Injured chuck - pecking or worse?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Billie-Jean, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. Billie-Jean

    Billie-Jean New Egg

    Jul 26, 2012
    Hey everyone!
    I hope someone might be able to help me. I'm at my wits end with my chucks, mostly because I can't find any kind of solution, nor can anyone else I know. Please forgive the long post, but I would really appreciate it if someone would bear with me and read on, because I am fairly desperate for help. I only have two chucks and they are purely for pleasure, I don't even like eggs. They really are more like pets and its really quite upsetting to have them in this state.

    So a few weeks ago, one of my chucks appeared out of her pen with a fairly deep wound just above her breast. A small clump of feathers were missing and there was some blood. As she's white, the red showed up quite a lot so my other chuck was pecking at it. I isolated her and let the wound heal, before spraying....I'm not sure of its proper name, I call it magic purple spray. Something-violet spray? Anyway, it seemed to work, and there was no more pecking to the wound and she regrew her feathers. All was well for maybe 3 weeks, and she reappeared with a tiny, penny sized red blotch on her breast again, slightly higher up. So I sprayed her with magic purple spray, and she was ok. But perhaps 4 days later, she came out of her coop with quite a bad wound on her wing, right at the top, which had bled quite badly and gone all down her wing, so the other chuck had been quite vicious with her and torn most of her wing feathers. i separated them straight away and cleaned her up. I washed it, rinsed it with surgical spirit and took her to the farm I bought her from. They were just as mystified, as they said they'd never had a bird injured on her side like hers. They gave me a beak clip, I'm not sure if it has a proper name, but it clips in their nostrils and goes in their mouth so they can't really pull at things? I was a bit concerned she was cleaning her wound and making it worse, so we decided that would be a good short term fix until she healed.

    While I have kept the birds separated by a fence and put them in separate coops,I've been a bit unwilling to keep them completely isolated, because I was worried about the separation making them more likely to fight when reintroduced. So I took a chance to let them wander the garden with one another while I stalked round after them pretending I wasn't following them at all. The first time I did this, they were alright together, though Ginge did start to peck at Babs' wing if she turned and spotted the scab. As soon as she did, I intervened and separated them again. The second time I allowed them to be in the same part, attended,there seemed to be a fair bit of aggression. Ginge seemed to make a beeline for the wing, and when I intervened, she whipped round and started to peck at the beak clip and chest feathers of the other chuck, where there was no blood. I'm really quite upset at this, as the change seemed quite sudden and there was a far bit of growly squawks. But Babs, who has always been the top bird, seemed to freeze and allowed the other bird to peck her.

    I really can't understand what's causing this? I do understand that the pecking order may be changing, though the people I bought them off said that the pecking would usually be around the head or the bum, and they'd never known a bird be pecked at the sides. It did confuse me that other than a bit of pecking, there was no change in attitude with the birds to begin with. Babs was still the greedy bird who would push the other one away when there was a particularly tasty snack on offer, and to some extent this still happens. I'd have thought if there was a fight for dominance, squabbling over food would have also been worse? There has been a rat recently near my coop. I don't throw food or leave any out (I feed treats from my hand) but I assume they're just aware that there is food. There is some attempts to chew through the pen, though my dad built it and it a structural engineer. Unless those rats are about to produce a pair of bolt cutters, they won't be able to get into the run. Still, they appear to be trying. I've put poison down for the rats (there is zero chance a chuck, cat, bird or anything other than the rat getting it, I've been quite careful about that). It's unlikely that a rats attacked her isn't it? She's pretty stroppy, I doubt a rat would have bitten her, particularly twice in different places.

    There's been no change in diet, they have a big protected run, maybe 14 square foot, with two levels, lots of things to climb and peck at, they've been perfectly happy in it for nearly a year. Besides, they roam free in the garden most of the time. They have perhaps an hour in an enclosed run in the morning, and an hour at night. I've checked the garden, like a nutcase, for anything she might have caught herself on, but there's really nothing at all. There's always someone in, so there's nothing really that could have attacked her without us knowing. The garden itself is fairly well protected from cats or foxes, though there are buzzards very occasionally. I've come to the conclusion it must be the other bird, but I really don't know what to do.

    Once the scab has healed more, I'll get a beak clip fitted on the other bird, but I'm still quite concerned that this will only solve the problem while it is on, and the whole thing will start over again. Can anyone please shed any light on why this is happening and what I could do to prevent it? I don't have the facilities to keep both separately permanently, and its quite upsetting to think I might have to rehome one. They are distraught when they are separated, despite Ginge being a mean little cow when they are together. Is there anything I could do to stop this?
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I agree, it sounds like they are doing this to each other. I think the "beak clip" is usually called a pinless peeper. It is actually intended to be worn by the chicken doing the pecking and causing wounds.

    They will always peck each other, but mostly it doesn't progress to the point of injury. When wounding each other is well established, it can be very difficult to stop. It can definitely progress t outright cannibalism in some cases. It is possible that they will not peck to the point of wounding if they are separated until all wounds are healed, meaning no scab, nothing but "purple stuff" (BluKote is a common brand; the ingredient is gentian violet) and maybe some bare skin. It's possible they will both always have to wear a pinless peeper. I would suggest trying adding animal sourced protein to their diet, but presumably they get a number of bugs in the garden.

    I think if they were mine, I would get them fully healed, then try to find someone with a decent sized flock who would allow two more to join them. New chickens entering an established flock enter at the bottom of the pecking order. Hopefully this would let them lead a normal life and shake things up enough that the behavior would stop. I have no experience with this; I am only talking from what I've read on BYC. It's possible that someone who has been through this would tell you that the attacker will never stop attacking other chickens.

    You don't mention what breed they are. While chickens are definitely individuals, some breeds tend to be generally more mellow than others.

    I hope you can find a good solution. Maybe someone with more experience than I will come along and help.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by