Bullying Behavior in Chickens

By BuffOrpington88 · Mar 18, 2013 · Updated Aug 11, 2016 · ·
  1. BuffOrpington88
    Common Causes of Behavioral Issues in Chickens

    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. Here are some common causes of chicken behavioral issues.

    • Boredom is a frequent cause of bullying. Ideally, birds would spend most of their day foraging, and when they do not have the ability to forage they find other less productive activities, such as pecking. This is why birds raised on wire floors are more prone to pecking; they have no substrate to sift through. This can often 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.


    • 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 there are only occasional mild bullying squabbles, fill a tin can with pebbles and pennies, then put duct tape over the top. Keep this by the coop. Whenever they act up, immediately shake the can. The chickens will stop what they’re doing to find out what that awful noise is.
    • 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. When integrating chicks, it isn't necessary for both flocks to be the same size, the newcomers should just be large enough to fend for themselves. When introducing chicks, you can create a "panic room" in the coop that the chicks can escape to if they are being pecked. This can be created by making a small opening in a dog crate that is large enough for the chicks but not for the older birds.
    • 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, if you are using a heat lamp in the brooder, a red bulb should be used. Overheating can also be a cause of behavioural issues in chicks because it is a source of stress, so make sure that the chicks are not too hot.
    • 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.

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  1. TeenageRooster's Dad
    "Those green glasses are really cool!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 14, 2019
    Really great ideas, short and sweet!

    Hanging corns, dried worms, dust bath really did the trick for me. Although they did fight for the dust bath. So I put a second one. My Brahma spends hours dust bathing... dirty girl :)
  2. ButtonquailGirl14
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 11, 2019
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    "Great information, thanks"
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  1. DuckWhisperer06
    Where can you get blinders and how much do they normally cost?
  2. Sinful chick
    I have a question. Don’t know if this is the proper place for it, and if it’s not, tell me! (I am totally dumb when it comes to what a “quote”, “forum”, etc. is!) Anyway, it wouldn’t cause a problem (loneliness or anxiety) if I separated on of my hens in her own cage for awhile all alone? I have 2 hens and just 1 rooster. Only 3, so since They are used to only 2 other faces, wouldn’t they miss each other? My Stephanie is being bullied and she’s the one I’d put by herself...thank you in advance!!
    1. ChemicalchiCkns
      Sinful chick likes this.
    2. Fishkeeper
      Removing the hen that's being bullied will make it worse. You have to remove the bully for a little while.
    3. TeenageRooster's Dad
      agreed. kinda like kids... punish the bully, not the victim :) .

      @Fishkeeper, is the other hen also bullying her? No Freudian behavior expert here but I've noticed that when you remove the "driver" in those situation (assuming it's the rooskie here), the hens tend to form a tighter bond (girls stuff) and the rooster overpowering won't be as bad when he's re-introduced.
      Sinful chick likes this.
  3. rocknmomma
    Hello, 3rd year chicken owner here. I have 4 grown chickens and I just purchased 5 baby chicks. they are not ready to leave the brooder yet they are only 3 weeks old. however just recently 2 of my adult chickens pick on one of my other adult chickens. they are free range chickens and sleep in one coop at night. the two chickens are Robin (Rhode Island Red) and Oreo (Light Sussex) who are picking on Maggie (Ameraucana). they will block Maggie in a corner jump on its back and peck at its face. we had introduced the Ameraucana as well as another one into the flock last year and things seemed to go very good for awhile. the 2 chickens would chase the other chickens around but not anything to serious. then one of the Ameraucanas I had found dead inside the coop with its face all bloody and blood on the walls, and I had thought that maybe a cat had gotten into there coop. well now I am suspicious of Oreo and Robin being the cause. the pecking gets worse when we buy them mill worms as a special treat occasionally. Should I put the two bullies in the pen for a couple days or just the Ameraucana. I feel that it is unfair to lock up the one getting picked on but I want to stop this bullying because I am afraid now for my baby chicks and I don't want them to get picked on or killed.
      Sinful chick and MelodyGrace like this.
  4. fatchic
    I have a golden sexlink(Daphne) that bullies my 2 Americaunas (Eva and Pricilla). They are all out free ranging minding their own business and Daphne will just peck at one of them. She pulled 8 feathers out this morning. I notice when she's bullying them they make a painful cry out.. it's so sad to watch.. help!
  5. kelleowen
    I have 2 hens that have been close to the big pen for a few weeks now. They are not baby chicks. One is about 15 weeks but on the smoke side. The other one is about 12 weeks they run them all over the place pecking is not very bad. They just chase them all the time. Any suggestions...
  6. SF411chicks
    Great post.
  7. 3Xgranny
    I have two kinds of chickens, reds and black with gold around thier neck. the black with gold peck at each others back and eats the feather, they also peck out the rooster breast feathers. Is there a deficiency why they eat the feathers? They just do this to themselves I believe the reds are too big and maybe aggressive, also i have seen them try. Please help.
    1. Fishkeeper
      Yes, a protein deficiency will make them eat feathers. You should probably post a separate thread to ask questions about this, it sounds like you might have a serious problem going on.
  8. growsaposy
    Thanks for this article. Gives me some ideas as I have one hen who is a Meanie. Her target is mostly Scamp who only has 1 tailfeather left and is a nervous wreck. Tried isolation and immediately when bunch got out they all ran over to Meanie who had called them and had a fit when they wandered away. It's funny but it isn't, So I'll certainly try these ideas. Thank you.
  9. RezChamp
    Good one. Thank you.
  10. OScarlet
    None of these things are working for me. One of my hens gets picked on constantly. They have plenty of space, more than one water and food station. Free range for at least an hour every day and lots of space when not. They have places to dig and scratch and it is worst when a treat such as the things above are available. The hen that was picked on was introduced to the existing flock but it was done with another bird about a year ago and the other bird is generally fine. They have enough roosting space, not too much light... any other ideas? I tried hobbling the bird that was doing the pecking and that stopped it for a while but it comes back. I've tried Vicks on the bird that is being pecked but she rolls in dirt and cleans it off.
  11. cmerk
    Great article. The information may help us help our little bantam. Don't you just love raising chickens?
      Sinful chick likes this.
  12. Ellaluvsbirds
  13. ChickenCrazy8
    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!
  14. navella
    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!
  15. Roxannemc
    By the way he is out a lot not penned and I get challenged when hes out not in
    Same with #2 Meanie .
  16. Roxannemc
    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.!
    1. Fishkeeper
      Search the forum. There are many topics discussing this sort of thing.
  17. tumbles
    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 :/
  18. Dwkuska
    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?
  19. EMW
    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.
  20. Chicks Galore3
    Thank you thank you thank you!
  21. ParsonPlace
    Thanks for this post , Bullying is stressful for the chickens and owner . This article is very helpful !
  22. amisner
    Very helpful!!
  23. chickenpooplady
    Very helpful article! Thank you!
  24. Bogtown Chick
    This is great. I'm passing this on to a friend with some ongoing issues with her bird (s).
  25. moms
    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.
  26. Nutcase
    I've been encountering some bullying problems so this has been very helpful! Thankyou so much BuffOrpington88!
  27. cknnewbie
    This is a well-written and informative article. Thank you for the insight.
  28. PrairieChickens
    Well written!
  29. CinnamonQueen
    Very good article! Thanks!
  30. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
  31. jtbass2756
    Great information.....I'm learning so much

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