Pecking a butt

by Kyla
(Alberta Canada)

Question

Pecking a butt: A few months ago our chickens where vent pecking, we treated it and it seemed they were growing back... until yesterday.

They have TONS of food and water, roosting space hen boxes and things like that... they also don't have mites. (The temperature is -20 Celsius. ) So what could it be?

I am going out to put more no peck on right now. 3 of the chickens seem fine ( they must be at the top of the peck order).

I don't see the chickens pecking at one another. There are 8 hens, one Red Sussex cross and the rest are Rhode Island Reds, born June 5th. Their egg production is great, but I saw a bit of blood on an egg today.

Answer
This sounds like an over crowding issue, possibly dietary or you need a rooster to keep their minds off each other.

A good rooster will often run over and break up trouble between two hens.

For 8 chickens you should have a yard that is about 20’ x 40’, allowing 10 square feet outside, per chicken. Inside the coop you should have 4 square feet per chicken, 8’ x 8’.

I like to allow about 3 linear feet per bird on each perch. In the cold months they huddle together, but in warm weather they like to spread out.

Just because you don’t see them plucking each other doesn’t mean they aren’t. The nicest looking hens are usually the culprits.

Often this happens while roosting at night. No one is going to want to jump off the roost in the dark, so they may just set there and take it until the offender falls asleep.

A little blood on an egg is nothing to worry about, but if you see it regularly, it may mean mineral deficiencies and insufficient coating of the egg as it is formed.

Chickens need a good balanced feed, so get the best you can afford. It should have the right amount of minerals and vitamins added.

Chickens are hearty survival oriented animals. Generally when something is going wrong it’s our fault and something we can fix.

Spraying a deterrent won’t fix the problem, just mask it. Chickens in a spacious interesting environment with proper diet for climate will be calm. With enough room they can get out of each others space.

There will always be little posturing events to maintain position in the flock, but if all is well in chicken land, mutilation will not occur.

If the ground of your chicken yard is bare dirt, the chickens are probably bored and need fresh greens.

Mine free range and spend hours almost every day pecking and poking at the grass (or snow) of about 2 acres, finding seeds, bugs, worms, roots and keeping the grass short.

Try to give your girls as much space, enrichment and exercise as possible.

I put together a new flock last summer from three different flocks. I got three hens with plucked butts (cheap).

My solution, since I noticed a hen plucking one of these hens and eating the feathers, was to up the protein content of their feed. (Feathers are mostly protein.)

They were headed into the molt and cold weather, so I knew they could use the nutritional help. I chose to add black oil sunflower seeds for the good protein and the fat they contain.

You might need to switch to a better balanced feed and possibly add a couple more feeding stations to cut down on competition and traffic at each one.

If your feed contains animal fats, you might want to rethink. Those fats can go rancid or contain preservatives that aren’t the best thing for your girls.

I hope this helps. I can tell you work hard to keep your girls happy, and I know this can be very frustrating.

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