Chickens eating Chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by oldodonnell, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. oldodonnell

    oldodonnell Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Hi,

    I have 6 chickens less than a year old. They have a coop and a run twice the recommended size. There was three incidents of excessive pecking that were dealt with by removing the bird. I did figure out how to create a nice fitting waste coat for Red, who was pecked more than usual. Red also laid enormous eggs and occasionally had trouble with them. Once her butt got picked too much so she had to come back inside for a while. But that was a few months ago.

    I opened the coop yesterday to find her laying on the floor, dead and frozen. When i picked her up i found that her entire insides had been eaten by the other chickens.

    I am having trouble dealing with this. Honestly, any feedback or similar experiences would help. I am beside myself. Do I have zombie chickens?

    Thanks for your time
     
  2. dltc96

    dltc96 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 26, 2010
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    I'm sorry to hear about your chicken. I would have a hard time dealing with that as well. [​IMG]

    I have heard that once they see blood on another chicken, they will keep picking at them, and can eat them alive. We had one poor pullet that kept getting picked on and made to bleed a couple of times. We caught it quickly enough and were able to stop the bleeding. It seems that part of our issue was a lack of protein in their diet. We added some black oil sunflower seed (BOSS) and that seems to have helped some.

    I hope this incident doesn't drive you away from keeping chickens. We've only been keeping chicks for about a year now, and we are loving it.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2011
  3. KC n KY

    KC n KY Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We had this happen, though not to that extent. I believe the bird died from overall physical weakness, but when we found her dead, she had some holes in her body, that could easily have been caused by the other chickens. Sorry for your loss [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  4. oldodonnell

    oldodonnell Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Thank you. I am shook, but I'm in the game. I did this to continue at least 3 generations of tradition. I have been adding sunflower seed, veggies, etc to their diet. But I guess my question is. Is there a problem with the flock? Do I cull the remaining 4, save one and start over?
     
  5. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    Zombie chickens? No. Little mini dinosaurs? Yes.

    Birds get bored during long winters. I had a very close knit flock with few problems, but this past year I got a new group of birds that are much more... adventurous?... high-strung? Whatever the term for them, they have been a challenge to raise. I have never had picking problems until this year. This new group has been terrorizing themselves. I tried everything, but was seriously concerned I was going to find the same thing you did- cannibalization. I finally resorted to using some pinless peepers on several birds. They worked beautifully. The peepers are little chicken blinders that prevent birds from seeing straight ahead, so they can't focus on their friends' feathers. I'm not going to say they stopped the problem completely, but they had a very noticeable impact on the decimation that I had been seeing. I would be in the same boat as you had I not applied the peepers.

    Now, Red had problems in the past with picking and also with laying very large eggs. Is it possible that Red may have prolapsed? Anything that is bloody-looking is like a beacon to birds. Once they see a bloodied area they will pick and pick until there is nothing left. Unfortunately, that means if a hen prolapses after laying an egg she is dead meat unless she can get away from her flock until the prolapse retracts. I am thinking this may have happened to poor Red. She prolapsed and was unable to get away from her flock before they killed her.

    So, 2 things-

    Sorry about Red. You probably could not have prevented it unless you were right there all the time, which is not really feasible. If it hadn't happened now, it likely would have happened at some point in the future. Chickens are tough on each other. Red had a history of issues before this, so her days were probably already numbered.

    Maybe you look at the pinless peepers to stop the overall picking. They are cheap, easy to apply, absolutely painless, and the effect is immediate whereas trying other methods take time to see improvement.

    I hope this helps. I'm sorry you had to see the worst of chicken behaviors. Cannibalism is really hard to stomach. Fortunately, it is pretty rare. Good luck.
     
  6. oldodonnell

    oldodonnell Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Hi CMV,

    Thanks for your kind words. I feel the same and I'm upset because I feel like I needed to be there at every moment. But its not reasonable. I wouldn't be able to pay the bills. Red had a wonderful life. It was short but she was treated very well.

