Chickens and Stress.


stressAfter losing one of our girls Poppy we  introduced two new chickens to my existing two I have come to the conclusion which others probably already knew…Chickens suffer from  stress like us.

The introductions went well with hardly any weeping and wailing or gnashing of beaks but little Rosie bottom of the pecking order before was not amused .She did not want to be bottom of the flock any more and wanted to go up a notch.

Before the introductions she was a lovely little hen that although smaller than she was as good as gold doing as she was told by the others.Her eggs were smaller than the others but perfectly formed and the shells were a lovely brown with little freckles on the end.

The day after the introductions she laid her egg as usual but it looked different pale in colour and very rough to the touch.A few days after a soft egg appeared  and clover had yolk around her beak after eating a hearty breakfast .I was giving lime stone flour and cod liver oil to strengthen the shells but nothing.On and on it went with either no eggs ,soft eggs  or broken eggs .During this time I would have laid a bet on if she would survive or not ,moping ,head in her neck .

Suddenly one day all chickens mixed together ,they all decided to sleep together and Rosie did not go down the pecking order and the eggs since have been perfect , dark brown and freckly…Rosie doing chickeny things with all the others in one gang .

The second example is my friend who has some lovely girls who all get on really well but she lost one girl Treacle and the others have taken a long time to get over the loss. They have lived together for a year or so with not a problem but suddenly two of them are getting pecked and feathers being drawn so badly that they have bare bums and necks.Everything has been tried even anti pecking spray  and it is still happening . I think given time fingers crossed although this has become a habit it will pass just like it has with Rosie.

If you ask people that have hens they say that both mine and her case is down to lack of protein and boredom etc., but nobody has mentioned stress. In both cases each little flock has lost a friend and I do believe that stress is the main reason for these happenings and that chickens are more like us than we think .

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6 thoughts on “Chickens and Stress.

  1. Reblogged this on The Natural Poultry Farming Guide and commented:
    It’s easy to think of chickens as simple minded and unfeeling creatures. I mean, all they do is eat, poop and lay eggs right? Well, no, actually, like most creatures on this planet of ours, they too have thoughts running through their little heads and have feelings too. We all know what it’s like to get stressed, and the feeling of loss when someone we know dies, so should we be surprised when chickens show us behavioral reactions to the same things? No, and this great post from Jackie sums up pretty well, that a little understanding goes a long way!

  2. I couldn’t agree more. My little flock lived happily together with no pecking behaviour. Treacle was ill for three weeks, then departed and the behaviour started from then, I think the stress of losing a flock member when they had been together from one month old was the catylist to the change in behaviour, then it became a habit which is hard to break.

    I know it’s not lack of protein because I give them plenty and they don’t eat the feathers. I have tried to entertain them more so that they are not bored but as you say they lived together happily for nearly a year without doing this.

    I thought it was getting better but they are still doing it. They all have healthy red combs and lay eggs nearly every day so it’s not a health issue.

    I really do believe as you do that the stress of losing a friend had this effect on them.

  3. I did not realise until I had chickens how attached I got to them and felt such a loss when one went…So how on earth must they feel when not only are they at a loss but deal with it in the only way they can and that is by reacting exactly like us and mourning and like us in the end they realise that life goes on .

  4. Like you, I had no idea how attached to them I would get and how hard it would be to lose one, so it must be hard for them when they are so together all the time. Also I wonder if it was worse losing their top girl. Treacle kept them all well behaved, she stopped Dotty bullying Bluebell and kept harmony and peace in the flock. I wonder if losing their leader has been more stressful than losing a lower ranking girl.

    I tried a different anti-peck spray today and when I went in later they were still doing it and I picked up another feather! Will they all end up bald? Will I end up tearing my hair out?

  5. We lost a girl around the time two of our ladies started to have bare necks. It started with one (who is still not getting her feather back and its been over month now) and the other’s feathers are trying to come back. I think once they lost them the other ladies peck at them when they come back in as they think the blood on the tip of the feather is a bug. If it doesn’t get better we are going to isolate the one, but hate to as she loves the outdoors. Isolation ma be the only way to get them to grow back and then reorient the lady back into the flock. We have tried a purple spray, creams, and even a sock on the neck (the lady was having non of that). If anyone finds something that works let me know.

  6. It is really good to hear others views about chickens and stress.I would love to hear more as it is an interesting point.So if any one else with chickens that has experienced stress in chickens through loss or an addition to the flock I would like to hear about it and how you solved it especcially the feather plucking.

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