If you have more than
one chicken (and you should since chickens are social animals), you
will eventually have to deal with chicken pecking. The end result
is bloody, clearly bad for your chickens' health, and also breaks your
heart as a chicken keeper. Many chicken keepers assume that
pecking is a fact of life, but we've found that pecking can be
completely avoided with a few simple steps.
First, it's important to know what causes chicken pecking behavior:
- In my experience, the most
common cause of pecking is overcrowding. Your chickens
should each have 4 square feet of space if they live in a chicken
tractor, but this number is much larger in a coop setting (6 to 10
square feet per bird.) Give your birds as much space as possible!
- Chickens naturally peck at each
other to establish a pecking order. If one peck is too
hard and blood becomes visible, though, pecking can spiral out of
control very quickly. Chickens are attracted to the color red and
will keep pecking at a spot once it becomes bloody. If a bird
becomes bloody, separate her from the flock until she heals up.
- In some cases, chicken pecking
can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, specifically salt and
methionine. If you have a pecking problem that you can't
solve in another way, try giving your birds some dietary supplements.
- High heat and light have also
been shown to increase chicken pecking.
These are the reasons mainstream authorities
give for pecking, but I'd like to add another --- boredom. Imagine you're a
chicken hanging out in a coop with fifty other birds, you barely room
to turn around, and you have nothing to do once you spend fifteen
minutes eating up your food in the morning. Chickens are meant to
spend their days foraging for food and scratching in the dirt. Of
course you'll end up picking on your neighbors, just to give you a way
to pass your time!
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If you can't build a
large run or a chicken tractor for your bird, you might try adding in
an Avian Aqua Miser. We spend a lot of
time watching our chickens, and have noticed that they seem to enjoy
pecking at the chicken nipples, taking lots of short sips from the
waterer. Since we installed our homemade chicken waterers in our
tractors, we haven't had a single instance of pecking and our birds
seem much happier.