One of the most frustrating things when having a flock is to see one of your chickens being picked on. The added stress not only affects their mood but it affects their egg production and can lead to other diseases. That’s why it’s very important to make sure that your chickens aren’t fighting and are instead getting along.
But what should you do if your chickens are already fighting? Here’s how we’ve solved and prevented the problem with our flock.
Locate the aggressive hens
Is it just the one chicken that’s fighting all of them or is all the flock fighting with one? Are all of them fighting with each other?
When introducing a new chicken, a pecking order has to be arranged. This means that they might get into some scuffle at first. You shouldn’t intervene unless you see any blood. It may look bad but this should resolve in a few days once the pecking order has been established.
Sometimes the culprit is just the one chicken. To get her to stop pecking on other hens, try isolating the bully (and not the victim) for a few days. You can put her in a starter coop or even a dog crate. When you put her back in the coop she’ll probably have lost her hierarchy spot in the pecking order which will stop her from pecking at other chickens.
Worst case scenario, you can always look to rehome the bully chicken. Sometimes chickens just don’t get along. If you have, say, a territorial Sumatra with a group of gentle bantam Buff Orpingtons, chances are the Sumatra will end up bullying the rest of the flock. Lots of flock owners would love a more aggressive chicken to protect their flock from predators.
But what if the whole flock is suddenly attacking a hen that was already a part of the pecking order?
Why do chickens fight anyway?
Sickness: Chickens have learned not to show any signs of illness or weakness. If they do, their flock can turn on them and kill them. This is normal out in the wild since, by getting rid of a sick chicken, they get rid of a liability. One single sick chicken can kill the whole flock.
Your flock however, has you. If you see all of the flock picking on the one chicken, take her aside and examine her. Look for possible signs of illness and isolate her. If the chicken is so sick that she’s showing signs, make sure to take her to the vet immediately.
Not enough space: A crowded coop is an unhappy coop. Your flock needs at least 4 square feet of space inside your coop and 8 in the run per chicken. Some breeds don’t bear confinement well at all and will need even more space.
You can expand your run and, if you have a tight space, make sure you pick chickens from breeds that don’t need a lot of space.
Stress: Have you changed the feed or the area where they are? Chickens don’t like lots of changes and will take some time to adapt. Is it getting too hot? Chickens don’t sweat meaning they can’t cool down as easily as us. Illness and a change of routine can also cause stress.
Uncleanliness: Chickens need to be clean to feel comfortable, just like you and me! Now you don’t have to take them into the shower with you, all they need is a little dust bath. Simply find a container deep enough to contain most of the chicken like this one. A small kiddie pool will do just fine too. Fill it with clean sand, soil and wood ash and watch them take dry showers! For bonus points, you can also add some oregano or lavender to keep them calm.
Sometimes however they fight just because they’re bored.
Are they bored? Get them toys!
Even simple-minded creatures, like chickens, can get bored of just eating and sleeping, specially during the winter when they can’t go out. A group of bored chickens may decide their best way to spend their time is by pecking on another hen. Sometimes they’ll even keep her from eating or sleeping!
To solve this, give your chickens something to do during the day. Here are some ideas:
- Swings and ladders: Get them to exercise by installing a little playground! It can be as simple and inexpensive as a piece of wood suspended from both ends to make a swing and a small ladder made with scraps where they can go up and down. You could make them in 15 minutes! Even some simple blocks of wood for them to stand on will keep them entertained.
- Get them to play ball: A great way to keep them happy and playing is by hanging their food in a way that they have to peck it. We love this wire feeder to do exactly that. All you need is to open it, put some cabbage in it and hang them so they can start playing!
- Mirrors: There’s nothing like watching a confused chicken staring at her reflection. Any small old mirror will do, as long as it doesn’t have any sharp edges. When you put it in, make sure to see what happens! It can be fun to watch them interact with it at first.
- Piles or leaves or hay: Fun fact: chickens need to destroy piles. Simply get clean hay or even the remainder of your Sunday’s grass clips and leave it on a pile. They’ll have fun all day.
- Bond with them: The cheapest and funnest way to get them playing is by just hanging out with them. Some breeds like Buff Orpingtons or Silkies are gentle enough for your kids to play with them too!
Have you had an issue with an aggressive chicken? How did you deal with it? Let us know below!