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Bullying Behavior in Chickens



  Discouraging Bullying Chicken Behavior



     Bullying is a very common issue that occurs mainly in times of stress or boredom, such as when two flocks are being integrated or the coop is too small. However harmless it may seem, when left unchecked, bullying can cause severe injury and even death.


     Boredom is a frequent cause of bullying. Ideally, birds would spend “up to 65% of their day foraging” (Dr. Bas Rodenburg), and when they do not have the ability to forage they find other less productive activities, such as pecking. This can be countered by more outside time in a pen or free ranging. However, in the winter, when some may not have access to the outdoors, other measures must be taken.    


   Boredom Prevention when in the Coop and Run


Hang a cabbage or apple from the rafters


Cut a zucchini or melon in half and leaving it in the coop


Throw scratch, mealworms, sunflower seeds in the bedding for them to scratch for (this also helps to stir the bedding if using the deep litter method).

Flock Block

Give them kitchen scraps

Provide a dust bath in a box

Different levels of roosts/shelves for them to explore

Chicken toy, some are filled with treats that dispense when they peck at them





    One study found a relationship between housing chickens on wire floor and pecking. Chickens who were raised on wire were more likely to begin pecking than chickens raised in a different substrate. This is probably related to the lack of activities such as scratching.


     If you notice that one dominant chicken has been bullying the others, that chicken can be removed and put in solitary confinement for a few days up to a week. X-Pen or dog cage can be used as a pen. When the chicken returns, they will be at the bottom of the pecking order. 


     If you notice only occasional bullying behavior, fill a tin can with pebbles and pennies, then put duct tape over the top. Keep this by the coop. Whenever you see bullying behavior, immediately shake the can. The chickens will stop what they’re doing to find out what that awful noise is. If you do this consistently, they should stop.


     To avoid bullying when introducing chickens, first allow the flocks to see each other through a fence. After they have become accustomed to each other, allow them to interact while free ranging. The extra space and distractions will allow the newcomers to escape if they are pecked. Then, it is best to leave them in the coop at night when they are sleeping. The two flocks should also be comparable in size before being integrated. For example, 1 week old Wyandottes should not be put with a flock of 3 year old Jersey Giants.


     Blinders are a device used to obscure a chicken’s view so they cannot accurately peck another chicken. However, these are not commonly used in backyard flocks.


     Excessive light exposure can also be a cause of pecking. Lights should be on for less than sixteen hours per day for adult birds. Also, a red lamp should be used in the brooder, ideally without any additional light, which will decrease the amount of pecking. Another cause of pecking in chicks is overheating. The heat lamp should be raised or lowered so that the birds are evenly dispersed throughout the brooder, not huddled under the heat or scattered to the sides.


     Chickens must have adequate space to prevent bullying.Overcrowding is a surefire way to start pecking issues. If your coop is not as big as you’d like, at least allow the chickens to free range each day to diffuse the tension. Also make sure that there are enough feeders and waterers to go around because a lack of food can cause cause stress that can lead to pecking.


     If a chicken has an injury from pecking, remove the bird and ideally keep them in a separate area until they heal. However gruesome it is, other chickens will notice the blood on the area and peck it more. If you are not able to remove the chicken, clean the wound with saline solution and apply an antiseptic spray such as Blu-Kote that will not only keep the wound clean, but will also conceal the wound. You can also use an anti-picking solution that will help discourage the birds from pecking at it.


   Monitor birds frequently for any patches of lost feathers that could indicate bullying. If you are vigilant about keeping their environment interesting and reducing stress, the problem should sort itself out quickly. 



Comments (26)

Great information.....I'm learning so much
Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
Very good article! Thanks!
This is a well-written and informative article. Thank you for the insight.
I've been encountering some bullying problems so this has been very helpful! Thankyou so much BuffOrpington88!
Thanks for posting this. I'm having a terrible issue with bullying. No injury yet, but its really pathetic to see my young buffs petrified of the older ones. I wish my cage was bigger, its big enough with xtra room for my four, but not set up so that I can put a hiding place for the young ones. They usually just scoot up into the roosting box and stay put. Driving me nuts. I'm wondering if they will ever get along.
This is great. I'm passing this on to a friend with some ongoing issues with her bird (s).
Very helpful article! Thank you!
Very helpful!!
Thanks for this post , Bullying is stressful for the chickens and owner . This article is very helpful !
Thank you thank you thank you!
My white crested black polish roo has had his crest feathers pecked at until his head was almost bald and bloody. Cleaned and sprayed with Blu-Kote end of problem.
In my flock my only Roo is a polish crested. They forage int he backyard for most of the day. Last 3 mo he has been bullying the polish hen with matching color. I have tried separating him for up to 2 weeks at a time. After a day or so he goes right back to bullying that one hen. Now that hen is always off alone and wont even let us come near her. Any thoughts?
I was hoping to find something to help my little Bantam chick Happy. My Buff Orpington, Lemondrop (4 weeks old & happy is 3, but tiny) pecks her every time she just hops by. She also pecks one of the Easter eggers, Lassie (3 weeks old) I have no idea why. Unless she just doesn't like that they are yellow...which would be silly because Lemon is yellow !!
I don't know what to do about it. We keep them seperate at night (the first group, 4 weeks old in their box, the 2nd, 3 weeks old in their box) during the day they go out in their "play pen".
Lemon has done this since the very first meeting of the 2nd set of chicks. Poor Happy probably isnt very happy :/
OK....What about a rooster trying to challenge you?
I have had this happen now with 3 of my roosters.!
Do i look like a wimp?
Got rid of the first
Penned the second well and the last have used a mop to scare him away when he gets out.
He actually isnt the top of the roosters either!
Another who is sweet is
He will chase Mean 3 sometimes
.A stick didnt work well with him ...poking him away with it but this mop end of the mop scares the begez out of them and he runs away from me.
Hate to have to watch over my shoulder though when he gets out. as he will come back and hang around so i have to watch him with mop close by Is it because I hatched them myself?
He doesnt seem to do it to my `14 yr old granddaughter or my son either but they do collect eggs at times. Or my E Mastiff or Chorkie..... JUST me.!
By the way he is out a lot not penned and I get challenged when hes out not in
Same with #2 Meanie .
my Orpington who is the head of the yard still runs after the new birds after 5 weeks and I can''t get her to stop.They have a large free range area so that's not it. I hope this will stop soon because there is no way to separate them.I have to watch while the little ones eat so that mama does'nt run them off like she usually does. It really gets to be a headache watching them all the time.Maybe getting them treats to snack on during the day will keep them busy during the day so her attention is on the treat and not the other birds. Wish me luck!
I appreciate you spending the time making this!!!!!! :) I have had major trouble with one of my hens pecking and creating bald patches and I have been thinking of culling said chicken but will try the above ideas before I make a final decision!
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