The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Bullying in our flock of chickens and guinea fowl

Photo: Hope and Beatyl Boss
Photo: Hope and Beatyl Boss

Now that the mornings and evenings are brighter, I’m spending more time watching our flock. I’ve discovered that there are problems. Our youngest additions to the flock are being bullied.

“Poor Beatyl and Hope are being terrorised by Thunder and Carol.”
Danny put down his toast.
“It’s Cloud too. She can be a real bitch. We could cull Thunder. He’d be tasty.”
“But guinea fowl mate for life. Cloud would be devastated.”
“We could eat her too.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“The guineas are vicious we need to move them. I want to keep them but they are frightening and must terrify something a fiftieth of my size!”

I’d rather build a new run for the guinea fowl. I love them. I just don’t like them hurting the rest of our stock. Ages ago S pointed out an area of our garden where we could set up a new run.
“It’s perfect and out of the way.”
But it has no sun. All living things need sun and fresh water everyday in my book. Sun nurtures and our flock sunbathe in the summer. Lolling on the roof of the Day Centre, legs stretched out and heads resting on the warm roof. It’s the only time that I ever see them totally relax. They are completely floppy like rag dolls.

Beatyl (golden Sebright cockerel) and Hope (bantam Wyandotte) are at the bottom of the pecking order so the bullying is not a surprise. But we are seriously thinking of building a new run and splitting up the flock as I hate the bullying. I’ve set up more feeding stations and drinking fountains so that the little ones have a chance to eat and drink without being tormented.

I’m also going to try the cabbage trick as I’ve found that it’s worked in the past. If you hang a cabbage in the run it’s a tasty distraction. I’m also on the lookout for a cheap football. Apparently this can amuse chickens, not by sorting themselves into two teams and competing for a Chicken World Cup but rather trying to stay aboard this new rotating world.

There are plenty of places where the youngsters can hide. They have become very flight of foot and, being smaller than their large tormentors, can turn on a feather and vanish. They spend most of their time hanging out together and sometimes with Mrs Boss. She’s cool yet gentle with them. Perhaps she’s just basking in the fact that they have taken her place and for the first time in five years she is not bottom of the pecking order.

As my mum says.
“I like Mrs Boss. But she’s such a grubby little hen.”
Yes. But she has much more grit and character than Mrs Squeaky. She is the hen that has raised guinea fowl, runner ducks and bantams. She is a cottage treasure and the sort of spirit that would fight for freedom if the chips were down. She has also taught me how to deal with a persistently broody hen that you don’t want to be broody.

Beatyl may be sweet on Mrs Squeaky but she doesn’t reciprocate any possibility of romance with such a cheeky whippersnapper and rushes away on her feathered feet when he tries to court her. Meanwhile Hope observes from a distance. She’s Beatyl’s best friend and I reckon that she’d like to progress the relationship a bit further. Perhaps when she’s a bit older she’ll exude the right pheromones. Until then they will remain just partners in arms.

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  1. Veronica

    LOL, Pamela. I’ve heard that story too. don’t know how true it is, but not long after Minou had his new magnet, a friend gave hum a shiny new stainless steel bowl for his birthday. The first time he approached it there was a sharp “ting!” as his magnet stuck to the bowl, and he wouldn’t go near it after that 🙂

    Seriously, I wouldn’t fit a very small kitten with a magnet or a collar though, it’s too dangerous. An adult cat can easily get itself out of collar-caught situations (Minou has lost his quite a few times) but a smaller one might not.

  2. Pamela

    Are the transponder operated cat flaps like the ones that operate with a magnet? I did hear a tale once years ago of a tiny kitten being fitted with a magnet on his collar to open the cat flap and who was then found stuck to the fridge, unable to move! Urban myth or true tale? I’m not sure, but my friend’s then 6 year old daughter dined out on that tale for a long time, even doing impersonations of said kitty stuck to the fridge. You can get away with a lot when you are a super-cute, skinny 6 year old with freckles!

  3. Veronica

    Linda, we got a magnetic catflap for our cat — he wasn’t being bullied exactly, since he’s a scrapper himself, but we were fed up of cat fights in the house 🙂 I’m sure your cat will appreciate this — it will be a pleasure for him to sit inside and watch his enemies hurling themseves uselessly against the outside of it!

    Mine’s a Staywell one — if you can’t find them locally you can buy them online, e.g. here:

  4. Linda,
    if it’s of any help to you regards “other” cats getting in through your catflap, you can get “transponder” operated catflaps now, your cat wears one on his collar, and the flap will only open for him to come and go – no transponder,no entry!. Might give your “Mog” a bit of respite in his twilight years!


  5. I know what you are going through. Rupert (cat) aged 16 is being bullied occasionally by neighbouring cats who visit our garden. Sometimes one even comes into his/our sunroom where he lives most of the time, through his catflap, and I feel so HELPLESS!!!!! We love and want to protect our animals – they are so dependent upon us after all.

  6. Still smiling at the thought of a chicken world cup!!

  7. magic cochin

    I haven’t any experience of guinea fowl. But, when we introduced our new pullets last autumn the old girls were just getting over the moult. This meant none were in lay – I see this as the equivalent of having a mix of puberty hormones with older girls with severe PMT – the result was a bitchy peckathon!

    Now they are all laying, everything has calmed down. The pecking order has been re-established but it only takes a ‘look’ from Sylvie for the youngsters to stand back and wait their turn!!!


  8. casalba

    I love the writing on this blog too. (Still smiling about the Notelet family.) Here we have: “can turn on a feather” – it’s lovely stuff.

    I am gearing up to getting 3 hens this spring and am learning such a lot through your blog – hanging up a cabbage and providing them with a football. See, I’d never have thought about those things.

  9. Amanda

    Bullying is so horrible to watch, in ‘shoeman beans’ and animals. I’m with you on the thoughts of building another run, I think I’d have to do that too.

    Maybe you need to get yourself a refs kit and whistle, Danny could be coach. You could train them to play football, not just balance. Video it, put it on-line, pay per view, make millions… perhaps not… It’s jolly early on Sunday morn and wish I was still sleeping.

  10. Oh the heady, exciting world of mixed fowl! I take a great interest in Mrs. Boss and her egg rearing expertise but actually know nothing about chickens and all the work that you and many of your followers cope with so well. I can understand your angst at the current behaviour and hope you can find a way to settle things down, perhaps with the separation you have in mind.
    I read your piece out loud to my husband and we had a great laugh about the football etc. I think you should be a writer. (Or maybe you are and I need to know your published titles immediately!) x

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