Pecking Among Chickens: Causes And Solutions

Pecking among chickens is a fairly common occurrence. Some pecking among a flock is completely normal. After all, they don’t call it a pecking order for no reason! When pecking becomes excessive and causes injury and defeathering, there’s a problem. It’s definitely an indication that some or all of your chickens are not completely happy or healthy, so you’ll want to take a close look into the management of your flock to sort out any issues. Here are some of the most common causes of excessive pecking among chickens and solutions to each of those causes.

The most common cause of pecking is due to stress from overcrowding. In a coop, allow for at least 4 square feet of floor space per adult chicken. When calculating the total square footage, subtract any floor space consumed by roosts, nest boxes, feeders and waterers, etc.even if those items are hanging on a wall of the coop. It’s much better to err on the side of ample space rather than squeezing in the maximum number of chickens in a coop.

The next most common cause of pecking is from boredom. This is probably more common in winter time when fresh grass may not be growing and forage is low. Giving your flock a “flock block” to peck in instead of their flockmates may help alleviate pecking. Try encouraging your flock to go outside, even in the winter. Scatter treats across their yard to make them go search. Exercise, sunshine and fresh air are good for them.

When observing your flock for causes of pecking, you may discover that some hens may be pulling their own feathers. Possible causes may be either external parasites or a lack of adequate protein in the diet. Examine the flock carefully for lice and/or mites. Lice will most commonly be seen around the vent area and can be seen with the naked eye. Mites will be smaller and more difficult to see, so try using a magnifying lens to see them. Mites and lice can be treated with a dusting of a permethrin based poultry dust If you want to avoid chemicals you may try the clove based poultry spray from Purely Planet.

Self-pecking that is not caused from external parasites may be caused from a lack of dietary protein. Try increasing the protein in the feed to see if this helps.

Occasionally pecking may be due to the fact that some birds are just different. I have noticed within my flock that the same breeds will often be found congregating near each other. Breeds with large crest feathers such as the Polish may become targets for being picked on by the others, especially if you only have one of that breed in your flock. If you want to have those specialty breeds in your flock, I suggest trying to keep more than one so that they have each other to hang with. The old saying is true, birds of a feather do tend to flock together.

We hope this brief primer on causes and solutions for pecking among you flock will be useful for you. Do you have experience in dealing with pecking? If so, leave us a comment and tell us about what has worked for you.

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