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!
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.