3 weeks old and killing eachother!?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by KaitlynChick55, Jul 14, 2011.

  1. KaitlynChick55

    KaitlynChick55 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 23, 2011
    Calumet, UP of MI
    Please help! I do not know what I did wrong.
    I had 13 3-week old chicks (some black stars, 2 barred rock, one spitz, and two white leghorns.) that are kept outside (they were only outside for a couple of days) in a large very insulated rabbit hutch. I put them out there because they were starting to make a mess in the house and smelling, and i had some more chicks that were about to hatch; and they were starting to outgrow the inside small cage i was keeping them in. I'm not shure about the exact measurements of the rabbit hutch i keep them in, I will take measurements later, but is big enough, it has a lower area that i have fresh hay on the floor, and there is an upper part that has a ramp and a hole (big enough for them to fit in), with hay on the floor. They had 2 regular small chicken waterers, and a small feeder that was simlair to the waterer, and a long feeder that i put against the wall. I filled up a rabbit waterer (one of those upside down bottle lookin things, i cleaned it well) and put it in, and they learned how to use it, so i just left it there and used it as another waterer. So, they had plenty of room, (they even have a low roost), plenty of food, and plenty of water. every day scince they were about 2 1/2 weeks old, i started letting them run around in an empty sandbox (it was never filled with sand) for about 15 minuets a day. as they got a little older, i would let them stay out longer. Temps outside for the past couple of weeks have been around in the upper 70's and 80's, and i put a big box out there on its side for some shade, and i would put a feeder and a waterer out there when they were out. I feed them chicken chick feed, and until very recently a little bit of cracked corn. (Now they are 4 1/2 weeks old) Their poop looks normal, small, but because they're still small yet, and the coloring is normal.
    A couple days after keeping them outside, i went outside in the morning to go check on them, their food, water, etc. i noticed a chick was laying down. I reached in, pet her, and she was cold and stiff. I knew she had died. What horrified me was when i picked her up, I noticed that around her butt and tail, the other chicks had picked and picked and picked right down to the bone. I was horrible. And it was very bloody. They had also did the same thing to another chick. But the (alive) chicks seemed fine, they were eating, drinking water, sleeping, acting like nothing was going on. I don't know why they would have done that. None of them were aggressive, I picked every one up once a day scince they were tiny babies, because I pnce had a rooster that was one of many other chicks that i hatched that didn't have much contact with people and attacted us, including my 4 yr old cousin who could be seriously injured. and i didn't want any ofthem to be like that.
    There was 4 other chicks that had some damage to their wings, plucked feathers and bleeding, and their tails, but they wern't seriously injured. my mom called one of her friends that we sell eggs to, and we were able to get ahold of a couple of gerbil/rabbit cages to separate the injured chicks from the ones that weren't injured. I kept the injured chicks inside for a couple weeks, and they have healed up really well.
    But what I don't get, is why they went on this little killing stage? If i had left the injured chicks with the other chicks, they wouldve been killed also. But yet they are still gentle with people. I still keep them separated, but i put them together to run around outside, and they don't fight or pick at eachother. I really don't want this to happen again. I don't understand what I did wrong with them, They had plenty of room, water, and food. Please help!
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    First, the dead one who had been pecked so badly was no doubt pecked (and partly eaten) after it died, making it look even worse. But what you saw was part of a chicken's nature. They are all like little dinosaurs and cannibalistic, regardless of how people friendly they are. They don't care whether the chicken they are slowly eating is alive or dead. It's their nature.

    The usual causes of severe pecking or feather pulling are too little space, too little protein, and boredom. Factory operations that keep their chickens in cages or crowded together routinely cut off part of each one's beak to prevent these attacks. No, I'm not suggesting you do this; it is quite likely very painful for them.

    Chicken's natural life is on the ground, pecking and scratching for bugs, grass, whatever they can find. It's possible that one got injured and started the downward spiral of pecking each other, as they will certainly peck any bloody wound. Or, the problem here was the cages. Maybe what seemed roomy enough to you was not, to them.
  3. ReikiStar

    ReikiStar Chillin' With My Peeps

    I agree with ddawn...that what might seem roomy to you isn't to the chicks. When we made our coops/runs we looked at the suggested average sq ft per chicken and doubled it!

    Cannibalism starts because of boredom (crowding) or nutritional issues. We give our chicks things to jump onto to strengthen their legs (blocks of wood) and different food like fruits and veggies to peck and explore. They are highly intelligent creatures and need an enriching environment. Otherwise a brood mate who runs when I peck at them becomes the interesting thing to do with my 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week lifestyle.

    They are old enough to get some grass time. Do you have a safe run where they can get out a few hours a day?
  4. KaitlynChick55

    KaitlynChick55 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 23, 2011
    Calumet, UP of MI
    Thanks, I guess what i thought was big enough.. wasn't [​IMG] Sucks when ya gotta learn some things the really hard way [​IMG]
    Yesterday my mom and I used 4 ft high 50 ft long (sounds really huge, but when ya wrap it around some posts, it really isn't huge [​IMG]) chicken wire and built a run area, and put the coop (the outside rabbit hutch) in the run, and put a ramp up so they can get in and out.. even though they stay out all day [​IMG] i put some waterers and a feeder out in the run, but they mostly eat worms, other bugs and greens [​IMG] I even made some little boxes and put them facing away from the sun so they can get some shade when it gets really hot out. I put them in the coop and close the door so they can't get back out at night, im going to wait a longer before i let them stay out at night.
  5. Gullygarden

    Gullygarden Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 2, 2011
    that should help. I agree that the issue is room and boredom. As they grow, you may need even more space.

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