injured/pecked chicken(s) - sorta long


11 Years
Mar 14, 2008
MA/NH border
I have read the "cannibalism" thread which gave good ideas, but thought I might post since I am not sure the original cause here.

I'm the usual chicken tender, but my DH has been doing almost all our chicken care as I have had pretty bad morning sickness for the last two months. He's also taken over coop cleaning duty - both of which I'm very thankful for! With the weather warming, I was out today to help as well. Hopefully I'm also toward the end of the m.s. soon.

Anyway, we'd noticed our chickens were looking a little scruffy like a molt, but they are too young (I think) to actually be molting. They came last May as little bitties, so are still under a year old. The EEs look worse than our black sex links. We have attributed this to maybe being "end of winter" hardship but we weren't sure. Today I noticed one hen had a bad gash near her back, just behind where the wing ends (so not easily visible). It is bloody and raw. My husband and I caught her, inspected, put on antibacterial powder, and quickly set up our old brooder pen in the barn where she is now by herself. I should add she was fully mobile and evaded our catching attempts quite well for a while. Overall she seemed fine aside from this, and now appears to be resting in her pen in our barn.

We watched the others for a while, and ended up treating one other one who seemed to have a similar, but much less severe wound. I saw one hen peck at another, but nothing that seemed to be a concerted effort to hurt her.

We feed Blue Seal layer pellets @ 16 % protein, free choice oyster shell, and cabbages a few times a week. Also scratch and random small treats. We have 12 hens and 1 rooster, and during the winter, the run was mostly shoveled out by DH so they could get around. Of course there have been a lot of days where it snowed and none of them went out at all. Winter seems to be ending here so now everything is soggy as the snow melts off.

My husband would like to redesign the roost and make it more spacious, but in general I don't think this the main issue.

Do you think
-they are not getting enough protein and that's caused pecking?
-they are bored?
-molting or feather picking (maybe again due to protein issue)?
-roost issues?

Last summer/fall, we did let them out for 1-2 hrs frequently for supervised bug hunting and grass and fun, but that stopped once we had snow cover (still at about 80%+ snow cover). That will resume once the grass is growing and/or there are bugs again.

last, any suggestions to help us care for the injured chicken are helpful. I'm not sure how long to keep her separated but clearly she should not be in with the others now. we'll be watching the other one to see if she is getting bothered.

I doubt this was a pred but that is not out of the realm of possibility. The run appears fully secure, but we lost the top in the ice storm (we'll redo once we can get around enough to work).

Thanks for thoughts and suggestions.
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11 Years
Sep 7, 2008
It's more than likely cannibalism. Once they get started, they are hard to break of it. You more than likely have just a couple of hens that have been picking the others. If you can determine which ones are the offenders, either partially debeak them, eat them, or isolate them. Some have had some success by changing diets, or adding greens to their diets, but it usually doesn't work.


11 Years
May 7, 2008
I think you are doing the right thing: keeping the injured hens away from the others. They should heal up okay on their own, but you can use some Neosporin or Blue-Kote if you suspect infection.

It is possible that they started the behavior because of boredom this winter or competing for roost space, since it sounds like you are providing them with everything they need nurtitionally. You can try some extra protein if you think it might help.

If you can find the time, you might want to keep a closer eye on them to see if you can isolate the feather-picker. It's hard to catch them in the act, though. I wish I had something to add, but I think you have thought through all of the alternatives.

Good luck.


11 Years
Jun 17, 2008
Middle Tennessee
I agree with Renee - - see if you can watch them and find out what's really going on there. Pulling up a chair and getting a good look at the interactions among them can be a real eye-opener . . .

Winter is tough on chickens - - they can get bored and cranky. Tossing them some cabbage heads or halved winter squash, or even some spinach or dark lettuce leaves (not iceberg) can help keep them occupied so they aren't picking on each other. Even a root veggie like carrots, turnips or parsnips can give them something to pick at.

Good luck, and please keep us posted!


In the Brooder
10 Years
Mar 8, 2009
Chaparral, NM
I have the same problem. I dosed them pretty well with rooster booster and neosporin on the two that were bleeding. I had to move the 3 barred rocks away from the others today just for my peace of mind. Would the culprit be the one that has NO pecked areas on her?


Keepin' the sunny side up
11 Years
Mar 20, 2008
Shenandoah Valley, VA
Can you post a picture of the "scruffy" looking ones? Does all the damage appear to be on the back? I'm certainly not saying it's NOT a pecking issue, but I wonder if it might be rooster tracks? Roosters have even been known to slash the backs of pullets/hens with their spurs/nails. I had scruffy looking pullets and initially thought they were molting early - and then figured out it was an overly amorous rooster - well that and the fact that he is HUGE and much larger than my poor girls.

If you could post a picture, it would really help.

Best of luck.



11 Years
Mar 14, 2008
MA/NH border
Thanks to everyone who has offered thoughts.

I did not see this early enough to get photos today, but I did spend some time observing. I will also add that all the hens have some exposed back, some worse than others.

While the chickens were in the run, there were periodic pecks at each other on the back. I did not see any hens pecking at the sides, vent, or feather picking. The back pecks were mostly cursory and one or two hens were more likely to do it.

I let the group out even though there are not a lot of places to go, but I led them down to our future garden area where they could scratch away and they had a blast. I had to lead them back since they could not figure out how to get across the snow. But, more importantly I noticed the roo was VERY active. He must have jumped on each one (11) at least once in the space of an hour or so, and maybe a few times on some of them. How often does a typical rooster mate? Should I be getting saddles for these girls?

We have a heat lamp on injured girl now for the night and she appears to be eating, so I think with some alone time she'll do alright.

Add: Also, my husband did some roost work today, they should have several more options if they aren't too freaked out to try them.
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