Is it normal for chickens to kill one another?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Gnarled Carrots, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. Gnarled Carrots

    Gnarled Carrots Out Of The Brooder

    93
    9
    41
    Feb 17, 2016
    Washington
    Our chickens are 8 weeks old. They've been raised in the brooder with one another since day 1. We haven't had any issues with them determining a pecking order. We have 10 chicks. The 1 Olive Egger, 2 Wyandottes, and 2 Easter Eggers have been on the top of the pecking order and the 1 Cochin, 2 Brahmas, and 2 Barred Rocks have been on the bottom. They have adequate food, water, and space to roam around. However, this morning (with maybe a 3 hour gap in between when we checked on them in the middle of the night and when we got up this morning), one of our Wyandottes appeared to have trampled our Olive Egger to death.

    We got up this morning to find one of our Wyandottes sitting on top of our dead Olive Egger. The Wyandottes are our smallest chickens by far at this point. Although they've hung around with our Olive and Easter Eggers, trying to assert themselves as the top chickens and are by far our least friendly breed, they're sill friendly enough for us to be astonished by them killing another chick! Our Olive Egger was the largest, fastest, and by far the top chick on the pecking order. She's been one of the friendliest toward us and by far the dominant chick since day 1. So, to find her lifeless body with a Wyandotte sitting on top of her this morning was more than a little disconcerting.

    I've had Wyandottes before and never had a problem. Although I've heard that they don't bear confinement well, I never imagined that they would kill another chicken! Have I been lucky so far? Do they just trample other chickens do death in a fight for the top spot? They're not competing for resources. They have more than enough food and water. The Easter Egger used to sit on top of the feeder looking out over the rest of the flock. But it appears that a Wyandotte cornered her on top of the feeder and trampled her to death. I found the Olive Egger's lifeless body inside the feeder with the Wyandotte sitting on top of her this morning.

    Now I'm worried about whether the Wyandottes are dangerous. Should I remove them from the rest of the flock and/or re-home them? The last thing I want is for chickens to be killing one another! I've had a couple broods without any problems like this. Did I just have a bad egg?

    I also might be wrong in how the Olive Egger died. She didn't appear to have any scratch marks. She may have just had chicken SIDS or a heart attack. I don't know why else an otherwise perfectly healthy chick would die. Should I be worried that another chick was sitting over her lifeless corpse? I didn't actually see the confrontation take place and am only assuming that it was a fight to the death because a Wyandotte was sitting on top of the dead Olive Egger. Does this happen sometimes? Should I be worried about homicidal chicks? Or is it normal for a chick to sit on top of another dead chicken? The Olive Egger was still warm when we pulled her out. She was unfortunately already dead, but it's possible that she could have died from a number of different ways and the Wyandotte was coincidentally sitting on top of her lifeless corpse. Although there was no blood in her stool and she wasn't lethargic or showing any other signs of malcontent. The only scenario that I can come up with that makes any sense is that another chick cornered her over the feeder and trampled her to death. After all, she was the only chick who liked to hang out on top of the feeder and is now dead inside of the feeder. What else should I be thinking happened to her?

    I'm very upset and worried about how to continue. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. [​IMG]
     
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    20,958
    4,216
    421
    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    She might have gotten knocked off her favorite perch by another chick and injured from the fall. At 8 weeks old, they should be outside in a coop. They are almost fully grown chickens at that point, and have adult-type space requirements.
     
  3. Gnarled Carrots

    Gnarled Carrots Out Of The Brooder

    93
    9
    41
    Feb 17, 2016
    Washington
    It's barely spring in Wisconsin right now so we've been worried about having them outside full time. We had snow fall last week! We're expecting that to be the last frost, but we've placed them in a 5x6 foot enclosure in the meantime. For their size and number, that should have been adequate. This is also week 8, so they're technically 7 weeks old and into their 8th week by now. Either way, they had adequate space, food, and water. They've also had other branches to perch on. The Olive Egger just liked to sit on top of the feeder. We knocked her off when she pooped in it, but are wondering about whether we should cover it completely. I've heard about chickens getting stuck in certain types of feeders, but never a conventional feeder!
     
