Stopping Little Peckers! (Chickies, that is!)

I thought that title would grab your attention, but since this is a farm blog primarily, hopefully you knew what I meant. 😉

We have a new problem with little ones this spring. This has never happened before. They are pecking each other’s tail feathers. One was pecked so badly her whole little fluffy butt was red, bloody and featherless! All that damage happened in one day. It seemed to start suddenly and we couldn’t determine who was doing it. It seemed like everyone was pecking everyone. Why? We had no clue. So the research began. I started with Lisa at http://www.fresheggsdaily.com and asked her opinion. Boredom or protein deficiency was a possible answer. I also began a thorough internet research and found out that those very two reasons are mentioned many times. Maybe we are onto something. I added in some black oil sunflower seeds. They had a few small sticks for perching. Farmer Cheese got on the ball building bigger perches.

Loving our new perch!
Loving our new perch!

I also gave them a turnip root to peck on. This seemed to be helping, but we had also separated the 4 who were injured. Overcrowding was also mentioned several times as a reason for tail pecking. Overcrowding? But our brooder says it will hold 24 chicks up until 4 weeks. After that we separate into 2 grow off pens. Well, these little rascals are growing so fast I really believe that was the problem. After a week when their tail feathers were looking better we added a few more in with them. We now have 9 in one and 10 in the other grow out pen and no little peckers! Our smallest chicks that are almost 3 weeks old had only 10 in the brooder to begin with. No signs of any pecking in there.
I do believe you should take the maximum amount of chicks your brooder will hold with a grain of salt. Each set of chicks will be a little different. If they start pecking each other, they are clearly telling you something. I’d take a serious look at space and go from there. Here’s to raising happy little non-peckers. 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Stopping Little Peckers! (Chickies, that is!)

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  2. I agree that crowding and boredom are the most common causes of feather picking. The wild relatives of the domestic chicken live in small flocks, usually less than 10, and range over many acres of tropical habitat which holds a wide diversity of vegetation and insect prey. They have busy lives with a lot of stimulation. That is nothing like the barren cages, coops, and mowed lawns we keep them in.

    1. Once ours are outside they have almost an acre fenced in and it is varied in landscape and they get along very well. But you are right, when they free range everywhere they really love it! We plan to fence in more area as soon as we can.

  3. I agree that space problems can cause boredom. Boredom can cause all sorts of nasty problems. I really need to get my chicks moved from the first pen to a larger outside pen. I worry because this spring and not warming up at all and that even with heat lamps I won’t be able to keep them warm enough.

  4. In my experiences, I think the pecking was caused by boredom and also just being in an inadequate enclosure. I learned I had to give them a little more tail feather room and it seemed to make a difference. I hope that this gets resolved before they peck each other to death! Good luck.

    1. We have a large brooder and grow out pen that says it will accommodate 24 chicks and 12 when they get to 4,weeks old. We didn’t have nearly that many in there but I think they were crowded and boredom is possible as well because their perches did help! They are doing great now, thanks.

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