Help! 2 week old brown leghorns pecking tail feathers!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Phillygoatgruff, Jun 16, 2016.

  1. Phillygoatgruff

    Phillygoatgruff Just Hatched

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    Hello,
    This is our first time having chickens,and we are having a problem with them pecking out tail feathers of each other until they are bloody. My brooder box is 12 feet long by 2 feet wide and 2 feet high. We have 55 brown leghorn chicks. I thought that maybe they were too crowded,but most things I've read say 1/4 sq ft. per chicken for the first month then 1/2 sq ft. up to 8 weeks.So the brooder should be big enough until almost the 2 month mark. Because of the pecking problem, we partitioned off a space in the main coop to about 8 feet by 6 feet and moved them there yesterday with the only trouble is keeping the temperature up. I have 3 250watt lamps hanging pretty low but cannot get the temp up to 85 degrees. I may have to move them back to the brooder if I can't figure out my temperature issue as it cools of to about 50 degrees on some nights still here in the Pacific Northwest. But I can't have them killing each other either. Any help or information would be greatly appreciated! BTW,this site is absolutely fantastic!!!
    Cheers!
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    [​IMG] Overcrowding was most likely the problem. That's a lot of 'bored' birds in a relatively small area.
     
  3. Phillygoatgruff

    Phillygoatgruff Just Hatched

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    Thanks for the reply. So the 1/4 sq ft. per chick formula does not apply? My brooder box is 48 sq ft. which according to everything I have seen should be big enough for the amount of chicks I have for up to about 2 months. Putting them in the main coop too early has me concerned because it is more difficult to keep the temps I need. So I seem to have a choice between overcrowding ,or too much temperature fluctuations.
     
  4. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    12' long by 2 ' wide is 24 sq ft not 48 sq ft.
     
  5. Phillygoatgruff

    Phillygoatgruff Just Hatched

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    yes, 24 sq feet...my bad. However, 55 chicks x 1/4 sq ft/chick = 13.75 sq feet. for the first month. So, they should have enough space for almost 2 months. 1/2sq. foot/ bird up to 8 weeks = 27.5 sq.feet. Overcrowding should not be the problem. I am thinking too much light. I will try keeping it darker during the day.
     
  6. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

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    The square foot rule is merely a suggestion, not a hard rule. Some breeds need more space. Leghorns are very active and crowding could be an issue. I have a 4 by 12 foot brooder and I wouldn't put more than 30 chicks of that age in it.

    The whole brooder doesn't need to be 85. I only have one heat source in mine, and I booted some 2 week olds out into it not long ago when lows were in the 40s, They huddled under it at night and ran all over the brooder by day when temps got to the 60s and low 70s.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    You have 4 strikes against you:

    Too much heat: Only a portion of the brooder needs to be warm. The chicks should be able to get away from that heat to an area that matches the ambient outside or cool house temp. With that many chicks, your brooder is way too small to allow them to have the heat they need in one end, and cool temps in the other end. Broody raised chicks duck under Mama occasionally to warm up. Otherwise, they are running around at what ever the weather du jour tosses their way. FYI, many of us are now using heating pads to brood chicks. You have too many to be able to easily do this. BUT, all of the "THEY SAY" folks who refer to the chart 90-95 the first week and decrease 5* every week thereafter, have not taken the time to observe the chicks, and decrease the temp according to the chicks behavior. It's also a good idea to turn that lamp off for an hour or two several times/day after the first week. Again, observe for signs of chilling stress, and handle needs accordingly. Too much heat is far worse than not enough.

    Breed: Leghorns, as many of the Mediterranean breeds tend to be aggressive, and are more active than the European/American breeds.

    Crowding. I didn't see where you stated their age. But, by 2 weeks old, your chicks have sprouted wing feathers and need to be able to use them. They are designed to want to and need to fly at that age. Imagine taking a toddler who was learning to walk, and keeping him confined to his crib 24/7. That's what's happening to chicks that are crammed into a brooder.

    Boredom: What's a chick to do??? If he was in a natural environment, he'd be running all over creation. Running those little legs off, and flitting around like a parakeet, chasing after Mama, chasing bugs, eating lots of greens, taking dust baths, scratching for goodies in the soil, sparring with his flock mates. Chicks confined to a brooder get none of those opportunities.

    Solution: Got a coop? Get them into the coop. By 4 weeks old, IMO, they should have a minimum of 2 s.f./bird. They should also be just about finished with heat. But the heat needs to be weaned gradually. And by 6 - 8 weeks, they should have 4 s.f. in the coop. They should also have a secure run by that age.

    No coop? Get a couple of appliance boxes and tape them together, put a bird netting over the top. Leghorns are incredible fliers.

    Give them stress busters: clumps of sod, perches of varying heights and materials, a log to play king of the mountain on. By 4 weeks, they can handle a bit of scratch. Toss it in their bedding. Be sure to give them some grit. You can even sweep it up from your gravel driveway.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2016
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  8. ksmith2006

    ksmith2006 Just Hatched

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    I have used an all natural nutritional supplement called Avia Charge-2000 for years and among other things, it certainly reduced pecking. Also the chicks grew faster and were much healthier. I could not ask for more.
     
  9. Phillygoatgruff

    Phillygoatgruff Just Hatched

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    Thank you sooo much for this useful reply!! I don't have heat on during the day as the temps are warm enough. I have reduced the amount of heat that they did have and now I am only using one light. My coop is quite large..16x12 which should be about 3.5sqft/bird ,so I partitioned a portion of it for now. I will probably give them a few more days and then let them have the run of the coop but not let them in the run for a bit. My run is basically free range over 6000 sq feet. I want them to be healthy and happy so I have dispensed with the size rule and just pay attention to how they are behaving. Thanks again for thee help.
     
  10. ksmith2006

    ksmith2006 Just Hatched

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    From my observations, I think that feather pecking is related to stress and trace mineral deficiencies. Both of these are intertwined with each other. I think that head pecking also fits into this category. When I was raising pheasants head pecking was a consistent problem with the young. They would peck each other until they were a bloody mess. Once again, a wise old friend told me how Avia Charge-2000 cured his problems. That is when I used Avia Charge-2000 and my problems disappeared. Hope this will help you with your problem.
     

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