How to Stop Chickens From Pecking Each Other in 3 Easy Steps
Nobody wants to encounter a hen pecking in the coop; a few simple changes can block boredom.Promoted by Purina Poultry
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Have you ever wondered what goes through a chicken’s mind? Wouldn’t it be helpful if they could say, “My feathers are itchy!” or “I’m bored!”? Though humans and hens don’t speak the same language, simple changes can help backyard flock conversations go smoothly and provide answers to common flock owner questions like, how to stop chickens from pecking each other.
“As backyard flock owners, we are tasked with becoming chicken whisperers,” says Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “Keeping a peaceful flock requires us to interpret behaviors to decipher what our chickens are telling us.”
During fall and winter when chickens are spending more time in the coop, boredom can bring out changes in behavior, such as pecking.
“Chickens are naturally inquisitive, but they don’t have arms and hands to inspect things. They use their beaks to explore instead,” says Biggs. “Pecking is a natural chicken behavior that allows them to check out their surroundings, including their flock mates.”
Though hen pecking is a natural occurrence, the nature of this behavior can change when birds spend more time inside.
“Understanding the difference between curious and aggressive hen pecking is key to knowing when there is a problem,” Biggs continues. “Not all pecking is bad. When it is gentle, this behavior is fun to watch. If pecking becomes aggressive, it can be problematic to other birds in the flock.”
How to Stop Chickens From Pecking Each Other
1. Investigate the reason for hen pecking.
If the hen pecking behavior becomes aggressive, Biggs’ first tip is to determine if something is causing birds to act out.
“Start with a list of questions about the environment: Are the hens too crowded? Do they ever run out of chicken feed or water? Are they too hot or cold? Is there a predator in the area? Is there something outside of the coop that is causing them to be stressed?” he asks.
After the stressor has been identified, the next step is easy: remove the problem and the behavior may go away or diminish.
“To maintain this newfound peace, make sure your birds have a minimum of 4 square feet indoors and 10 square feet outdoors per bird. Adequate feeder and waterer space is also critical,” adds Biggs.
If a new hen is added to the flock, there may be a period of uneasiness.
“Remember, there will always be some dominance in the flock as part of the pecking order,” Biggs says. “There are typically one or two boss hens who rule the roost. Once the pecking order is determined, the birds usually live together peacefully.”
2. Chickens take baths, too.
The next step to prevent feather picking is to keep birds clean. Chickens take a different type of bath then you might expect. They often dig a shallow hole, loosen up all the dirt and then cover themselves in it.
“This process is called a dust bath,” Biggs says. “Dust bathing is an instinct that helps keep birds clean. On our farm, we make dust baths for our hens by following these three steps: 1. Find a container at least 12” deep, 15” wide and 24” long; 2. Combine an equal blend of sand, wood ash, and natural soil; 3. Watch your birds roll around in the bath and clean themselves.”
Dust baths can also prevent external parasites such as mites and lice. If external parasites are an issue, supplement your birds’ dust bath with a cup or two of food-grade diatomaceous earth.
“If you add diatomaceous earth, be sure to mix it in well,” explains Biggs. “Diatomaceous earth can be harmful if inhaled in large amounts. By mixing the diatomaceous earth into the dust bath, it has less probability to become airborne while still helping prevent external parasites.”
3. Offer an alternative place for birds to peck.
Next, provide birds something to keep their minds busy. Perhaps the most fun of Biggs’ three tips is to find toys for chickens that bring out their natural instincts.
“Interactive objects can make the chicken coop more complex and exciting,” he says. “Logs, sturdy branches or chicken swings are a few flock favorites. These toys provide unique retreats for hens who may be lower in the pecking order.”
Another flock boredom-buster is a block for hens to peck, like the Purina® Flock Block™. You can simply place this block in the coop for hens to peck. The block can be a fun experience for hens and prevent flock boredom when they are spending more time in the coop.
“The Purina® Flock Block™ encourages natural pecking instincts,” says Biggs. “It also contains whole grains, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and oyster shell to provide nutrients that contribute to the hen’s well-being.”
To learn more about the Purina® Flock Block™ and backyard chicken nutrition, visit www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.
Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (www.purinamills.com) is a national organization serving producers, animal owners, and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven to unlock the greatest potential in every animal, the company is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, pemixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is headquartered in Shoreview, Minn. and a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.
15 thoughts on “How to Stop Chickens From Pecking Each Other in 3 Easy Steps”
My chickens are biting the anall area where they lay their eggs from. What could be the major cause for this kind of act.
