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Please help!!! Chicks pecking each other

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Overnight my chicks have started pecking each other BADLY

I have 43 x 4 week old Golden Buff x New Hampshire chicks
4 days ago I moved them from their ring with infra red lamp into a bigger coop which is 25metres square (15 ft x 15 ft). Changed starter food to fowl mix. The composition is:
g/kg : 700g per kg Grain (max)
300g per kg Sunflower seed (min)
500g per kg Sunflower seed (max)
500g per kg Maize (min)
700g per kg Maize (max)
150g (max) Sorghum
150g (max) Wheat

In addition to this I give them as much Lucerne (Alfalfa) as they will eat.
They seemed happy (didn't have any problems in the ring). I think possibly late evening yesterday their food read out. Instinctively I think this was the catalyst.
This morning I noticed 3 were badly pecked and within a half hour there were many more with peck wounds. It was really distressing as I couldn't seperate them soon enough. Luckily my husband has this strange habit of collecting old boxes which saved the day! Usually their food is kept topped up but I noticed it had finished in their coop during the evening.

I seperated the casualties (8 in total) all into individual boxes.
The remaining lot I divided into 2 and have kept them in 2 coops which seems to have worked for now. I'm hoping I caught it soon enough and they lose the pecking instinct.

Please let me know if you think it was caused by over crowding or their food? I found this useful article I will copy and paste...hopefully it helps someone.
(Posted my member Karlen)

Although we're first-time "chicken people", with our first batch of 26 chicks (now almost 4 weeks old), we did a lot of reading about raising chickens before they came, and continue to read even more. I know that "book learning" is a poor substitute for practical experience, but I'm finding that it's come in very handy. Although our chicks had a long and traumatic shipping trip, they have done very well. I think we owe our success to all of those who shared their experiences and suggestions in their books, and on forums like these.

I guess it's time for us to share what we've learned, in return.

One of the common problems people have with chicks is that they start pecking each other. They may peck at feathers, at toes, at vents. And, once it starts with one chick, the practice often spreads quickly to others in the flock, and can actually result in downright cannibalism. And, apparently, unless this behavior is corrected immediately, pecking can become a permanent part of the flock's behavior and is then incurable. We sure didn't want that.

Various authors offered differing opinions on what causes chicks to begin pecking. Here are some of the most frequently mentioned:

1. Overcrowding
2. Boredom
3. Diet too low in protein (most chick rations need to maximize profits, so they use the minimum amounts of protein and other nutrients).
4. Chicks too warm.
5. Chicks stressed.

We had two chicks that started "aggressive" pecking at about three weeks of age. As soon as we noticed it, we followed the suggestions in the various books. We knew our chicks weren't too warm, but we dropped the temp by 5 degrees anyway. We do not believe the chicks were stressed. So we focused on the other possible causes.

Here are the "expert" suggestions we implemented:

1. We immediately separated each of the "peckers" from the rest of the chicks (and from each other, of course).

2. We moved the rest of the chicks into a larger space (we increased from .5 square feet to 1.5 square feet per chick, AFTER accounting for space lost to feeders, waterers, roosts, etc.) We could see immediately that the chicks seemed to appreciate this. They had grown a lot in three weeks and apparently needed more room to spread out, more "space" from each other, than the .5 square feet suggested for weeks 1-4 in many books.

3. We increased the protein in the chicks' diet, following the suggestions of various books and one great old technical text on poultry feeding. We crushed hard-boiled eggs, shells and all, in a food processor (just one or two medium sized organic, free-range eggs per 26 three-week-old chicks). We also provided small dishes of raw milk for them to drink once per day. And we chopped up some raw, organic liver from a grass-fed steer for them (just a couple of tablespoons for 26 chicks of 3-1/2 weeks of age). Off and on throughout the day, they would get one of these highly nutritious, high-protein "treats".

4. One book suggested adding 1 teaspoon salt to each gallon of water and giving this water for 24 hours, then repeating 3 days later. This book claimed that this was effective in stopping pecking (if caught early) 90% of the time! (We didn't want to use regular refined table salt, as it is missing naturally occurring accompanying trace minerals and is therefore unbalanced, so we used unrefined sea salt, which provides the full range of necessary trace minerals in the proportions present in healthy blood.) This really seemed to make a difference, believe it or not. Chick starter is supplemented with some vitamins and minerals, but anyone who knows anything about nutrition can see that they are cheap forms of these supplements, and very incomplete in their formulations.

