Ask the Expert: Pecking

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Pecking Problem

We have one rooster and 16 pullets, all of which are 4 months old. Two weeks ago, our rooster became injured and the pullets began pecking at the bloody area. We separated him and let him heal. No blood was showing. We put him back in the coop with the pullets. After about four hours, we noticed he was bleeding again and several pullets were pecking at him. How do we make sure he is healed?

How do we re-introduce him to the hens and keep him safe? We enjoy hearing him crow and want to keep him but we don’t want to have to segregate him.

Rich and Rena Ahrens

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Hi,

Reintroducing a chicken can be difficult. And chickens can be very nasty to one that is injured or shows signs of weakness, as you’ve seen. Usually, introducing a rooster into a group of hens goes fairly well. We suspect the age may be an issue. Several methods are suggested when introducing chickens together, and it may help to try one or several of them.

Often, if you put the chicken in at night when they are roosting, they will usually get along the next day. It’s always best to do this when you can monitor the situation the next day, of course, since it isn’t always successful.

Putting the chickens side-by-side for a while with just a fence separating them often helps. If you have a cage you can put the rooster in, and put the cage in the pen with the pullets, this might work.

Reorganizing the area might help, as it can break down established territories.

This is often difficult to do but it might be something to try. Also adding barriers such as haybales. can break up the area. It may also provide some hiding places. Providing hay, vegetables or something similar to pick at may also occupy the pullets so they are less interested in pecking at the rooster.

Finally, we’re not sure where on the rooster the injury is. If it is on bare skin, you might try to coat the area with something to stop the pecking. Many people will spray the area with Blukote, although it’s not really made for chickens. It is not to be used for food producing animals, so you may not want to use it around your pullets. You might just try some petroleum jelly to coat the area. This may slow the pullets from pecking at it as much.

We would also expect that a little more time (a couple more weeks at most), the rooster may develop a bit more maturity and be more accepted by the flock.

Good luck with them!

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Pecking Problem

I have one hen that they pecked almost to death but I saved her. They pecked her entire back out so probably damaged her spine, her back is 99% to 100% healed but she still waddles like a duck so they continue to peck her. How can I help this?

Cindi

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Hi Cindi,

Chickens are remarkable creatures and they can come back from more than we think.

Chickens will peck for different reasons. It’s hard to know what your individual situation is, but maybe these examples will help.

When chickens are confined in too little space, they will peck. Also, if confined, they can become bored or too hot and peck.

Chickens are also quick to spot weakness and can bully and peck that weaker chicken even to the point of death. With that said, there are some breeds that are more dominant than others and that can cause the same problems.

You can change up your coop and make the chickens re-establish their pecking order or you can separate your pecked hen into her own flock with some gentle hens. That would mean you have two separate coops and setups, but it would allow her to thrive away from the bullies.

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A Hen Getting Pecked

I am an 87-year-old woman, and I was raised on the farm. I still live on the farm, in fact. In all these years, I have never known a rooster to take a spat out on just one hen, but for the past two years, our rooster has bullied a white hen. He won’t let her come up when I give them treats and pecks her head. She has stopped coming to my house in the evenings, and stays by herself around the chicken house, or in the pasture with the cows. We got rid of one rooster, and a friend gave us a white one. But he is doing the same thing with the same hen. Do you have any clues about this?

Ruth Hill

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Hi Ruth,

As you have learned, it does not take long for the chickens to establish the pecking order. A flock has a keen sense of who is at the bottom, and in their own way, communicates that to the rooster. Some roosters will not be as violent as others, but it sounds like you’re on a bad streak.We would suggest, come treat time, that you separate the rooster from the flock if you can. I realize that can be tough, especially if they are free-ranging. The

We would suggest, come treat time, that you separate the rooster from the flock if you can. I realize that can be tough, especially if they are free-ranging. The other option is to find a way to give treats to the hen in her location near the cows or in the chicken house, away from the rooster and other birds. There is a small chance that the rooster will recognize that he will not get treats unless the other bird gets treats, but most likely, this will continue if you try to feed them all together.We have heard some chicken owners having success in showing the rooster who is

We have heard some chicken owners having success in showing the rooster who is boss, by lightly pushing the rooster away when they attack with a broom or broom stick. You do not want to injure the rooster, but just show them you are the boss! After a few days, when they are being pushed away as they peck at the hen, we have heard that they can change their behavior.

In any way, what the rooster is doing is hard-wired into his instincts, and is not an easy thing to fix. Best of luck with your flock, and enjoy the farm life!

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Please note that although our team has dozens of years of experience, we are not licensed veterinarians. For serious life and death matters, we advise you to consult with your local veterinarian.

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