Friday, April 13, 2018

Stop chickens from pecking each other

Chickens do some weird things. Eating non food items and picking at each others feathers are way at the top of that list! They're are lots of reasons chickens might peck at each other and sometimes it's completely normal. After all, they don't call it the pecking order for nothing! A good solid peck can tell a hen who's boss or chase her away from something yummy they they don't want to share.

Sometimes normal pecking goes too far though and can result in injury or even death. It's important to stop chickens from pecking each other before it gets that far. 

If one chicken causes another chicken to bleed by pecking, that bloody area suddenly gains a new fascination for the offending chicken and sometimes the rest of the flock too. Having the whole flock picking at one spot on a hen can cause serious injury so we need to nip this bad behavior in the bud!  

chickens in yard and how to stop them from pecking each other

If chickens pecking each other is a problem, it's important to figure out why the chickens are pecking each other in order to stop them. Here are the main 6 reasons I've seen for chickens pecking each other.

Why are chickens pecking each other?

Boredom: Boredom is probably the number one cause of chickens picking at each other. 

Blood: Once chickens see blood they will continue to peck the other chicken in the bloody area, causing more blood and damage. Any bloody area whether it be from another chicken pecking it, pulling a feather out or injury, can cause this to start.

Pecking order: Your chickens could just be pecking at each other as they work to establish the pecking order. Usually this is a small amount of pecking that does not cause any damage. It's more of a dominating gesture than an intention to cause harm.

Nutritional deficiency: Chickens will pick each others feathers and eat them if they are low in protein. 

Stress: Times of stress can cause a chicken to peck her flockmates or even pull out her own feathers. Stress can include recent additions to the coop, change in their schedule or predator attack.

Illness: Even if a chicken does not look ill yet, her flockmates can sense that she is sick and will sometimes start picking at her. 

How to stop chickens from pecking each other

Alleviate boredom: 
Allow the flock some supervised free range time. 
Hang a cabbage or apple in the run for them to peck at. 
Dump some grass clippings or weeds in the run for the flock to eat and dig through. Dried leaves with a handful of scratch mixed in works well also. 

Separation: Separating the worst pickers for a short amount of time can help to restore harmony to the flock especially if it is a pecking order issue. 

Pinless peepers: These silly looking blinders keep the chickens from pecking each other by blocking their vision...which could be a problem if they free range and forage for bugs often, but is very effective for preventing feather picking. 

Check out how the folks as Community Chickens used pinless peepers to solve their feather picking problem.

Saddles: A chicken saddle is a piece of fabric that covers the back of a hen. If the feather picking is in that area it gives the feathers a chance to grow in rather than being pecked out when they're just starting to grow. I used saddles on the hens when needed and they really help give the feathers a chance to grow back in. 

chicken wearing a saddle or apron.

Blu-Kote: Chickens tend to peck at blood or anything red colored for that matter. Blu-Kote is a blue colored antiseptic that is applied to the red area. By applying Blu-Kote, the area turns purple and the chickens lose interest in pecking at it. Will need reapplied every few days. 

Proper nutrition: If the reason your chickens are pecking at each other is because of low protein levels, then switching their feed  will alleviate the problem. You could also add protein to their diets by offering mealworms, scrambled eggs or black oil sunflower seeds.

My Pet Chicken has an excellent post on optimum protein levels in feed.

Separate ill chickens:  Move sick or injured chickens to their own area to keep them safe while they recover. I use a dog crate inside the coop for injuries and non contagious illnesses.

Hopefully your chickens will all get along and not have any feather picking or pecking issues. If they do though, alleviating the problem quickly will prevent injury to the pecked at hens.
~L

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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer.

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1 comment:

  1. My problem has been with my flock of three chickens having the largest one sort of mounting and jumping on top of the smallest one. She didn't actually pick out her but I think she was just trying to dominate her. The pores smaller hands tolerated it but it's really frustrating. I read that clocks that don't have roosters sometimes have one chicken who sort of takes over the role of dominating. Ironically she also tries to protect her when I try to pick her up I almost attacking me! Go figure

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