hen pecking chicks


In the Brooder
8 Years
Feb 14, 2011
I have 2 adopted hens (someone roo-napped my boy) so it is just the girls. Henrietta had 9 bitties...

Now, the other hen is taking sucker punches at the chicks. They are 2 weeks old and still under Henrietta's protection (and she has done an awesome job)...

My question is, why is the other hen doing this? and can I stop her....short of making her Sunday dinner?


I don't have any clear answers. Each chicken has its own personality. Some are laidback and some are brutal bullies. There is also chicken etiquette to consider.

There are two kinds of pecking. Some hens just have this urge to seek out and destroy any young chick. They actively try to find and kill young chicks. I don't have those in my flock, but some do. Some broodies are better than others at protecting their chicks from these. Some of these are not too bad and after a proper chastising by Mama they learn to leave the chicks alone. How much space Mama has to work in is also important. Most broodies tend to keep their chicks separated from the flock a bit.

Then you have the pecking order peck. It is considered improper chicken etiquette for a social inferior to invade the personal space of a social better. A chick is definitely considered way down in the pecking order. This type of peck is not meant to kill. It is meant to discipline and chastise a chick. It can be dangerous, killing or injuring a chick, but that is not the intent. If the chick can get away and not get trapped against a fence or in a corner, it will usually run back to Mama when something like this happens. But sometimes with a big hen pecking a little chick, one hard peck is all it takes to cause damage.

My broodies raise their chicks with the flock. I have not had a problem with other chickens actively trying to seek out and destroy the chicks and I have only seen a few times that Mama has actively chastised another hen for bothering her chicks. Mine do have a lot of room, so that helps. I think giving Mama enough room to work is really important.

I have seen where a young chick, say two weeks old, leaves Mamma's protection and goes to the feeder to eat beside other adult chickens. Sometimes the other hens ignore the chick for a little while, but usually before too long, one hen pecks the chick to remind it that it is bad etiquette to eat with its social betters. The chick runs back to Mama as fast as little legs and wings can get it. In these cases, Mama does not chastise the hen. Maybe it takes a flock to teach proper chicken etiquette. I've never had a chick die or get seriously injured because of this, but others have.

My tone may sound flippant. I don't mean to diminish the importance of this. Even a pecking order peck can be dangerous to a chick. Hopefully this will help you understand what is going on in your circumstances and help you deal with it.

Good luck!!!
I occasionally see same among my free ranging games. On a walk (free ranging location) social structure based in part on kinship among hens (rooster gets swapped out each year along with all male offspring) can be seen. Dominant hens not only act aggressively towards other hens they are not related to but also chicks of those hens. Same agressive hens are much more tolerant of close kin. My birds know each other for years and multiple generations interact. The aggression under my conditions have a purpose that benefits the agressive bird and her relatives. What gets interesting is when rooster is sire of chicks being picked on. More than once the rooster pecked or even flogged aggressive hen. Chicks involved still under care of mother when this happens. Thereafter rooster does not intervene.

Some chickens can have a lot in common with monkeys from what I have seen in respect to social interactions.

I have not seen such things with my dominiques.

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