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    20,958
    4,216
    421
    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    5x6 for 10 chicks is adequate until about 4 weeks old. They need at least twice that much living space now. Once they are fully feathered, cold temps are no longer an issue. Those feathers are really great insulators.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    10,216
    3,272
    461
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Did this just happen today? Have you disposed of the body yet? You might consider having a necropsy done to determine cause of death.

    When you've investigated and ruled out all obvious causes for a sudden, unexplained death, there could be disease as the cause, and it behooves you to nail it down so the rest of the chicks aren't at risk.

    A call to your vet can produce information on how to go about getting a necropsy. Meanwhile, if you still have the body, refrigerate it until you're instructed what to do.
     
  6. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    3,971
    317
    233
    Jan 17, 2013
    California
    I'm so sorry for your loss :( I also have 10 chicks and 7 are Barred Rocks, 1 is a Silver penciled Rock, one is a Golden Buff, and one is a Silver Laced Wyannadotte. It's my first experience with the wyannadotte as well as I noticed mine seems to be a lead bird too at only a week of age! Although they seem to develop slower. At your birds age I'm thinking it's highly unlikely she was trampled to death unless the whole flock was in on it.its much more difficult to trample a almost full grown bird to death by a single bird and if the flock took part surely you would see other signs of struggle with the deceased. Such as feathers ect. I'm thinking she might have passed from whatever cause and fell off her area she liked to roost and out of curiosity the other bird came to investigate. I seriously don't think the other bird took her life unless she had help doing it.i do have a question, is the other bird a rooster? I CAN see a single male taking another's life as they tend to fight to the death. But even then you are likely to see signs of trauma which you dont. Leading me to believe she died of some other cause. I hope this helps and I'm so very sorry you lost her.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
  7. Chikn-Chik

    Chikn-Chik Chillin' With My Peeps

    257
    8
    114
    Mar 11, 2011
    Tellico Plains, TN
    Chickens can do the unexplainable sometimes. Last year I hatched and raised a batch and suddenly out of the blue back in the winter they went on a cannibal killing spree and I lost 4 hens.
     
  8. Gnarled Carrots

    Gnarled Carrots Out Of The Brooder

    93
    9
    41
    Feb 17, 2016
    Washington
    All of the birds are hens. And I thought that they would all be fine together at this point. I know that they want to be outside and in their permanent coop, but it's been so cold that I've been corralling them indoors the last couple weeks. I'm in Wisconsin, which means that it snows up until May or even June sometimes. And despite having feathers, wanting to put them outdoors completely in the middle of winter is a little frightening!

    This did happen this morning. We checked on them in the middle of the night at about 3 am (because we're paranoid like that and check on them before we go to sleep) and got up at 6 am to find the Olive Egger deceased. That gave them 3 hours alone, which isn't a lot of time to trample another chicken to death....
     
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    20,958
    4,216
    421
    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    I understand your trepidation, but get those birds out! They are much hardier than you are giving them credit for. I've had 4 week old chicks outside with overnight temps in the low 30s. Your 8 week olds will be fine. Small/close quarters tend to lead to accidental injuries. If there isn't enough room for them to maneuver, there is a real risk of them jumping off of something and crashing into a wall or other obstacle and getting injured. They can crash hard enough to kill.
     
  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

    17,204
    5,112
    476
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Hello fellow Wisconsinite. If there were no peck marks the others didn't kill it. They will walk and stand on top of dead birds because they don't understand what it is. I have had chickens just die, probably a birth defect, or even a broken neck from being frightened and flying into a solid wall.

    I usually wait another month to brood due to our erratic spring weather, so maybe next time. At 8 weeks I move my chicks out to the coop or shed. In the past when I got them earlier in the season I would run a heat lamp at night for a week or two to get them over the hump. So that's an option if you are concerned. Otherwise at eight weeks they will be fine, they will huddle for warmth and will enjoy some new adventures and some outside exercise.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by