It’s secretly no secret that chickens naturally love to peck just about everything. Sadly, that can also include their coop buddies. Chickens are known for pecking one another, even until blood is drawn. This can often lead to acts of cannibalism, where chickens will begin to peck intentionally in order to draw blood from other chickens within their environment.
Symptoms of Pecking and Cannibalism
It’s important for any poultry owner to be able to identify and manage the symptoms of pecking and cannibalism within their flock. Early signs of a potentially hazardous pecking problem typically includes continuous toe pecking in chicks. Chicks will often peck at maturing feathers in older or maturing birds. They may also peck at another chicken’s vent or head. It can be difficult to determine as to whether the difference between just usual, random pecking and destructive pecking that will typically result in cannibalism. It’s fundamental as a poultry owner that you pay very close attention to your entire flock. Regular flock behavior that is considered ‘normal’ includes the establishment of a flock’s “pecking” order.
Can Pecking and Cannibalism Spread?
Unfortunately, yes. Pecking and cannibalism can spread as a habit. Although pecking will typically start out as completely innocent, it can quickly and rapidly begin to escalate into a far more serious and life-threatening situation human intervention does not occur. If excessive levels of both pecking or cannibalism becomes an issue within your flock, there are a variety of simple solutions you can adopt in order to reduce it.
Causes and Prevention of Cannibalism and Pecking
Overcrowding can encourage the act of cannibalism and feather pecking. This is why it’s fundamental as a poultry owner that you are able to provide adequate space for each chicken to both eat and drink. Failure to provide sufficient space can encourage competition that will often lead to cannibalism and cause the more dominant chickens to keep others in their flock away from food and water.
Overheating and high temperatures can cause your flock to become uncomfortable and irritated which can make them far more likely to peck one another. Provide plenty of fresh, cool water and correct levels of ventilation.
Excessive Light and the number of hours of light that you provide for your flock along with the overall intensity of the light is known to influence cannibalistic behaviour in chickens. Incredibly bright lights and even excessively long periods of light can cause your chickens to become hostile.
Inadequate Nutrition is essential for flock. Cannibalism has often been linked with deficiencies in phosphorus, sodium and protein. High levels of energy and low levels of fiber can cause your flock to become aggressive. Chicken feed that is lacking protein and other essential nutrients, such as methionine, can cause your chickens to pick at feathers.
Treatment For Cannibalism and Pecking
In the past, it was common to have chickens’ beaks clipped in order to deter the act of cannibalism. This method is no longer recommended at all. Preventative methods, as mentioned above, are far more humane, less stressful for your flock and can be just as successful.