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Sometimes chickens get along just fine and other times chicken bullying can be a real problem. Try these tips on how to stop pecking and fighting in your backyard flock.
Chickens are interesting birds, they can be nice and calm one minute and fussing like crazy the next.
This can be quite funny until they start hurting each other.
Overall hens fighting with each other comes down to some simple cause that makes the birds feel stressed and unhappy. Most have easy solutions and when fixed they should go back to being happy birds.
Common Causes Of Chickens Bullying Each Other
Overcrowded living conditions are probably the main cause of chickens bullying each other.
To fix this you really have two options make your chicken coop and run larger or reduce the number of birds you have.
Have a coop and pen with lots of room, enough perches to roost on, nest boxes, and shaded hiding places for lower-ranked birds to rest in.
Chickens are easily stressed birds and when they are stressed it can cause a normally calm hen to act out and pick on others.
The trigger could be a predator lurking around, a change of feed, or new birds added to the flock.
When hens are stressed they will normally stop laying eggs for a few days but it can sometimes go on to cause fights between your birds.
They Are Board
Without enough room to wander around chickens can easily become bored and this can start or increase fights among your birds.
This can happen in the winter if the birds are stuck indoors during extreme cold spells.
Often it is simply a lower-ranked bird that did something that offended a hen higher on the pecking order. This can be a one on one bird problem but can sometimes turn into multiple birds picking on the lower bird.
They can become quite scared and look for places to hide from the others. This means they end up eating and drinking less and maybe too scared to go back inside the coop when they are outside.
Make sure your hens have lots of things to distract them.
- Put down some fresh bedding and leave a bale of straw whole but with the strings removed. They will have fun spreading it around themselves.
- Give them treats like freeze-dried mealworms, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, or pumpkins.
- Try to encourage them to go outside more in the winter. If needed shovel the snow away from an area and put down some wood shavings or straw.
- Sprinkle some mixed grain in the bedding so they can have fun scratching around for food.
- Make a new dust bath area.
Illness Or Injury
As unfair as it may seem chickens like most animals will target other sick or injured birds. Often they can tell a hen is getting sick before you can and they will peck at them to drive them away from the others.
If they keep trying to come back they can get more aggressive towards them.
It’s best to separate these birds from the main flock while they are recovering.
Place Feed And Water In Multiple Areas
When deadly with bullying in your flock it’s a good idea to have multiple food and water stations for your hens. Honestly, even if you don’t have a fighting problem it’s a good idea anyway.
Having multiple areas where chickens can feed means that more aggressive hens can’t keep others from eating. She may have a favorite feeding area that she doesn’t want to share but there is still enough to go around
Retraining Bully Hens
If you have checked and eliminated the common causes of fighting with hens but you still have a hen that is picking on other birds you just might have a natural bully chicken.
If you live where you can keep a rooster adding one to your flock can often stop hens from fighting as much. I’ve seen it time and time again with our own flocks that when hens are together alone they would fight more.
But when a rooster was with them he would break up fights between the hens and they all seemed calmer.
For mild cases, you can try to simply distract the bossy hen. Spend some time in your chicken coop and when you see the hen start to pick on other birds squirt her with a little water or make a loud noise or try tossing down some treats.
This can distract the hen and give the lower ranked one time to get away unnoticed.
This method does of course mean you need to spend a lot of time with your chickens.
For a hen that is really hurting other birds, it can help to pen her up for a few days to a few weeks.
Place a separate pen inside your coop and keep the bossy bird separate from the others for a while. This way they can still see each other but she can’t hurt anyone.
If you don’t have room in the coop for a pen then it’s just fine to keep the pen in another area.
With her separate from the flock the pecking order will reset. Later when you let her out she will be further down the ranks and hopefully less likely to cause trouble.
Most of the time this has fixed a fussy hen for me but if it continues to be a problem you’ll need to decide whether you want to keep her separated or cull her from your flock.
Giving away or selling the hen can be an option if she is a good layer. In a new flock, she may not be the top hen and cause fewer problems.
But always make sure you are honest with a potential buyer about her personality. It’s not fair to pass on your problem to someone else without letting them know upfront.
Dealing With Aggressive Roosters
Sometimes it’s an aggressive rooster that causes problems for your hens.
If your hens are getting cuts and scratches or losing feathers it could be he’s being too ruff when they breed.
This can cause hens to be hurt and stressed.
Having your rooster de-spurred can help keep the hens from being hurt. But if the behavior continues you’ll want to consider replacing your rooster with a calmer one.
When it comes down to it chickens are individuals and they each have their own personality. Give them enough space, food, roosts, and nests and most of them will get along just fine.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.