I Think I Have Neurotic Chicks - Wire Scrapes on Beaks


6 Years
Mar 16, 2013
Our American Game chicks are just over 4 weeks old. They were in a wire dog kennel in the house and I kept them next to me in my studio as they would freak out if they didn't see me near them all of the time. These chicks have almost all of their feathers, and we live in Florida (by Tampa) so it is very warm here.

The chicks seemed to hate the confines of the wire dog cage. They were always trying to get out to the extent that they bruised their beaks sticking them through the bars of the cage. So we put cardboard around the perimeter inside so they couldn't keep damaging them. This worked kinda-sorta. They would still frantically run back and forth screaming like we were killing them if we tried to leave them locked up (God forbid we have to go to the store!)

During the day I left the door open so they could jump on my shoulder and to a nearby table. We literally took turns sitting with them all day, every day, which worked until yesterday when my husband started his new job. At night they were okay and would sleep fine. They just acted like they were older than normal chicks, they are bigger, fly really well, are more aggressive, and have most of their feathers so we thought they were old enough to be outside here (84 to 90 during the day) with more space to peck around, free range in their 10x10 enclosure and so on. Besides, I can't continue to just sit with them!

Hubby built a nice safe brooder box for at night with a heat lamp in it, and we let them run around in the fenced in area during the day. The cage has hardware cloth around the bottom of it, and we thought they seemed fine. They were not happy about the box at all - but were chirpy and busy in their "yard", up until yesterday (second day) and today. I saw them running back and forth again, trying frantically to get out, poking their noses through the wire mesh, and now one has a scraped and bleeding beak.

What can I do to stop this destructive behavior? There are only 2 of them, I can't separate them or they'll be even more unhappy. I think I have neurotic chicks! Do they make xanax for fowl??? I honestly thought if we weaned them off of "us", and transitioned them into this area that they would be fine. They are not. I've tried ignoring their cries, so now they've hurt themselves. Talk about needy baby-greedy baby!


Snoot and Fidget with their bruised and wounded beaks :- ( See the dark bruise on this one's beak?

You can see they are nicely feathered

Beak wound above, bruised beak below - they won't sit still, it is so hard to get a good image!

New enclosure with brooder and closeup of the new brooder area - we even put some grass in there for them! The old dog kennel home (yes that is me in my jammies!)
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They may very well be too hot. At 4 weeks they do not need a heat lamp, and are probably nearly ready to move outdoors to stay. Looks like you are already taking them for outing. They will be much happier being on grass so they can forage for food.
As I said, we did move them outdoors to stay on Sunday.

Too hot? It does get down to 66-68ish at night - that seems pretty chilly to me? I thought they were supposed to be kept warmer than that. Do you mean too hot during the day? They are going to have to be outside in Florida so if they are too hot, there isn't a lot we can do about it. I was more concerned about them getting wet from the daily rain and getting a chill.

Also, what about the obsessive beak poking and wounds??
I was hoping someone would answer about the frantic behavior of my chicks. They are flying at the cage walls screaming to get out, smashing into the wire, then they fall to the ground because there is nothing for them to grab onto. I am afraid they are going to break their own necks. Please help!! It's like watching "The Birds", they act possessed.

I also need to know what to do about the open wound on the beaks. Duramycin-10 in the water as a preventative so it doesn't get infected? BlueKote, even though it says not to get it near the eyes, nostrils or mucous membranes? Should I do nothing?

Also, if you use 1 tablespoon of Duramycin-10 to a gallon, what would you use for a pint? There are 3 tsp to a tbsp, but 8 pints to a gallon so it doesn't exactly work out... .38 of a teaspoon?? argh
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So was I, especially after I misread part of your post (sorry.)

I suspect you are right that at least part of the problem is they have become thoroughly imprinted on you. I wish I knew of a way to turn this around; I've never dealt with it. I suppose you could give a try to a couple of small stuffed animals, and/or a feather duster, which people often use when they have a lone chick.Mabe with distractions and plenty of space, time will improve things.

More space eases so many chicken problems. Could you perhaps give them a little time each day outside their pen? If not, changing something in their pen every day will help a little. Just moving an object, turning a box or block around, etc.. will provide some distraction. People use hanging cabbages, flock blocks, etc., as well. Of course, a small daily treat always distracts.

