Will chickens kill each other?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by emjay, Oct 13, 2009.

  1. emjay

    emjay Songster

    Sep 6, 2009
    How common/rare is it for chickens to kill each other? WHilst establishing pecking order, etc. Is it something to be concerned with, or is it fairly rare with them.
    Establishing the pecking order is a necessity , but, when is it too aggressive when one should be concerned>? Besides the obvious sight of blood.
  2. mypicklebird

    mypicklebird Songster

    Aug 8, 2008
    Sonoma Co, CA
    yes, chickens will kill each other. usually happens when new chickens are introduced to an established flock. or chickens of different ages are put together. some roosters will fight to the death, as will some hens. chickens also gang up on each other. then there is cannibalism, which is not aggression based, but a bad habit induced by boredom & hunger- and can end up with chickens killing each other.
  3. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Songster

    Nov 8, 2008
    Portage County, Ohio
    It can happen, not sure I'd say it's common though. Chickens ARE omnivores though, so yeah, they'll kill things including each other if one looks weak or wounded.

    If new kids are too young, they can be easily killed. If a 'boss hen' is too agressive, it can happen even if the new hens are older... IF the new hens are too young, get them back out, if the new hens are roughly the same size, just younger, and you have a very dominant hen, pull HER out and put her in an isolation pen ... that brings her down a peg, and lets the others all work things out in a less stressful environment.

    If there's already very much blood involved, pull out the wounded birds whoever they are, and let them heal up. Blood on any of them seems to really get things going.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It depends on your setup. In factory-farm conditions, my impression is that it is not terribly uncommon (that is why they debeak, for instance, to reduce how badly they can hurt each other). Free-range chickens in a large area like on a farm, I believe it is pretty rare. And anything in between for in-between arrangements.

    One thing that not-infrequently happens is that a laying hen develops a partial prolapse, and it is a giant "kick me" sign (well, "peck me") to the other hens. It's like they can't help themselves, and they can easily kill the victim.

  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    It is hard to say how common it is. There are so many variables. And it is not always due to fighting. Portagegirl gave some good examples. I have a rooster in quarantine right now because the hens picked a raw spot on his neck. If I had left him with them, he would probably be dead by now. They are molting. I'm guessing one picked a new feather coming in, it bled a bit, and they all started pecking at the blood.

    I'm guessing your question comes from you trying to integrate some chickens and they are fighting pretty bad. I'd suggest letting them go as long as there is no blood, but make sure they are all eating and drinking. Sometimes the boss chickens will not let the weaker ones eat or drink. They get territorial about the food and water. If you provide separate eating and drinking places, you might cut down on the fighting a bit and make it easier for them to eat and drink.

    Ultimately you are watching and it is your decision. Good luck!
  6. emjay

    emjay Songster

    Sep 6, 2009
    the fighting isn't bad, it's posturing mostly and some pecks. but they aren't targeting each other, not going out of their way to get at one. They are all relatively the same age, not necessarily the same size, I do have two POL's and the rest are pullets, with two weeks difference in age throughout.
    I have lots of roosts and a platform, to get away if need be and they have access to get inside the coop at all times.
  7. juliawitt

    juliawitt Songster

    Aug 9, 2009
    We have one hen who is the boss.....the other day, in the rain, she wasn't letting the little gals in the house. My husband was home, so he grabbed her and gave her time out in the segregation area. She was really mad but stayed there all day. She had an attitude adjustment when she got out with a lot less aggression ever since.
  8. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    I've only ever had it happen with older chicks picking on a younger chick. I used to hatch at different times, so that the chicks could be as much as 3-4 weeks older than the newest ones. After the first time, I sectioned off my brooder. Made it like 3 stages. Stage one, higher temp, for up to a week old chicks. Stage two, lower temp, up to 4 weeks old. Stage 3, they stayed there until the weather outside permitted them to move to the chick tractor (to keep the free range adults from getting after them)

    When I wanted to introduce chicks to the coop, I had various "floors" to my coop. The top floor was where all the higher ranking fowl slept and where the hens nested. Below that, subordinate birds. Below that, newbies. Each with their own door. New chicks went into the bottom one, and stayed there for a week. Then they were allowed to free range, and fight their way into a higher level when they were feeling confident. One rooster, found his way to the top in his first year without beating up anyone too bad. Another rooster decided he was going to the top fast, and I culled him, for being way too aggressive. He showed the potential to do some serious damage and he wasn't that nice to the girls.

    You can do things to help transitioning birds, and to keep them seperated at various ages, and having enough space to start with is also a help. It's worse when they're crowded.

    And never, ever just throw new birds into the flock to fend for themselves, regardless of age or gender. It's also good to brood full size chicks seperate from bantams, unless the Bantams are older then they deal pretty well.
  9. Chickenmaven

    Chickenmaven Songster

    Feb 6, 2009
    My flock ate two newly hatched chicks. Just pulled thm apart & gobbled them up. The mother hen was not aggressive in protecting them & the deed happened so fast that my DD was unable to stop it. I built a brooder room in my coop after that.
  10. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    Depends on the chickens. Some are more agressive than others. Mine I can usually toss whoever in the coop, take someone out for a few weeks, toss them back in, and things go on as usual. I have very laid back breeds. Despite that mine did eat another chicken while I was in the hospital and someone else was taking care of them. A chicken that was already weak must have gotten bullied too much or too cold and the person watching them mentioned it was rather inactive but there wasn't much that could be done given the current situation I was in and the only people I had to go take care of my animals. It died and when I got back the body was still there... sort of... only the skeleton and wings remained. Chickens will definitely kill and eat each other if given a reason. Generally this doesn't happen unless something is majorly wrong with the other bird or your setup for your flock. If you don't know if your chickens are easy going enough to allow a bird just added to their coop it's best to keep them in a pen in the coop for awhile so they can all see each other. Then let them out just before dark.

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