5. We started giving the chicks healthy things to do. For example, we provide a piece or two of fresh, organic greens and let them play "keep away" with it. (They race around after each other, trying to get the greens, and have a great time! Really tires them out!) Later, we may offer fresh alfalfa sprouts or clover sprouts or wheat grass. Later, again, we may scatter a little organic cracked wheat or steel-cut oats on their litter, for them to scratch for. We take them out of doors on sunny, breeze-free days, to let them sun themselves and scratch in the dirt and grass (in a pen, of course, and constantly supervised). And, we play with them. (Our chicks are pets, as well as "utility" birds.) Now that they are bigger, I hang a big lettuce leaf just above their heads so they can "jump" for pieces of it. They love that game, too! The point is to give them things to do, so they're not thinking about pecking at their neighbors.

We do notice that some pecking appears to be gentle, almost grooming behavior, as if the "pecker" is helping clear off the little tubes the feathers have around them when they first come in. So, as long as the receiving chick seems content and happy to be "groomed", we don't consider this activity "pecking", in the aggressive sense.

6. By the way, it's also important to IMMEDIATELY clean up any chick that has blood on its feathers or skin, so that there is no sign of red or blood for the other chicks to see. Chicks are irresistably attracted to pecking at red. We used little styptic sticks that stopped the bleeding AND turned the blood color immediately to black.
post #2 of 6
I have never had this experience .. But then again maybe it's because the most chicks I've ever kept together at a time is only 10. It might be from over crowding. I really don't know. I hope someone else on here can help you with your situation
post #3 of 6

There are two things that stand out that that could be the problem:  

 

1)  Get rid of the brooder light.  They need the natural cycle of darkness at night and going to bed.  If my chicks are not raised by a broody mom, I use what I call a chick cave, which uses a heating pad, and a cave for the chicks to go in.  There is a thread on this forum which describes it, and I'll try to find it and post the link for you.  Even though you're past that stage, it's more information that could be useful later.

 

2)  For me it's not necessary to measure the flooring space per bird, I just eye it using common sense of not crowding the birds ever in their lifetime.  It they're crowded, they will be stressed and could start cannibilism, and if crowded coop will not take long to get poopy.  I would never go by the floor space that books recommend, because it's just not enough room.  They are giving the dimensions for more of commercial poultry raising.

 

Looks like otherwise you're taking care of them very well.  I also do things organically and natural, just like you're doing with the grass-fed beef snacks, and adding my own natural additives to their homemade food, and I've had very little sickness in my flock.  I let the raw milk culture first before giving to them though (they love it!).

 

I really tend to think the main problem may be your brooder light.  

 

Hope this helps, and thank you for sharing what you've learned so far.

...what you know for sure that just ain't so...--Mark Twain;  is what harms future generations.--me
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...what you know for sure that just ain't so...--Mark Twain;  is what harms future generations.--me
Reply
post #4 of 6
...what you know for sure that just ain't so...--Mark Twain;  is what harms future generations.--me
Reply
...what you know for sure that just ain't so...--Mark Twain;  is what harms future generations.--me
Reply
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your replies. The problem started 3 days after getting rid of the brooder light. I couldn't put them in the coop before then as they didn't have enough feathers. It has been a truly EXHAUSTING day. In between harvesting 100 kilograms of garlic and putting each of these little monsters in their own seperate box.... this glass of red wine is tasting awfully good!

What eventually worked for me is to immediately seperate them (the buggers can cause huge damage in a few minutes to a wounded chick) as quick as possible.
I put 1 heaped teaspoon of Himalayan salt in a gallon of water in their drinkers.
Treat each little monster with penicillin (comes in a syringe form) - that makes the wound blue and the chicks leave it alone.
Divide the 2 flocks into 2 smaller ones.
Check on the monsters in boxes every hour as they tend to knock over their make shift drinkers.
Increased protein. Gave half starter mash and half fowl mix.

It really seems to have worked! Yay!!
post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeGrove View Post

Thank you for your replies. The problem started 3 days after getting rid of the brooder light. I couldn't put them in the coop before then as they didn't have enough feathers. It has been a truly EXHAUSTING day. In between harvesting 100 kilograms of garlic and putting each of these little monsters in their own seperate box.... this glass of red wine is tasting awfully good!

What eventually worked for me is to immediately seperate them (the buggers can cause huge damage in a few minutes to a wounded chick) as quick as possible.
I put 1 heaped teaspoon of Himalayan salt in a gallon of water in their drinkers.
Treat each little monster with penicillin (comes in a syringe form) - that makes the wound blue and the chicks leave it alone.
Divide the 2 flocks into 2 smaller ones.
Check on the monsters in boxes every hour as they tend to knock over their make shift drinkers.
Increased protein. Gave half starter mash and half fowl mix.

It really seems to have worked! Yay!!
That's great. Glad your babies will be okay
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