Even changing their type of food might help. Is that fermented feed? I know nothing about it, but I have to wonder if ordinary dry food would make a difference. You could even offer just dry food part of the day, or some other variation.

Another thought: adding one more chick, if possible, would certainly give them something else to put their attention on. Integrating birds ranges from not difficult at all to disastrous, so I don't know whether you'd want to try that or not, even if you could. Just trying to come up with ideas.

Let's see here. One Tbsp is 15 ml., so 1/8 of a Tbsp would be about 2 ml, or to be exact, 1.875 ml. If it were me, I'd get a 1 ml or 3 ml syringe and use 1.8 ml. The daily dose they actually receive will never be precise, since you are adding it to water, anyway -- so I'd call that plenty close enough. Chickens heal pretty well, so hopefully, time is the main thing they need -- that and to stop beating their beaks up, obviously! aif you feel you should, I wouldn't hesitate to put just a bit of BluKote or Neosporin or whatever directly on the wounds, perhaps with a Qtip or your finger; I just wouldn't spray the BluKote at their face.

Chickens tolerate cold much better than heat, and those of us who live in the south have much more of a problem with heat than cold. Shade and breeze are absolute necessities. So is lots of fresh water; they will drink so much in hot weather that they may even get runny poops from it. There is no such thing as winter to a chicken in Florida -- maybe not even fall or spring! I'm sure they are comfortable at night now, even at their age -- they look plenty well feathered for 66 degrees. But they may be warm in the heat of the day. They actually don't even require shelter from rain, even though they certainly seem to prefer it at times, especially in a hard, driving rain or a lot of wind. But you will see them out foraging in the rain, too, when they could easily go under a shelter. If you have a small, enclosed coop, you may want to change one wall out to hardware cloth, for example.

Just FYI, here is a thread about the sort of shelters people use successfully in our climate:


I hope you get some more answers and ideas!
Thanks for the reply!

Just since Sunday they've gone from a dog cage, about 3' x 2', to a 10' x 10' enclosure on grass. I don't think it's the space, it's the fence and me not being there. As far as letting them out of the pen, I am afraid to let them out into the yard. I can just barely catch them in the pen. They may be imprinted, but they do NOT want me to pick them up or touch them and they run and fly like I'm going to kill them.

Today I put screen (like window screening material) and sheets over the hardware cloth so they can't peck the wire at all. We'll see it that helps with at least the injuries.

I added a 1.5' round, shallow dish with sawdust, sand and a little DE for a dust bath. We put the pellets in the cage to absorb poo from the time they were a week old, so they like to dust in that...

I also put up a "chick stick".

If they would only quit screaming and running back and forth long enough to discover anything, the pen is full of enriching things. What it doesn't have is me...

TY but as far as the equivalence, I need it in a dry measurement, teaspoon fraction (i.e. "1/8, or 1/4" tsp) - not a liquid measurement. This is for dry antibiotic powder.

The shelter itself is all open, it is a chain link dog kennel with a wire and tarp roof. Their brooder box/coop has ventilation on all but 1 side. This is where they sleep. That little coop is inside the 10 x 10 kennel. I didn't have a question about that, but thanks.

My questions were:
  1. What to do about their frantic behavior
  2. What to do about the bleeding/wounded beak (see the previous post - antibiotics or no, wound treatment...)
Unless the other chick is pecking at the blood spot, I would just leave it be. As far as the behavior goes......I am sure that chickens could potentially fling themselves into something hard enough to break thier necks, but I don't see that happening very often. I would take them out into their enclosure and leave them there. As long as they can get into the coop at night on thier own, they should be able to huddle with each other for warmth. A heat lamp on one side of the coop might make you feel better......as long as there is enough room for them to get away from it. Good luck! :)
Thanks for the reply!

It's not just the flinging into, it's the falling off the roost, wounding themselves on "stuff" and so on. They COULD get into the coop - but they won't. We have to chase them down and physically put them in. We do have a heat lamp which we only use if it is too cool at night.

When I went out this morning (hubby let them outside when he went to work, earlier) they were obviously cold outside in the dewy grass with the wind blowing. It was probably 68ish I guess. They were all puffed out and sitting in the wide open area. They don't seem to have the brains to seek a sheltered, warmer spot. I put the heat lamp from the coop and put it outside for them, but they just won't go to that area and get warm.

These American Game Fowl are the strangest chickens ever! Kind of wild acting, smarter but higher strung, and just... unexpected in behavior.

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