Chickens: Intervention and Management of Problematic Pecking

Pecking Solutions2

Stressful conditions create unhappy chickens and bad behavior. It’s perfectly natural for chickens to peck everything. But each other?

Unfortunately, yes, sometimes they do. Often this behavior draws blood, and once that happens; pecking may become intentional and lead to cannibalism. Knowing that, let’s get to the bottom of this pecking problem, and quick!

Pecking problems can begin even when chicks are still in the brooder. At this age they start pecking the toes of other chicks. When pecking occurs in older birds, they tend to peck the backs, heads, and vent areas.  Whether your birds are chicks, pullets, or mature chickens, pecking can turn into a serious matter without intervention.

Pinpointing the Problem

Normal behavior of chickens does include establishing a pecking order. So it’s important to watch your flock to learn the difference between normal and problematic pecking. It’s less likely to have a pecking problem if your flock is uniform in size, age, and breed. All your birds should be in good health as well; those that show signs of weakness are more apt to be a victim of aggressive behavior.

When persistent pecking is observed, check your flock’s environment. Poor living conditions or inadequate nutrition can be a factor in bad behavior. Make sure all members of the flock have access to food and water, even if it means putting it in more than one place. Hens do not take kindly to a shortage of nest boxes either; place them in various areas with easy access.

When there’s excessive pecking brewing in the brooder, it may be something as simple as lighting. Improper or undesirable lighting in the brooder can cause stress, If you’re using clear bulbs in the brooder, switch to red. Check the temperature in their environment, if it’s too hot, or cold, this can contribute to pecking. Adequate space is also vital, whether in the brooder or the coop.

Chickens in Coop

Last but not least, check for parasites. Examine your birds, their droppings, the coop, and treat if necessary.

Pecking habits and cannibalism occur when birds are under stress and unhappy.

Take a good look at the environment that has been created for them. Is it what your chickens need to live in harmony?

Bumblefoot in your Flock

How to Care for your Mail Order Chicks

It’s easy! The hardest part is learning to keep it simple.

When your day old chicks arrive from the hatchery they will need food, water, heat, light, fresh air and space. They will arrive stressed from excess heat or cold, lack of food, and might be showing signs of dehydration.

Your chicks can survive several days on the stored yolk in their body, but heat, food and water should be the first priority upon their arrival.  It’s a good idea to have electrolytes on hand before you pick up your chicks. They might look a bit wilted from their travels, and this will help perk them up. I don’t usually use electrolytes more than two days. A popular brand of electrolytes is Sav-a-Chick, and is available online or at local feed stores.

Baby chick

On the day your chicks arrive you should have a draft free box (lined with paper towels) large enough to provide a heat lamp (red bulb) at one end. Be sure to allow enough room for a cooler area so that the hatchlings can get away from the heat source if needed.  A good rule of thumb is to provide a 1/2 square foot of floor space per chick.

The temperature in your brooder should be 90-95 degrees for the first week, then decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week following.  You can raise or lower the lamp to help obtain that proper temperature. If you don’t need to use a heat lamp in the brooder, for the first few days, keep a light on so the chicks can find their food and water. After a few days, I suggest switching to a simple night light, just to help prevent piling or suffocation.

brinsea_ecoglow_20_chick_brooder_2

Tip: Heat lamps are often hard to regulate temperatures, another choice is using a Brinsea Ecoglow Chick Brooder. They are safer, and you won’t be spending so much time adjusting the heat lamp.

On week two, you can start using shavings for bedding (not cedar) in the brooder. You can also raise the drinker a bit to help keep the water clean. Use a drinker made for chicks to avoid the possibility of drowning.  Chick starter feed is all your hatchlings will need all the way until they are at their point of lay… which is about 5-6 months.  You’ll have to decide if you want to use medicated started feed or not. I use medicated for the first 2 weeks, then switch to non-medicated.

Important!

Something to watch for that can put your chicks in danger is pasting up, this is simply a poopy butt. This is real common in baby chicks, and if not tended to, they won’t be able to poop and can die. So keep those fuzzy butts clean by using a baby wipe, or a wet paper towel. Learn more about Pasting Up.

My Favorite Hatcheries? My Pet Chicken | Ideal Hatchery | Murray McMurray

 

 

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