Cold weather pecking?


In the Brooder
Jun 23, 2015
Flamborough, Ontario. Canada
Hey there everyone,

Came home from work today to find one of my girls beaten up pretty badly. All my hens were in good shape except for my one barred rock (oreo).
She was bleeding from her comb and even had some pecking done to the top of her head which had started drawing a minimal amount of blood. Im not sure if it has anything to do with the sudden change of temperature lately or what. Ive never had any of my hens peck each other this bad ever! The odd peck here and there to establish who gets food first is normal in my flock but never to this extent.

I brought her inside and im cleaning the wound every hour or two with a normal saline solution and ive also been applying aloe vera periodically. Any other suggestions to help her heal would be appreciated. I was going to use peroxide but have heard mixed reviews so I thought normal saline would be the safer route.

Any opinions on why she was being beaten up? Is this normal when the weather changes so drastically? It is the first colder day of the year. Went from Positive temperatures to -20 with windchill. Im thinking maybe she got pecked hard once which drew blood and then the sight of blood started a riot and caused the downward spiral.

I just want to solve the problem so I dont come home to another injured hen or even worse a dead one.

Coop has sufficient room, and they spend most of there time outside which also has sufficient space and has never posed a problem in the past. The run is now winter-proofed with plastic wrapped to keep drafts out too.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all!
Some more information my be needed, age and what do you consider adequate room. The two times I had pecking issues were from the flock pecking a sick bird and back years ago I confined mine for a while in the coop because I thought it was cold and they began to peck each other out of boredom. I don't think the temperature drop he anything to do with it. I would look more to the enclosing of the run. You have removed a visual thing to do as well as access to fresh air, chickens don't need to be wrapped tight, they handle cold pretty well.

I would get your hen back in the coop in a separation pen before you cause more problems by removing her totally from sight, and see about opening up the run and giving them things to do, winter can be boring.
Mixed ages in the flock right now. Some are between 6 months and a year and my oldest are a year and a half. The older ones are extremely friendly and dont peck ever. My barred rock that is being picked on is about a year old and the main ones picking on her were all raised together so they are about a year old as well.

Its just strange because it came out of left field. I havent changed anything to there routine in the last month really. I covered the run a month ago expecting snow and harsh cold winds but havent really had any of that until just recently. I read online covering the run with plastic would be a good thing so I did it to help prevent problems.. One side of my run is facing my fence and the other is facing open property. The side thats against (2 ft from the fence) the fence is only partially covered. I left about 2 feet from the ground open to provide some airflow for some circulation seeing as its the side that is more sheltered from harsh winds and snow etc.

As for space; The coop is 8 x 6 and houses 13 hens. I have given them roughly 4 sq ft per bird. Like I said space hasnt seemed to pose a problem before. We are adding the the flock and will be adding an addition in the spring but as of right now its 8 x 6 ft.

I feel like maybe they are getting bored as they dont really have to much excitement. I try to introduce new things as much as possible. (logs, chairs, scratch , etc.)
Just went out and bought a bunch of iceberg lettuce to hang inside and outside the coop. Hoping this will help.

I dont really have enough space to provide the best "confined" spot so thats why I brought her inside. My fear to was that once I reintroduce her she is going to get picked on again. Just thought that the shape she was in and what I had to work with at the time It was better to remove her until I plan a better option. If I were to cage her inside the coop with food and water would that be okay? I have a medium sized pet cage that would fit her and some food but doesnt give her much room.

Once again thanks for the help, Any suggestions are appreciated.

Could they possibly be getting close to resuming laying, have the older ones molted, it does sound like you have adequate room. I put out some good grass hay for mine to peck through. It's possible there's something off about the hen they are pecking, otherwise it's possible they are getting hormonal if they haven't resumed laying yet. Sometimes they just get into disagreements and if the one that's getting pecked doesn't get away, if she submits she can get overpecked until blood is drawn, then you have a mess.

A smaller wire crate where they can be seen but not touched is a valuable asset, either permanent or temporary, you will find many uses for it. I would keep her in there for a few days than see how they react when you let her out, putting out some scratch to distract them. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what goes on with them.
I would think the cage inside the coop is appropriate as long as others can't peck on her thru the holes. Better than making her a stranger to the flock.

One of my barred rocks was pecked like crazy last spring (all grew up together) she lost feathers on top of head and lost her tail. I also caught 2 of Wyandottes hens on top of her savagely attacking her when I got home from work. I end up using pinless peepers on them until October when they started getting along and I know she was safe. I have 10x12 coop and high ceiling with multiple perches and big chicken runs with perches and yet still happened.

Some people in BYC said that they either cull the bullies or the weakling since sometimes they could have some sickness that others sensed. I almost did that but since am new to chicken I would like to try different approaches before I gave away or butcher one or 2 which I don't have problem doing. It was stressful for awhile but the peepers worked for me and the barred rock is now in the middle of pecking order. I have no idea why they singled her out since she was actually one of the nicest hopping on my arm or my knee if am inside the run. Right now no bullying, tho I still worry sometimes if I locked them in the coop.
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Space might not have been a problem when they spent a lot of time outside,
but the temp drop may have kept them in the coop
and it all of a sudden became much smaller due to everyone being in there at once all day.

4 sqft for a coop is a bare minimum, IMO, especially where extreme weather can keep them cooped for days on end.

If you plan on adding to the flock, I would seriously consider a much larger coop with the option to split it in half with a temporary wire wall.
Integrating new birds takes more and separate but adjacent spaces.....
......especially if you are not around to supervise and stop problems before they become severe.
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