A chicken scratch feed is a great option when it comes to offering your birds treats they will love. A correct diet is essential in order to raise healthy and happy chickens, but also to have a great egg production.
Still, appropriate food is not the only thing you need to provide to your birds. You should also offer a clean environment, enough room for each inhabitant, and there is a lot of research involved as well.
For example, you might notice that some of your chickens fight. Why? In this article, we want to discuss the reasons behind these fights, as well as the appropriate methods to stop this and prevent it from happening again.
The Pecking Order
The pecking order is a complex relationship structure within the flock – the hierarchy of status if you like. The chickens’ places in the flock are determined by a number of things such as age, personality, or ambition.
A bird that wants to get to the top will show confidence among her flockmates and ensure dominance over them first. When a chicken is first introduced in the coop, she will start at the bottom. However, she will challenge the more timid ones and rise through the ranks accordingly.
This behavior may seem like bullying from the outside, but it makes a lot of sense and it does not happen for a long period. It usually stops when the antagonists give way.
Therefore, you should not confuse rising within the ranks of the flock with actual bullying which is a sustained behavior that has no other purpose than to intimidate and harm another flockmate.
Usually, there are four common causes for bullying to erupt in the coop. These are stress, boredom, sickness, and overcrowding. Stress can lead to bullying behavior, but it can also cause chickens to stop laying eggs or lose their feathers.
These birds love routine so anything that suddenly changes this routine can lead to stress. The major stress factors are new members in the coop, change of feed, the death of a flock mate, or new accommodations.
Usually, chickens deal with stress by being quieter than usual and laying fewer or no eggs. This regularly lasts for a few days. However, sometimes the stress can trigger a hen to act out of character and start showing aggression towards other chickens.
Boredom is another factor that can turn birds into bullies. The cold season is the typical time for boredom aggression. Since they cannot or will not go out in the weather, there is little they can do, so feather picking seems to be a good idea.
When it is just a minor thing with occasional picking, there is no point worrying, but things can escalate into a frenzy of picking supported by a number of hens. The bullied one is usually terrified to go anywhere near the aggressive birds, so she may hide away for most of the day. She can also be too afraid to go into the coop at night as well.
Moreover, the bullies might also keep her from eating and drinking. Therefore, it is essential to have more than one feeding station available, so the victim can also eat in peace.
Interestingly enough, chickens intuitively know when one of their flockmates is sick. In the wild, a sick hen is usually driven from the flock because she becomes a liability. This behavior can occur with domestic hens as well. They will pluck at her in an attempt to drive her away from the flock.
Moving on, overcrowding is usually the number one cause of bullying. There are many chicken owners who make the mistake of thinking that an extra chicken or two won’t hurt. This may be so in good weather with free-ranging, but not in the winter.
It is important to remember that each chicken requires four square feet in the coop and eight square feet in the run. When there are tight quarters, mischief is bound to break out.
It is not so hard to understand. Just think about how it would feel to have to spend the entire winter in one room with your entire family. As much as you love one another, tempers may flare and nerves will get frayed.
Another reason why you might see trouble in your coop is cockerels. Two young cockerels from the same brood will live together in harmony until they reach sexual maturity. From this point on, they will start fighting.
This antagonist relationship is a serious thing, as their fight can be so severe that they will injure one another and even kill each other. Even if two adult cockerels have never fought each other, they can become aggressive if hens are introduced into a nearby enclosure. The only way to stop them from fighting is to separate them.
If you have more roosters and a lot of hens in an enclosure, the alpha rooster will have his own group of favorite hens. The leftover chickens are usually split between the remaining roosters, according to hierarchy.
Well, this sounds a bit more dramatic than it actually is. We are not talking about vampires or other blood-sucking creatures. Still, chickens are attracted to blood and red skin.
For example, a brood hen usually plucks her own breast feathers in order for the eggs to come in direct contact with her skin. Even if there is peace in the coop, the other chickens will be tempted to pluck at her red skin.
Also, when a hen is hurt by another, the other chickens will be attracted by blood and start attacking and hurting her even more.
How to Stop the Fighting
As we mentioned earlier, some of the fightings within a flock are normal and they should not be a cause of worrying. Still, things can sometimes escalate into very serious issues, so you will definitely have to intervene.
Since we discussed the main reasons that can cause chickens to start fighting, it would probably be a good idea to mention some of the methods you could use to stop this behavior.
For example, you can set up more eating and drinking stations. This will offer the bullied a chance to avoid the bully and to eat in peace. If there is only one station available, clearly they will have to meet and, most likely, new fights will occur.
Another very simple method is to separate the bully. Simply place the aggressive hen in another enclosure for a few days and when she returns, she will no longer have her feisty attitude. Moreover, she will meet a slightly aggressive flock that will perceive her as a new member.
Offer your chickens more space and even free range if that is possible. This will also offer the bullied a chance to escape when picked on. A trapped hen will sooner or later succumb if bullied in an enclosed coop and can even get killed.
If you have only hens in your coop, get a rooster. This can be very helpful because they tend to keep the hens in order. Still, this depends on how many chickens you have. More than a dozen is too much for one rooster to handle.
Using the same principle, you can also create two separate enclosures and get two roosters for each flock. It all depends on your possibilities and if the available space allows this.