issues with one bad mother hen


12 Years
May 23, 2011
Apollo, PA
ok so i hatched 12 quails about 4 weeks ago now, already have split the males/females since i don't plan on hatching from my stock again. had an issue with one of my hens pecking at the head of another hen to the point that she was bleeding all over the brooder. found the culprit and decided "he if you wanna be mrs. badass then you can go with the big birds"(which are probably about 6 months old now.

got up this morning and went to check on this....that little...something...KILLED one of my older birds. i know its her b/c she is missing some feathers and her beak is chipped. got her in solitary confinment(cardboard box for now) not really sure what to do with her, i don't have anymore pens to put her in.

any idea's on this issue...?
ya know i almost took her and chopped her head off just b/c i was mad she killed one of my egg layers...but i thought it best to just lose one female, instead of 2.

i put her in a 10gal fish tank with some food and water, she might just spend the rest of her life there.
I have had a REAL problem with this. One particular hatch that was a cross between some ebay and some from a quality breeder here, came out aggressive. This, I only discovered when I separated the "kin" (hatchmates). When placed with other non hatchmates there has been absolute meyhem in the feather picking and fighting. I wanted to separate for size and onset of laying rather than just hatchmates in pens.

Now after two months of carnage and administering "rooster booster" anti pick lotion (to no avail), I considered bits. But then thought...well half of the pecked are peckers themselves and I have some good replacement stock coming up that is docile. I will try to keep with the notion of kin recognition (I studied this in undergraduate animal behavior for a session). They are quite capable of recognizing hatchmates. Even so, once the pecking starts, I am finding it impossible to stop unless I bit or cull.

So there is the argument for those who find bits in humane. They are the next step in choosing the least intrusive method of intervention on problem behavior. We deal with this alot in animal behavior issues. You have to have a set of tools, and from it take what is least harmful first and move up the gradient as things do not work.

Tried environmental enrichment - giving them lots to peck such as entire heads of tough leafy greens.
Tried nutritional boosts- calcium? protein? upped all that could be lacking
Tried space
Finally tried housing with former kin.

Feather pecki
ng in chickens has been found in an article (study) as a gene that gets passed on in some family lines and is stronger in some breeds, confined or not. These feather peckers and cannibalistic hens must be culled when the new batch come of age and start laying.

It is a total heartbreak for some, but a relief with another couple who have laid waste and driven at least 6 other hens to a state of constant panic (pacing, alarm calling, growing thin, not laying (not a molt mind you...this is pecked clean parts until bleeding). It is an unacceptable trait in a covey in my opinion and must be culled out.

Just my two cents. Wish you luck in your decision. I have some hard work to do in the next weeks cleaning house of the aggression cases... PETA hates those bits, but they save lives. They just don't understand that we are trying to keep an animal safe so that we can carry on a species with good management. Once again, space, nutrition, enrichment, aversives (antipick lotion consisting of calendula, tea tree oil, and aloe vera) did not work in my case. I exhausted all remedies.

What exactly are chicken bits? I have never heard of them. Tried to google but nothing came up. Thanks for your info, very interesting.
This was some really interesting information. I didn't know about the whole kin recognition thing before, that's quite fascinating. I am currently doing a Foundation Degree in animal behaviour and welfare and am about to start the second year, which is when we do the animal behaviour bit. Maybe this bit of information can come in useful for me
Either way, I am really excited about learning about animal behaviour, even recently started reading a massive 400 page book on it
I've never used these before, but they are plastic or metal bits that fit onto the bird's beak and prevent the beak from closing fully. This way they cannot get a grip on feathers to pull them out, but it doesn't affect their ability to feed or drink.

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