Chickens Pecking Each Other - causes and cures

Sometimes chickens pecking each other can be a problem. Usually it isn't, but every now and then you get a bully. You can always have the bully for dinner, but first, let's look at the causes. It's often easier to prevent this behavior. Then, let's look at the possible cures for chickens that seem so eager to peck at one another.

For starters, chickens have a pecking order. It's something that comes naturally to most animals, including humans. It's their way of pushing one another around until they find out who "rules the roost" and how all the rest of the flock fits in. Once the order is established, and none of the birds try to change it, you'll have a flock that gets along well enough.

Before we look at the causes of chickens pecking each other, let's come to grips with one simple fact - chickens are blood thirsty creatures. If you slaughter a chicken, another bird will stand right there and drink up the blood, caring not at all that his buddy just got whacked. With that in mind, let's look at a range of causes associated with chickens pecking each other.


Typically, chickens get grumpy and start hammering on one another if they're in crowded conditions, so give them sufficient room to roam. It's a bit like a line from a Three Stooges skit where Moe spreads his arms out wide and tells Larry and Curly to "spread out."

The same applies to chickens - give them some space so they're not bunched up. You might be aware that chickens can be raised in very small spaces, but if you cramp their style, they can start acting up.

Much of the pecking problem comes from crowded conditions in mass production facilities or homesteaders who try to raise too many chickens in too small a space. Crowd 'em up and they get cranky. Let 'em roam and they'll leave one another alone.

My personal rule is 64 square feet of outdoor space for each chicken, and about 2 square feet of space inside the coop. That's generous spacing, but then again, I've never had problems with chickens pecking each other, and the generous spacing I provide is probably why.

Another cause of chickens pecking each other is the introduction of a new chicken. If you add a new member to the flock, the pecking order needs to get reshuffled, so some pecking will occur until that issue is resolved. Don't panic, just let the chickens resolve it among themselves.

You might even run into an especially aggressive chicken. I've encountered this with roosters, but rarely with hens. If you carefully select your breed of chickens, then you'll likely avoid such problems.

If you have an injured bird, this will automatically create a situation where the injured chicken will be pecked. As cruel as it sounds, you might witness chickens pecking each other to death - with the injured bird just sitting there until it dies. Injuries can occur by accident or because of a predator. In any event, the blood thirsty nature of the chicken will take over and the flock will descend on the wounded animal and peck it to death.


Here are some basic cures for chickens pecking each other. Some are easy to implement, while others are a bit more difficult.

Invite the offending bird to dinner, and give it a place of honor at your table - right in the middle on a serving platter. This is a sure fire way to eliminate an aggressive bird. Don't do this with birds that are picking on an injured member of the flock - it's simply their blood thirsty nature. Do this only for the hardened offender.

Isolate the offending bird, and give it a good talking to in private. There is no sense scolding the bird and embarrassing it as well. Explain how disappointed you are in his or her behavior. If you have a chicken pen that can easily be divided, then isolation of the offender might be a good option. Otherwise, simply have the bird for dinner and be done with it.

Isolate the wounded bird until it has recovered and can fend for itself. If the bird is severely injured, have it for dinner.

I don't want to sound like a smart ass, but when you have chickens pecking each other, you'll soon tire of messing with them. If you get rid of the trouble makers, the other chickens will appreciate your efforts, and you won't spend an inordinate amount of unproductive time tending the "bird brains" in the chicken yard.

I know it sounds a bit demeaning to our fine feathered friends, but after years of raising chickens, I finally discovered why we raise and eat them instead of the other way around. You too will soon discover this truth. Nevertheless, I find chickens to be a great source of entertainment - mostly because of their "bird brain" behavior.

You could also trim beaks, but this can interfere with eating and drinking, and it just seems to be quite a bother altogether. I don't go to this trouble, mostly because I've never had to. Instead, I focus on simple preventive measures. And, if that doesn't work, I employ those final corrective measures.

Think about it this way, chickens pecking one another with trimmed beaks is still a bunch of aggressive chickens pecking each other. It's much wiser to prevent the problem or enact a permanent solution. Remember, you are the manager of your flock. They shouldn't be managing you.

Done with Chickens Pecking Each Other, back to Backyard Chickens