coop unless I was there. If I stayed in the chicken yard, Harriet stayed by my side, like a faithful dog. The moment she laid eyes on Peep, even from across the yard, she’d freak out and start running around irratically flapping her wings and making all sorts of commotion. This attracted Peep even more, who would tear off from the other side of the yard in hot pursuit of the squawking and scared Harriet.
After a few days of this bullying, Harriet was turning neurotic, so I knew it was time to intervene.
My choices were:
- Get rid of Peep (which I didn’t want to do because she’s generally a very sweet hen and she lays my favorite eggs).
- Set up a hen house for Peep and have her live a spinster life apart from the other girls (which I didn’t want to do because chickens are flock animals and I think it would be hard for her to live alone).
- Try to mix up the pecking order a bit and see if it would break Peep’s dominance and sudden mean streak.
I decided option three was the best for my situation, so Peep moved into the garage at night and into a 5×4 foot ‘recess pen’ by day. I took special care to keep her out of the sight of the other girls for a few days. Then, I let her out in the front yard where the rest of the flock could see her, but she couldn’t pick on anyone (as they were in the backyard and separated by a fence).
The problem was, every time Harriet (now peacefully joining the other girls out in the yard) saw Peep, her freak out dance started all over again and she high tailed it to the coop. She was obviously not over Peep’s mean behavior. So, Peep went back to the garage and out of sight from the others for a longer period of time.
After about 10 days, I moved Peep’s recess pen into the chicken yard. The other girls crowded around her, curious. Peep puffed up in pride and tried to act tough. The cage kept both sides safe, as the other chickens got to know each other again. Harriet, although not completely relaxed, seemed much better in Peep’s presence this time around.
After a few days of this re-acquaintance time, I let Peep out in the yard with the other girls. There were very few squabbles as everyone adjusted back to life with each other.
Peep, humbled by the experience, no longer bullies the other hens. The pecking order shifted around just enough that there’s now peaceful co-existence. And even Harriet is happy again.
Life is good in the hen house.