Excessive Pecking of Other Chickens


(Chehalis, WA USA)

Question

I have a flock of nine chickens and I am having a great deal of trouble with Excessive pecking of other chickens. I seem to remember there was something you could feed the chickens to help with this. If anyone knows please let me know.

Answer:
I have heard vinegar, but this could be an old wives tale. I believe, in the context I heard this, they weren't necessarily talking about feeding it to the birds as much as putting in on the birds being pecked to prevent them from being pecked.

Things that can be done though:

1) Reduce crowding. Crowded birds lead to unhappy birds, which could lead to pecking.

2) Make sure that everyone has enough food and water to reduce competition. Competing birds tend to peck one another to gain access to food.

3)Lower the lights in the coop. Intense light can stress birds out and lead to irritability.

4) Make sure that the chicken house is at a comfortable temperature. Heat stresses chickens out as well.

5) Make sure that they have a varied diet that is supplying them with all the nutrients they need.

6) Remove or separate the obviously weaker birds. If the babies or the weak ones are the main ones taking the abuse, put them in a separate place.

If none of these work there is always de-beaking. I would consider this a last resort, but you also don't want cannibals on your hands either. I have heard of it escalating to that point.

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Mean chickens

by Kate Heuer
(Penn Valley, CA)

Question
Mean chickens: I brought a new hen into the hen house and the older 5 started pecking at her.

They bloodied her neck and comb so we built another coop for her. Will they always be so mean?
What can we do? I can't watch them attack her over and over.

Answer
Any time you bring a new chicken into your flock you should keep it separated from the flock for a couple of weeks to make sure it does not carry any diseases.

After a couple of weeks you will want to put her next to the flock but separated where the other chickens cannot get to her. After awhile you can slowly introduce her to the other chickens.

Will this work? Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not. There are times when a flock will not ever accept new chickens.

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Mixing chickens

Question
Mixing chickens: I have 4 chickens, Dominiques, about 1 year old. I put a new chicken in the pen with them; they chase the new one all around and are pecking the feathers off of it. How can I get the old chickens to accept the new chicken?

Answer
A flock of chickens is a structured group, large or small. There are more dominant chickens and less dominant. Anytime you toss a new chicken into that mix, you are asking for trouble.

I make it a rule never to add just one chicken to a group. The new ones will always stand out as intruders. The more new chickens there are, the more spread out the harassment is by the original flock. One chicken taking all the attention may be worried to death, literally.

I would suggest removing the most dominant hens for a few days. You will know them as they will be the first to go after the new hen. You may need to remove all 4 and allow the new chicken to get used to the pen, if possible.

Then add the least dominant hen and allow her to bond with the new hen. Once they are settled in, add another one, until you are ready to add the most dominant.

By upsetting their routines and allowing the new hen to feel more confident, you may be able work her in to your flock. Hope this helps, hope it works.

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