Bully Hen

September 24, 2012
bully hen Dottie Speckles

On a regular trip to the feed store over a year ago, I fell in love.  Of course, I entered the feed store with blinders on.  It was Spring.  Signs of new life were everywhere.  The leaf buds on the trees were bursting open.  The air was fresh and clean, charged with new life.  New little chicks filled the temporary brooders.  I had guessed it wouldn’t hurt to hold just one of the Silver Laced Wyandottes.  As I held her and shopped she feel asleep in my warm hands.  I stalled.  I looked at waterers, feeders, supplements, treats, wound care, antibiotics, everything to delay the inevitable of returning her to the brooder.  It was clear, I was going home with a new chick.  I would add her to the flock of little freshly hatched Silkies in my brooder in the garage.  And so it went. I placed her in among her new brothers and sisters and her surrogate mother, Dolly, and watched as the family grew.  Rather instantaneously they got along famously.

Dottie Speckles and the little ones grew.  When it was time to integrate them into the flock, I can remember how frightened the 10 week old Dottie Speckles was in a place with older, wiser and big hens.  She would hide behind Dolly.  Dolly protected her, close behind her wing keeping the older larger hens at a bay.  Dottie Speckles was her girl.  It did not matter that Dolly was just a little Silkie protecting a breed that would eventually grow to three times her size.

A few months had passed and as Dottie Speckles grew, I noticed that she was beginning to terrorize every flock member.  At first, it began with the Silkies, including her mother, Dolly.  She maliciously began to pull their little puffs off their heads.  Peck marks replaced feathers.  Even, the older girls were preyed on at night when they were sleeping.  She would cozy up to them, vulnerable on the roosts, and by the light of the moon, she would peck out their feathers one by one.  She was quickly becoming a bully.  Despite a couple of months of intervention, it was clear to me that she could not remain in the flock.  Her behavior was not changing, it was only getting worse and spreading like an infectious disease against everyone.  No one was safe.  Everyone was on edge.  They felt defenseless. They lived in fear, afraid of the unknown and just what Dottie was capable of next!  She wasn’t in a race to become the newest hen at the top of the pecking order as I first had thought.  Her heart was cruel.  Her bullying was relentless.

A dear friend has a lovely farm down the road with three different chicken enclosures.  Like me, she has mixed breeds that have plenty of space and plenty hens to make new friends with and form a new family.  I did not feel guilty. It needed to be done.  Once Dottie Speckles was rehomed, I could sense that the flock was less on edge.  Eggs became abundant again.  Obviously, her presence was affecting the girls on a psychological level.

She began to acclimate to her new home.  She was well behaved and laid her beautiful brown eggs in the nesting boxes.  However, within a few weeks, she began to show her true colors.  The patterns and her behavior had repeated at the farm.  So, she was placed in a larger, different, enclosure with a strong rooster that kept order in his flock.  It didn’t take long there either.  By the light of the moon, she single-handedly removed every feather from the Polish rooster’s head.  The other chickens spent their days hiding high up on the outside roosts.  As she became comfortable, the others lived in fear.  She had now lived in three different settings with three different chicken families and none of these were successful.  My friend called me to tell me the news and said that in all her 40 years of keeping chickens, she had never met a chicken with a personality like Dottie Speckles!

Dottie Speckles was finally placed in a smaller coop and run on her own.  Alone.  She could see the other flocks but could no longer do any harm.  It was clear that she could not co-exist with her species.  She was a hen bully.  My friend made special accommodations for her.  She even had her own solo-free ranging time, different from the other flocks.  She had isolated herself and she did not seem to care.  I would visit her as often as I could and hold her.  She still loved that and loved me.  I had a hard time loving her back for knowing how and what she did.  Yet, every time, I stroked her feathers I somehow seemed to forgive her.  You see, my friend and I believe this is who she is and this is her personality.  She was just born this way.

So the days and months passed, until one day a woman visited the farm and only wanted one chicken for a pet.  She desired no other hens.  Dottie Speckles was perfect.  She held Dottie Speckles and soon enough the two of them happily left together on a new beginning.

