rampant cannibalism

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by hotchicky, Mar 7, 2017.

  1. hotchicky

    hotchicky New Egg

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    I have about 90 hens and they were good until about 2 weeks ago. It started with one and now I'm losing 1-2 a week if not more. and I have injured ones that will probably be next. They have supplements and food, they have the option to go outside and I give them a leaf of hay every day to keep them busy for a bit. I'm at my wits end, and worried my flock will dwindle to nothing. I don't know what to do!
     
  2. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What breed(s) do you have? How old are they? Do they have enough room in the coop and run to prevent crowding stress? Can you observe them long enough to identify the offender(s) so you can separate from the rest of the flock and cull them?
     
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Give them space. Overcrowding stress is serious. You need a minimum of 4 sq feet of coop space per bird and a minimum of 10 sq feet of run space per bird. If a bigger coop/run is not possible then reduce the flock size. Even after birds are given enough space, the aggressive behavior can continue to be a life long issue.
     
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    How old are they? How big of an area do you have them in (feet by feet)? How long have you had them? What kind are they? Do you have light and or heat on them? What kind of supplements are you giving them?
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I'm going ask about their diet. I would suspect a protein deficiency especially coming off of winter and a molt. Chickens are at our mercy as far as their diet. If they have a protein deficiency they will seek out sources which includes eating their eggs and each other in order to fix their problem. Once they discover blood is delicious it can be hard to stop them.
     
  6. hotchicky

    hotchicky New Egg

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    The coop is about 300 square feet plus about a 1000 square feet outside. I am feeding a laying mash with wheat plus the basic oyster shells and grit. They also get kitchen scraps and alfalfa hay pretty much on a daily basis. Many of the hens are fine but it seems some of them are just really big bullies. I've seperated the ones with bloody butts so hopefully those are the only ones they'll pick on, I'd hate to lose any more but if I do. I''ll try downsizing about 25
     
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Your coop does sound a bit tight, you might want to downsize some hens.

    I would pull the aggressors. I would than switch to something higher in protein than layer. 18-22% is a good amount. A good non medicated grower or starter or a All Flock is a good ration especially when extra stuff is fed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  8. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Much too crowded a coop, especially if weather is keeping them from going out all day, everyday. And definitely lay off the extras. Laying feed usually has just barely enough protein in it. If you give too many extras, and dilute the overall intake too much, it can result in feather picking.
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Your coop is over crowded by about 20 birds. The wheat and kitchen scraps are diluting your protein. While alfalfa has a fair amount of protein, it is lacking in essential amino acids.

    What she said.

    Agreed.

    Additional questions: What breed? Were they cannibalistic as chicks? What is the temperature day time and night where you are? You are not giving them supplemental heat, are you?

    Wishing you the best with this problem.

    Additional suggestions: If that run is bare ground, you might want to convert it to a deep litter run. You might consider using fermented feed as well for the many dietary advantages it provides.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'm sorry you're having these issues, but I think they're fixable. You've gotten great advice above, I'm pretty much going to say the same thing.

    How old are the birds? What breeds?

    I'd pull out about 2 dozen. Either the lowest/weakest, or the highest/strongest. Rig some type of temporary housing if you need to. A quick hoop coop with some tarps may be doable, depending on your location/climate.

    Hold off on they layer feed. As a rule, layer is the lowest protein feed one can buy--double check your label. It's usually around 16%, which is basically the minimum needed to support egg production in confined hens with no supplemental feed. A quick google tells me wheat can run from 10% on up....so feeding half wheat and half layer is basically bringing down the protein to 12ish %, too low for your birds. Buy some grower or non-medicated starter, you're looking for something closer to 20% protein. Use that as the only feed for a few weeks. No corn, scratch, wheat, etc. The alfalfa is usually a decent amount of protein, and the diversion is good, so I'd continue that.

    Relieving the stress from overcrowding and boosting the protein should help. You may still wind up with birds that now have this as an ingrained behavior, though. You'll need to decide if it's worth keeping those hens. Pinless peepers are an option if you decide to keep them. Culling the birds from your flock is also an option.

    Good luck!
     

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