    Its comforting to hear that this is the worst, because I could not imagine facing anything more gruesome than what I have seen. The death of Red is the 4th attack.

    Is this common? Is it behavioral? The books that I read said that once cannibalism starts in a group of birds its there forever. Is this true?
     
  7. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    It is not common. It is behavioral and possibly nutritional (dltc96 was not wrong about it possibly being a lack of protein in their diet). It doesn't have to be forever if you take steps to stop it. That is why I invested in the peepers. Some birds just do not deal well with each other. Who knows why? Some breeds are prone to flightiness, some breeds do not deal with confinement well, some breeds are prone to being picked on... The key is to get a flock that works for you and your situation.

    Try the peepers. Figure out if you have a ring-leader and try to separate that bird for a time to decrease the unwanted behaviors. Monitor the flock and watch for signs of abuse and bullying. Do not be afraid to get rid of/cull any birds that are not working for the betterment of the flock. This flock should be working for you, not you working to maintain it. Poultry keeping can be tough at times, but if you get a good flock you can go for years without a problem.
     
  8. oldodonnell

    oldodonnell Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Hi

    Thanks again for the response and taking your time. I feed them well, and there was plenty of food. How do I identify the instigator? I know who it would be based on personality. But I have never witnessed her pecking. Unfortunately I have only witnessed the good ones pecking. Do I just go on gut instinct? And pull the one that is the biggest pain in the butt to me?
     
  9. chickensbythesea

    chickensbythesea Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Don't arbitrarily pick one, especially when you've caught someone else in the act. Just because you find her behaviors a pain doesn't make her the guilty hen, unless her behaviors are related to the problem. (That said, if you really don't like her, don't keep her either)
    "The good ones" in my flock are the ones not pecking at each other, so I'm not sure how you've decided they aren't "the bad ones", but you have to reconsider this view.

    You need to determine who is the ringleader and also why, or just getting rid of hens and replacing them may be futile. If it's boredom (even if they have a good sized run, this time of year especially, they're prone to boredom), then adding some excitement may fix it, and spare you any more losses. This could be a new substrate in your run (like a bunch of leaves for them to root around in), to a flock block, to letting them free range, among other things.

    If it's protein, adding veggies for treats isn't going to help. You're better off only giving BOSS, scrambled eggs, and cooked meats.

    Sometimes, it's just a jerk hen, and the other join in because it looks kinda fun (again, boredom). If this is the case, don't remove the girl getting bullied, remove the bully and increase stimulation for the others to curb the habit.

    In the event you can easily determine one culprit, you still don't have to cull/rehome as a first choice. Take her and house her separately for a week or so, and when she goes back, she'll be knocked down on the pecking order and less likely to harass everyone else. They also make stuff you can spray on them to discourage pecking, I believe.

    This thread has a lot of thoughts on the topic: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=98165

    And
    good luck!
     
  10. oldodonnell

    oldodonnell Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Hi,

    They have been getting a supplement of BOSS for months now. I don't know anyone on this planet who thinks that vegetables are a good source of protein. But moving on.

    I think that I should cull based on personality. The biggest trouble maker is an Americanus named Brownie, she is always nervous and runs away from whatever she is doing well before I get to the coop. But I have only witnessed the other birds ever pecking a bloody spot. Now theoretically, the high strung Americanus could still be the instigator. Every bit of trouble I have ever witnessed was started by her. As she picks a fight with every bird. And It might just be that the other girls are trying to get the red off. Clean the wound, whatever.

    I have not witnessed it. Whether self grooming or one of the girls going after a weak spot it hasn't happened in front of my eyes. But things do not heal in the coop. healed wounds get opened up again.

    I had two pets out there and 4 farm birds. Now I only have one pet. How do you think I feel about playing the odds? I just want Stripes to survive. I lost Red, she lived half her life in my house. I spent so much time trying to keep her 'unpecked'. Do I cull the instigator? Or the participants?

    And is that all you feed your girls is BOSS? Or just a supplement?

    Thanks
     

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