What causes chickens to peck the anal area Of my guinea hens, where they lat there eggs. What can we do to stop this behavior.
I have one female hen that has pecked nearly all the feathers off of another females head. ”Boss Woman” seems to have started this behavior after a neighbors dog killed 4 of my small flock of 11 hens. She only seems to pick on this one poor hen.
I’m also having the same problem with one hen out of 15. Red Rhodes are the bullies, as i watch. My lovely 2 Amber Stars are being bullied.
I have 5 new Red Rhodes pullets, they are being bullied by two of my Cuckoo Marans, 1 Daisybelle and 1 bluebelle.
It could be cannibalistic. Remove the chicken being pecked and the problem should stop.
My hens have just started feather packing my cockerel making him bleed. There are 9 of them do he doesn’t stand a chance. They have lots of room evenings fact live a life of luxury. They get ad lib food plus seeds and greens every day. I have had to remove him to the potting shed so he can heal. Have you any idea what I can do? I have sprayed him with anti peck spray.
Hi Patricia, it sounds like you might have a pecking order and aggression issue instead of a housing issue. I really recommend this story, which was written by Tamsin Cooper who follows the latest scientific research on animal behavior and mentors on chicken welfare online courses. Take a read, be sure all your “animal husbandry” boxes are checked. And if so, it may just be time to permanently restrict hens’ access to your rooster. You can trade him with another chicken owner who has a stronger and more aggressive rooster who won’t put up with the bullying, or you could build a second coop and pair him with your gentlest hen. Good luck! https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/how-to-stop-chickens-from-pecking-each-others-feathers-out-behavior-problems/
We call her “momma”. She is the only one laying eggs. She began chasing one of the other hens after she, herself, began to lay. We put in another nest, just in case another hen was ready to start laying. It was after that, that ‘momma’ began to chase the other hen, and keep her away from food, and boss her out of her sleeping position. For now I have separated the two to avoid further abuse. When they are together, she goes for the other, very aggressively. What do you think happened? Was she threatened by the new nest? Both nests were torn apart, the day after we added the new one. I love my birds and I tell them. This really upset me. I was probably in some way the cause. We now have four birds. Originally we had 6. 2 were killed by predators. I cried for days. There is plenty of space for the four. And they get plenty of food and water. (I spend the days making sure they get what they need.) my son says I coddle them. Yup. I do. I’d appreciate any suggestions.
I have a hen that continues to peck the healed area on another hens comb. I have only 4 young hens that have been together since day one. I am not sure if the pecking caused the initial injury. They all roost together at night, but I have separated the ‘pecking’ hen, keeping the others in her view during the day. If I do this for 3 or 4 days, will it stop her from attacking the other hens comb? Thanks for any help!
I too have a problem these days. Everyday a hen gets killed in the coop. I don’t see any external predator. Could other hens be killing them?
I have a momma hen that hatched her own lil chick…….The momma and chick are in the outdoor fenced area (2 coops are out there) —anyways, I have 8 other chickens…no issues….they were actually going after her and the baby but now there is no issue….MY CONCERN—-I have 3 bantams that are young/new to the coop…..all the other birds have accepted them——the older birds roost on their own in 1 coop…the 3 new bantams and the momma and chick roost in the other coop….at night there are no issues BUT THIS MORNING……….the one poor bantam’s head was all blood and raw……..The momma aggressively went after the one specific bantam…….What should I do? They went into the various coops on their own………and what treatment should I put on the poor lil bantam…its open raw bloody?HELP!!!!!!!!
We have 2 hens that are now featherless on their necks, spine and breast areas.
They are part of a flock of 6 that we got from a friend that has been added to the 11 we already had.
They have plenty of space outside and there are 2 coops that they can sleep and lay in but most of them choose to sleep in the same coop for some reason.
We have just started opening up and moving the hens at night after they have gone to bed to even up the coops but we are not sure if this will work.
Also, we are only getting around 9 eggs per day from the 17 hens. Maybe we need more nesting boxes as there is only one per coop.
any ideas greatfully received.
I have 4 chicks four-month-old I bought from orschlens as starters, then I just recently purchased three cinnamon Queens that are 14 months and laying eggs ,but they keep picking my 4 month old chicks and running them off of food and water how do I cure this? It is all three of The Cinnamon Queens that are mean but they must have come from a flock that had some more that was more dominant birds as they have bare spots where they have been picked ,can i cure this without getting rid of any chickens ?