Need Help-Caring for Neighbors Hens


In the Brooder
9 Years
Apr 15, 2010
Northwest Montana
Hi All, I've been around this forum for quite a while as I hope to start keeping my own chickens this year. In the meantime, I am caring for my neighbor's chickens while they are wintering in Arizona. They just left early this morning and yet here I am with my first problem. Of course, the problem existed before they left, but they think the issue is resolved possibly. So here it goes...

They have six hens that are badly pecked on the bottoms. The neighbor talked to her vet about it before she left and he said they were bored and to get a flock block. She did that, but I am still observing them pecking at each other while I am there feeding and tending, and boy does it look awful. No blood that I can see yet, just swollen, red behinds. A few only have pink, featherless behinds, but a few more look angry, red, and swollen. They seem altogether pleasant most of the time, good dispositions, great egg layers(so far). Of the six hens, we are collecting 5 eggs every afternoon.

Here is some info that might allow you to weigh in. The coop is of a type I have seen online quite a bit. It looks like a miniature barn(4'X3' possibly) with flaps on both top sides that open up to collect eggs and clean. It's small, but with only six hens, I think it should be adequate? It's designed for that many anyway, I believe. I mention this because the vet said at first that he felt they didn't have enough room apparently. But they have 24 hour access to the run, which is quite big for that number of hens. It has a normal size door and I can stand up and walk around in it. My guess is that the run is about 15' long by about 6' wide.

I have read here and elsewhere about creams, salves, etc. I also remember some fabric type aprons. My question firstly is why might this be happening, other than boredom, and secondly what should I try first? I'm probably heading to our local ag store tomorrow for something...any suggestions? I mean, this is not going to get better, correct? One hen even looks a bit lumpy back there, so I'm hoping that she is not egg bound on top of everything else. I have yet to catch one as I have no net, and in order to do so I would have to bend down whilst running and lunging under the roosts that criss cross the run at about hip high. I will more than likely need our big fishing net to do so. I can't quarantine them as there is no one chicken being the aggressor. I might be wrong, but while I've been there, they will all take a peck at each other, EQUALLY!

Argh...I don't want these hens to die on me while in my care, they've grown on me already. We have been so completely fortunate so far this winter as we haven't had horribly low temps yet, or much snow. But it's coming. We are in NW Montana. It's inevitable. Right now they are going out in the run no problem, but will they in a few feet of snow?

Oh, and almost forgot. She has a red light that she wants on at all times in the coop. She is using this as heat and I would guess that's why they are still laying? Or do you need a white light for that? In any event, she was going to put it on a timer but decided not to in case of a malfunction I think. I hope I've given enough info for all of you to advise me. I have searched on this forum and found info on pecking, so if some of the chicken owners that have suffered this have been successful, I want to hear how! Thank you in advance
Last edited:
12 sq feet is enough room for 3... At 6 chickens that's only 2 ft per chicken. They really should have 4 ft per chicken. The run sounds great thou. Is it covered or winterized at all? You might wanted consider that. If you can afford to throw some thick plywood on for a roof and some 4-6 ml plastic up for walls.... I know they are not yours, but I bet you will have much less of a pecking problem in the dead of winter if they still have the run. Are they pecking while in the coop or both the coop and run? How old the chickens?

good luck and welcome to but.

the red light is just for heat. I personally would not add heat, if the power goes out for a while, the chickens will suffer because they will not be feathers enough with down to keep warm... But... Probably to late now...
Last edited:
First of all, thanks for responding
To be honest, I never even thought of winterizing the run. I'm pretty sure they didn't either as it was never discussed at all. It would take a bit of doing for us to do that, do you think it would make a huge difference? Does everyone winterize their runs?

I'm going to make sure I get the dimensions when I go over there tomorrow morning to make sure of the coop size as I am not good at eyeballing dimensions. However, I know I can't remedy that situation at all. I wish I would have had our coop and run built so that I could just have them at our place!

Thanks again for your help. I hope others can chime in as well.
If you eliminate the pecking issue, everything else should work itself out. To take care of boredom, hang a head of cabbage in the pen just a little bit above head level and let them peck at it.
They could be lacking enough protein in their diet. Purchase gamebird feed which has 22%+ protein vs 16-18% protein in layer feed, this should eliminate the picking. You can also purchase vicks vapor rub or Rooster Booster brand "Black Salve" and put it on the rear ends. Once they get a bite of that stuff, I doubt they'll do anymore pecking. The Black Salve will also help heal their skin as well as minor injuries.
Actually I think the red light is supposed to help with the pecking because if they see blood they will go after it and the red light makes the blood less visible? Is it just a red bulb or a heat lamp bulb - big difference in the amount of heat output. I would not use a heatlamp bulb in a coop that small but you can get just a plain colored bulb.
Thanks Dawg, I'm definitely going to try your suggestions.

I know you are in Georgia, so you might not know about my winterizing question. But I'm putting that question out there for anyone who does know-should I be really concerned about wrapping and covering the run? The hens do have a small, always open door so they do not get shut in tight against the weather.
well 2 pieces of 4x8 exterior plywood for the roof closet to the coop... See if you can find it free on craislist... Or about $30-40 from store... Then you can also find the plastic sheeting, get clear, 10ftx25ft-50ft at 4 mil thickness should run another 10-20. Furring strips too. Staple the plastic to the run, attach the furring strips over the plastic where you stapled it to the run frame... This will help keep the plastic attached... I used plastic poultry fence cuz I had it already... Lol.



I have a small run, unveils do go out in the snow as long as its shoveled down to the ground, and head for the garage. Lol
the whole thing is enclosed now... But you can see what I mean...
Last edited:
Potluck, I think it is a heat lamp bulb but I will verify that. I was concerned about heat in so small of a space, but since the coop has vents as well as the always open entry/exit I thought it would be okay?
I have never heard of a red light to help with pecking and blood. I do know that the red light is better for the baby chicks so they don't peck each other, but I think that's cuz the constant white light makes them more... Busy... I know what I wanted say... Just not getting it out... Sorry...
I can't really say if the red bulb works - just something I read somewhere. As far as winterizing the run some will say yes and some will say no but really that decision should be left to the owners.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom