The Ugly Side of Raising Chickens


10 Years
Apr 27, 2009
Wadmalaw Island, SC
I'm not sure this is the proper place to post this, please accept my apologies if it is in the wrong category...

This past week has introduced me to the nasty side of chicken behavior...I have witnessed chickens get nasty with their "pecking order" in the past, but this time it had dire consequenses. I think the biggest surprise to me is that it happened in a group of 6 1/2-7 1/2 week old chicks, born and raised together, for no apparent reason. Two of 10 chicks, both cockerals, ganged up on another cockeral, with near-fatal results. The entire story is on my blog,, if you'd like to read more. I would love to hear from members that have experienced this before...I would really like to know if this is a genetic trait, or if I could have done something to prevent this. I feel sad, I feel guilty, I feel angry, I feel relieved, all at the same time...I am hoping that I will never have to do this again...

Charleston, SC


Officially Quacked
12 Years
Oct 15, 2007
Elyria, OH
!! I didn't read your blog but I can well imagine. We'll never understand why, but birds are MEAN. We've had some poke huge deep holes into the backs of the others - and this was after they've been hatched and raised together for almost a year! Don't blame yourself; there's nothing you could have done. It's just the chicken way. The good news is that they do heal fast and an antibiotic powder from the vet works wonders (I can't remember what it's called - MIL got it for me).


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 25, 2009
i just posted a topic about the same thing a few minutes ago as well mine were 6 weeks old when they started to eat each other Ron


13 Years
Sep 14, 2007
NE Alabama
I read your blog. I have heard of this happening & I am simply not sure why it happens. Sometimes my chickens can be really mean to each other, but it has never reached the level of an attempt to kill (i.e. it has so far, not ever gotten out-of-hand). In fact, mine have never drawn blood on each other. They will just break out into a fight & younger birds being introduced have it the worst of all. It is difficult for them to go to roost. It surprises me too when one attacks its clutch-mate. If I am in the run and a fight breaks out between hens, I very gently push them apart and the fight ceases.

I also noticed that one of my roosters just suddenly turned on one of the hens (and he wasn't trying to mate with her; it was an attack on her) & she was a hen that I've had longer than him. I noticed she would keep an eye on him and try & stay clear. I could not figure any reason for this behavior.

By the same token, it is not all vicious. I have seen some really rather heroic, sacrificial chicken behavior as well. I had a top hen in the pecking order go after a large dog that had caught her clutch-mate & best friend hen. In other words, the head hen ran at the dog and attacked the dog flogging it in the face causing it to turn loose of her friend. The dog turned on the attacking hen and tore her up pretty good. I saw all this as I was running to get to the dog & hens. When the old hen was recovering from her wounds, there was no problem putting her friend that she had saved in with her. Even with her wounds & being down, her friend never picked on her; she treated her the same.

I have seen roosters run off hawks & attack large feral cats. An acquaintance had a rooster that killed a red-tailed hawk that had landed on a hen (my brother actually witnessed this incident). I have been told of roosters protecting hens by attacking dogs & coyotes. I've seen hens put themselves in harms way for their chicks.

It can be very hard keeping chickens. I wish I had answers for you. It does happen more frequently with certain breeds & some breeds, you cannot keep hens not raised together with each other. This leads me to think it is more a genetic thing and not anything you do (environmentally).


11 Years
Jun 15, 2008
What breed do you have? Some do seem more predisposed to such problems. My japanese bantams I can throw any roos together and I've yet to have an injury. My bantam EE all from the same flock I had 1 start to get rather violent with everyone and another that tended to stir up trouble while 2 are fine and 1 I kept. With my seramas I've been seeing some aggression for weeks and they are only a couple months old. No injuries yet but I don't plan to leave those roos together much longer. RIRs and a few other breeds are known for having aggressive roos.

The thing is evolution favors these roos. They are the ones that survive to have a flock and they are the ones most likely to protect their flock from predators at the cost of their own lives. Some people actually love to have the roos that attack everything in sight but their own hens because they will face even large dogs and thieving humans. Just because they attack another roo doesn't mean they will do harm to the hens. Although some roos are quite aggressive with the hens. The best use for those is rooster stew. Also quite often when chickens gang up on one single chicken it's because that chicken is sick, weak, or otherwise has something wrong with it. I would not want to use a victim for breeding any more than an overly aggressive roo when choosing who to keep and who to get rid of. You may weaken your flock doing that.


Staff PhD
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
13 Years
Jan 25, 2007
Everett WA/Corvallis OR
At that age, often they start picking on each other becuase of some external stimulus like an accidental injury which provokes them to dine on each other. At 4-6 months old, they fight and hurt each other for hormonal/personal reasons. The only thing that would have really helped is if they are given more than too much space in their quarters so that there is enough room to get away and hide from each other. It is one of the reasons that many say you need at least twice the minimum recommended space per bird of 4 sq feet inside and 10 sq feet outside each.


Serama Savvy
11 Years
Aug 25, 2008
Central Kentucky
Hello! Just read about this on my Serama Yahoo Groups!!

Welcome to BYC!! I know this is a little OT, but Ill get back to it..

I LOVE your site with all the pink, and your logo!! Did you design that yourself?? TOO CUTE!! I want to get one so bad!!

I was reading your blog and saw that you had a link to our Mr.Wonderful!! I thought that was the coolest thing in the world!! You can click on my name, search my posts and see more pics of him and my other Serama.

Anyway, back to the topic..I can tell you all the things that you have already heard....Suggest that you put a few more obstacles in there and hiding places, and maybe hang some veggie treats up with string to give them something to do...but if these two are hell-bent on killing the third....

If it were me, I would separate one of the aggressive roos when the injured one gets better. Maybe the two will get along, and in a week or two the pecking order would change and you could add the aggressive roo back and watch them.

It could be that the injured roo is just so submissive that all of his body language demands to be attacked.
My chickens are pretty mellow (for and there have been no big fights, but I have seen this in horses. One that is submissive, wont stand up to anyone, and then some bullies realize this and will chase and kick and bite him until he has been run to death....
We have moved them around like this to try to rearrange the sometimes works.

Best of luck! Look forward to seeing you more on BYC!!



12 Years
May 22, 2007
Greeneville, Tn
It could be a overcrowding issue also. Can not say for I do not know your set up but chicks need 1 sq when they are over 4 weeks. If not giving enough room they will turn on each other. Another can be a lack of animal protien. Chickens are omnivores and need some kind of meat protien in thier diets. They do much better if they have it instead of the all veggi diets.

Hope everything works out for you. I know it is hard when they start something like that and you catch it late.


10 Years
Apr 27, 2009
Wadmalaw Island, SC
I would like to thank everyone for all your words of wisdom regarding this "incident". I now have Rocky Road in a separate cage in the same run as the rest of his "littermates", (minus the two rogue roosters), because he misses their companionship. He very quickly adapted to an indoor-lifestyle, and was content to sit on our lap or shoulder for hours at a time, just hanging out, preening himself. He protested loudly when put back into his separate pen. I was hoping that his littermates would learn to accept him again, but I'm not sure that will happen...Yesterday was the first time he was near the other chicks, and he was not well received. I have to keep him separated till his scabs heal and feathers can grow back, but I'm afraid he will never fit in again. Out of 10 chicks, only 2 were female...I'm hoping I can put the females with him when the time comes, just for companionship. These chicks were purchased when they were 2 1/2 weeks first hatch is due Friday or Saturday, so I have no one else to keep him company.

Thanks again for all your advice and words of encouragement!

Charleston, SC

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