I don’t think that the world will ever be free from bullies, but I do think that I have learned from Dottie Speckles.  For me, this was a sad lesson.  Insight into the mind of Dottie Speckles, helped me to understand and have more compassion for those who bully.  There is not much difference between hen bullies and people bullies, it’s just gets a bit more sophisticated.


This post is linked up to Homestead Revival’s Barn Hop.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest, button used with permission and free to share


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28 thoughts on “Bully Hen”

  1. I thought this was going to have a French Revolution ending as described by the first commenter…amazed and happy that you were able to find the right home for her!

  2. What a lonely life Dottie Speckles created for herself. So sad she has to be kept alone. Hopefully she found love at her new home, as an only 'child'.
    Good for you on not giving up on her. If only 'people' bullies could find real love, they too would find peace.
    Debbie 🙂

  3. Awww! My SLWs (were SUPPOSED to be 2 hens, but are one of each) are neither one overly cuddly with people but seem to be great with their flock-mates! I mean they will let us hold them and pet them, but they run if you try to catch them most of the time lol. I think everyone has a "someone" and maybe God knew that there was gonna be someone who just NEEDED a Dottie Speckles!

    • From my understanding, hens like Dottie Speckles are rare, personality wise. There usually is a bossier hen, but not a bully. Just like in life, you can't always know what you are going to get, you just have to make lemonade from lemons. Thank you so much for your sweet comment.

  4. I am rather new to chicken keeping and have not had this problem yet. I am so glad for a good resolution. Maybe she just prefers people for companions. Did the silkes integrate okay into your existing flock? I sure would love to get a couple eventually. I have large hens though and wonder how it would go.

    • Hi Elaine, yes the Silkies do just fine. I would at least make sure that you have 2-3 though, for companionship. They tend to get along with everyone. They are not fussy, they just enjoy being broody…a lot!

  5. So glad that Dottie Speckles has found a new, perfect home for herself. You and your friend are to be commended for not giving up on her.

    I think that some chickens prefer the company of people over the company of other chickens. I have an American Game who is very sweet and affectionate to us, but is standoffish and grumpy with all the other chickens.

    Glad Dottie Speckles and her new companion have a happy ending!

  6. It sounds like Dottie Speckles suffers from reactive attachment disorder. You are a very patient and kind coop-keeper. I don't know how I would have handled that situation, though I am sure I could not have done it with as much grace as you did.

    My little rooster just started seeing me as a rival this week, and I am really struggling with it. He's so good with the girls so I'm trying to be calm and back out slowly when he attacks me, but if this continues I may have to do something else. I am praying things get better soon.

    • Hi Heidi, I know the feeling. The same thing happened and I had to rehome our rooster, Chocolate. Might I suggest filling an empty aluminum soda can with rocks and covering it with duct tape. When he nears you and tries to "attack" you, try shaking the can. It might be enough to catch him off guard and make him a bit nervous of you. Just a thought…

    • Welcome! So glad you are here. Oh no Poor Beaureguard! Sometimes, it is not easy for them to get along. When we had two roos, they always seemed to be going at it over the girls.

  7. We have a bully hen too and I was wondering if you could give us some advice. She pecks the other girls a lot and sometimes she will even hop on another hen's back to pull out their neck feathers. Is this normal behavior or something I should be worried about??

    • Hi Levi! Are you sure this is a hen and not a rooster? Roosters do what you describe during mating. You might want to check out my post on Reasons for Missing Feathers for more pointers. You will find it under the "chickens" tab up top.

  8. I am not sure if this thread is still active, we have a bully that attacks at night like yours – the trouble is during the day we never see any bullying behavior so we are not sure which of the unpecked hens is the bully. How did you know she was attacking the others while they slept?

    • I too like you figured that the chicken doing the pecking was probably the only one that wasn’t being pecked. Dottie Speckles had perfect feathers and the others had their neck and back feathers plucked. It might have to be by process of elimination. One friend had to have 2 coops- one for the nice girls and one for the mean girls. I think you are just going to have to watch closely or even consider getting some sort of camera out there to spy on your flock.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.