cannabilism and pecking behavior


9 Years
Sep 27, 2010
I wrote in earlier this month when one of my hens had a raw open wound on her back. We cleaned it applied antibiotic and it appeared to heal. We never really figured out what caused it, but it didn't appear to be a predator-no punctures or bites. Now I found this same hen in even worse condition. I think now it is the other hens pecking at her. This time I didn't think she would make it. Her skin and feathers were gone in an area of 4 inches wide. So far she's OK, I've isolated her again. I've never witnessed one of them pecking each other, just some occasional posturing over food, etc. I've read all the reasons this might happen and it doesn't seem they apply. The coop is small, but they free range all day, there has been no change in the flock (they grew up together), they get commercial feed in addition to sunflower seed and kitchen scraps for treats (no meat though, we're vegetarians), no stressors I can identify. Any ideas??? Someone recommended giving them meat scraps. Has anyone had any success with doing that?
If they are molting and the overall diet is low in protein they will feather-pick each other (literally eating the feathers off each other, especially blood feathers (which are the ones that are still forming and dark with blood). This feather picking can get out of control and lead to serious injury and even death.

In this case meat scraps can help, but you should really look at overall dietary protein which doesn't have to be meat if you aren't into that. Some folks switch to a gamebird feed during molt and cut out the low protein treats like scratch during molt.
Thanks for the response, I really don't know what to do. I don't think they are molting, there hasn't been any changes in their feathers. Someone else recommended crushed oyster shells and I was thinking of changing their food.
Sorry, haven't been on here for awhile. Oyster shell doesn't have anything to do with cannibalism. (It can help prevent egg eating, by helping make stronger shells.)

Any time a hen a hen is injured and blood is exposed, other hens can start picking at it and it can get out of hand.

Is it possible there is a sharp edge the picked on hen could have cut herself on to start the process?

Is it possible something was able to rip her flesh for her (like a cat or something)?

Had the hen been laying soft shell eggs which might have been all over her bottom, or had a partial prolapse which attracted the attention of the other hens and got out of control?

Any of these things could have caused the behavior and been unrelated to diet...Hope you figure it out. How is your hen doing? Did she make it?
Chickens pick at open wounds , that is a fact. This picking can then become a bad habit. Try adding some protein to the diet in the form of dry catfood. Keep an eye on the injured hen as she has become marked as a source of protein.
The hen that was pecked did make it, she seems to be healing well. This weekend another hen was pecked-not as bad and she is doing OK. Now I have 2 isolated and the remaining 3 have been OK. We were concerned they were too big for their coop and have converted a shed to house them for the winter and I'll try the cat food. One person I talked too had the same problem and she fed them raw meat 3x and has not had a problem since. To me this would encourage this behavior so I'd rather try the cat food to up the protein. I am feeding them a layer crumble. Thanks for the feed-back- this site is great!

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