Our chickens are almost 3 months old. We have 8 that we just recently moved from a large bin in the corner of the garage into a roomy, comfortable coop. After moving them we noticed that several of them have bald, irritated areas on their backs where they have been pecked. At that time, we saw them being pecked by other chickens. So, we moved two of the ones who were affected the worst to another large bin. Now the two that have been isolated look even worse. We think they are pecking themselves! The bald areas are bigger and there are other bad spots than just their backs. It looks very sore and we are concerned. Maybe they are pecking at each other, but we have stood and watched them for considerable blocks of time and we don't see that. We only see them pecking at themselves.

We sprayed the featherless sore spots with bluekote because we read that could help them heal and also act as a deterrent to pecking (or being pecked)

Five of the chickens are Reds, the other three are black and grey. It's the black and grey ones that seem to be getting pecked (or are pecking themselves, we don't know for sure). What do you suggest we do?


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by: Sharon

I've only seen this problem in situations where the chicks have been kept in too small an area as they grow. They get bored, can't get away from each other, they are stressed, and about the only activity they can find, besides eating and drinking and grooming themselves, is to pull feathers on others. This often leads to bleeding, which can trigger further pecking, and some serious skin irritations that could get infected. Just like we might feel an itching sensation or pain at a wound site, a chicken will too, so they could be aggravating their own wounds trying to soothe them.

I was called to rescue the remaining chicks from a feed store that were being kept in their tiny baby chick brooders and were nearly 2 months old. Several of them were bloody and missing feathers. They didn't want them anymore as they couldn't sell them in that condition.

I got them home and set them all up together in a large flight cage with a heating lamp, where they could warm up if they needed to, especially at night, they could run and play and climb around on branches - just basically have a more natural life. I treated the backs of the plucked ones with triple antibiotic salve for a few days. They healed quickly.

Chickens are very smart creatures that need interesting and enriched lives. Young chickens are exploring their world to find out how to get by in it. Much of the "Pecking Order" behavior in chickens is just that - they peck at each other, sometimes mercilessly, especially in confined over crowded spaces, to say: You're in my way or in my space, get away from me. When there is nowhere to go, the chicken brain isn't able to comprehend that as they were NOT designed to be confined. (This is why some chicken factories remove the beaks of baby chicks destined for a confined and over crowded life, and why sunglasses were designed for chickens.)

In any case, sounds like you are on your way to the cure getting them to a good sized coop. It's recommended that a good sized coop allows 3 sq. ft. of floor space per standard adult chicken and the yard provide 6 sq. ft. per chicken, minimally. If you are offering much less space than that, you may have this problem again once the chicks are full grown and have outgrown the area you've offered. If you are unable to provide enough room for your chickens as adults, it will be easier in the long run to reduce the number you keep. Over crowding can lead to a list of problems, including stress which isn't good if you want nice eggs & happy, healthy chickens.

Sometimes there is the odd chicken that insists on being brutal, no matter how great a life it has. I get rid of those.

Also, in adult chickens with plenty of room, I have noticed individuals plucking feathers from another chicken and eating it, but not to the point of bald spots or blood. I take this as a sign that I need to up the protein level in their diet, so add flax, black oil sunflower and or safflower seeds to their ADULT diet (wouldn't recommend these whole seeds yet for young chicks).

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