Why are my 2 week old chicks FIGHTING??

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
I have 9 chicks approx 2 weeks old... two of them may be 3 weeks old. We bought them all together 1 week and a half ago, and have kept them together the whole time. Up until this morning, they all snuggle together, and don't like to be separated. We give them lots of attention to keep them tame as they grow. 7 of them are Americaunas, 2 of them (the older ones) are White Leghorns/or Tetra Tints. (The store didn't have these breeds separated, so the bin had a combination and they all looked the same: Small yellow chicks.)

I have placed my main problem and questions in Bold letters, the rest is just details and background story.

They've been kept in a large rubber maid tub with bedding, food, water and red lamp when they were tiny and didn't need much room, and couldn't hop out. :) We play with them regularly, sometimes taking them outside to play for a while, then returning indoors to warm up in their box again. They've been doing well, loving all our attention and playtime. This week, the older ones started hopping out to run around the house and some of the little ones have been able to follow their lead... so we decided it was time they graduated to the chick cage we had used a few years back. Yesterday, my husband cleaned it out real good, and we set it up nice for them. It has a high roost at the back, a low roost in the front by the doors, a swing in the middle, a shelf on one end holding the food and water dishes they are already familiar with, and lots of bedding material all over the floor. They are still kept inside the house where we can keep an eye on them and play with them, and they still have the red lamp, but it's up higher as they don't need so much warmth anymore, and they have plenty of room to play, and get away from the heat, or sit directly in the heat as they prefer. 3 sides are open air, the back is solid. They have so much more room in this cage than they've ever had before, and lots to keep them busy. They had no trouble finding the food and water dishes.

A couple of them have proven to LOVE the swing, others enjoy pecking at the swing to make it move and they like to chase it. Others busy themselves just exploring all this new space, and jumping from roost to roost learning to properly gauge the distance and practice landing where they aim. So much fun to watch!


We put them in there before bed last night, and as I watched them, I thought perhaps since it's not "HOME" they aren't comfortable yet with finding a spot to settle down and sleep. So I placed a small box in there where they can cuddle up inside with walls on all sides like they are used to in case that's what they desire to sleep. When I went to bed, they were still exploring the box, pecking at it to see what happens.

I got up this morning to find 3 of them FIGHTING.... like they were really out to kill each other! They would come away from each attack with a beak full of down-feathers, instantly turn with head held tall, and run to attack again! The attacked chick would squawk like it was dying, finally get away, and turn to do a return attack. Sometimes beak to beak both outstretched necks as tall as they could get. I felt like it was a cock-fight!

3 of them were involved, all 3 were Americaunas, which we were hoping would all be pullets as we aren't allowed roosters on our 1 acre of land in our subdivision.

I reached my hand in there, and the calm ones wanted my attention, but the fighters were so intent on fighting, that when my hand got in their way, they attacked my hand by accident, and it really hurt for their size! I couldn't believe how hard they were biting me! They went crazy trying to get around my hand, and when I picked one up, it still was trying to attack the other one, and the other one attacked my hand again!

Once I pulled the one out of the cage, it calmed down and enjoyed my attention. When all seemed calm and settled, I returned her to the cage, and she instantly went and found the other 2 to attack! This was the case with 2 of the the 3. (Sadie and Marly) Either of those 2 removed from the cage, the fighting stopped. But the 3rd one (Speckles) didn't seem to make a difference when removed. The other 2 fought anyway.

I kept working with them, and finally, I sprinkled food all over the floor of the cage just to distract them. They all went to pecking and scratching at the floor, with occasional outbursts of a fight. Eventually, one of the fighters, "Sadie" found a dark corner behind the box and went to sleep. Pretty soon, most of the others found their own spaces to sleep as well. They've been sleeping now for a while, and I've enjoyed the peace and quiet of no fighting. But I am concerned.... why were they fighting like that?

Here's my thoughts:
1. Perhaps they're roosters? With more space all of a sudden now, they already want to claim their own territory? (oh please don't be roosters.)


2. Perhaps they're just tired? Maybe being in a new home last night, they didn't have time to acclimate to their new options for sleeping, and kept playing/exploring all night until they got so tired they were short on nerves like a toddler going into a tantrum because she's so tired?

What else would cause my chicks to suddenly not get along after spending their whole short lives of 2 weeks together as sisters? I don't understand, and I don't know what to do about it if they wake up and start fighting again. I don't want them to kill each other! And I don't want to have to nurse back an injured chick if I can help it.


I would appreciate any advice from someone with experience in this matter! Thank you so much!

~KatieSue
 

SA Farm

Crowing
6 Years
Mar 11, 2013
3,684
596
416
Ontario, Canada
Hi KatieSue,
Sounds like with more space available to them now, they're establishing a pecking order. There is a good chance the 3 that are fighting are roosters and are trying to establish which one is on top of the chain of command, though the same could be said for dominant hens, so fingers crossed for you!
Unfortunately, larger hatcheries don't breed for personality, so very often even the younger birds can be quite aggressive.
Hope that helps
 

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
Thank you Kathryn! I guess this would mean i should let them fight it out?

This is them in their old home.

 

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
And this is their new home. (The lighted half of it. The swing is the center divider.)

 

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
Last one. ;-)
This is a view of the whole cage looking in one door. Lots of room to play! (Well, for a week or two until they outgrow it and have to move out to the barn!) LOL!

Seeing how much they love the swing, my husband will be installling a larger one for them in the adult pen. :)

 

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
UPDATE:

They did awaken, of course, and a few more fights have broke out. The last fight I actually saw begin. Marly attacked little Twinkie who was in her way. Sadie seemed to react to that, and attacked Marly as Twinkie made her get-away. Marly pecked back at Sadie only once this time, and then retreated. Sadie watched her retreat for a moment with neck outstretched, but didn't chase her. Then she relaxed and they all went back to scratching around and playing like normal.

So, perhaps it is a "pecking order" thing, and Sadie is the dominating chick. (hopefully, dominating HEN) :) Marly is learning to submit to Sadie, and maybe that'll be the end of it. I hope....

Thanks again, Kathryn for the hope and encouragement! Guess we'll see how many "eggs vs crows" we get come August!


~KatieSue
 

SA Farm

Crowing
6 Years
Mar 11, 2013
3,684
596
416
Ontario, Canada
Yep, sounds like they're sorting it out. It's normal for a few kicks/raised hackles when they're sorting things out, I guess your chicks have a bit more personality

Good luck, you'll have to post some pictures when they're older for gender determination. usually around 7-10 weeks they can be determined with decent accuracy.
 

katiesue

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 24, 2012
38
0
22
Thank you, I will be sure to do that! I marked my calendar for June 9 to post photos. :) They should be around 8 or 9 weeks by then.

Right now it seems that since Sadie has established herself at the top of the pecking order, she chose to sleep on the roost ABOVE everybody else who is all sleeping on the floor! She honestly appears to be "keeping watch over the flock by night"! LOL!

 

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