Why Chickens Peck Each Other

A recent post for Backyard Poultry Magazine....

After Little Muff's pecking, I was curious about why chickens peck each other. I'd always known this could be a problem, but had never experienced it.

First, it's important to say that chicken pecking is not always bad. Chickens will peck each other as a normal and important form of communication. This pecking is gentle; in fact the feathers are rarely disturbed. This is a way the chickens "check out" each other and establish the "pecking order" that rules how a flock functions.

If you start to find chickens with lots of feathers pulled out on the back, wings, base of tail and sides of body, and it's not molting season, then you know you've got a problem. There can be many reasons for this type of pecking, but it's important to note that it is not considered aggressive. Self plucking because of an infestation of mites, lice or other irritants; overcrowding and overheating and a lack of protein can cause this behavior.

Also, chickens are curious and sometimes pecking accidentally draws blood. This can send chickens into a frenzy and the results can be bad.
In Little Muff's case, she was the victim of what is called aggressive pecking. This type of pecking occurs exclusively at the top of the head or comb and requires a chicken keeper to go beyond initial triage and rehabilitation. For Little Muff, she has always been at the bottom of the pecking order. She's a beautiful Ameracauna, but she gets a little spastic, and I personally think the other chickens get tired of her weird behavior.
But, before we added our red sex links and our unexpected rooster last year, we had never had aggressive behavior in our flock even with Little Muff around. And, now that our two hatched roosters have matured, things have escalated. I truly believe our new roosters ganged up on Little Muff and almost killed her.

Since Little Muff has been away from the flock for so long while healing, I don't feel like I can safely reintroduce her. She has very little protection on her head and likely will not survive any more incidents. So, she's probably getting her own coop and run and hay have a friendly chicken or two come and join her. Then, I truly think we need to remove the aggressors. This behavior will continue if left unchecked. I think we need to find new homes for our roosters, at least the two new guys. We've asked some folks if they'd like a rooster and haven't had much luck. So, it may end up that the roosters become dinner. In that case, we'll be thankful for the wonderful food. And, I think the flock will be thankful for the reprieve.

 Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.
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