If you are new to keeping chickens, you may be alarmed when you hear them fighting for the first time.
Most of the time, there isn’t much cause for concern when it comes to chickens fighting, but there are some instances when you should take action.
These are often when fights last longer than normal or are becoming a frequent occurrence in your coop.
These are 11 causes of chicken fights and how to stop them.
One of the most common reasons for disputes among your chickens is overcrowding.
Just like us, chickens value their space and get a bit temperamental when space is at a premium.
It is incredibly important for us as chicken owners to ensure we have enough space for each of your hens.
Overcrowding results in frustrated chickens fighting over limited space in the coop.
This allows them enough space per bird to move around and peck about without constantly being in each other’s spaces.
If you feel like your coop or run is too small, consider adding some extra square footage and see if relations improve among your flock.
In the meantime, allow your chickens to free-range if possible to get their excess energy out while you make the renovations to the coop.
This also helps to reduce the overall stress of the flock and helps them improve their temperament in the coop and run.
Adequate space limits the possibility of having aggressive birds in your flock.
Fights Over Food And Water
Another common reason for fights among chickens in the coop is over resources like food and water.
If you have a large flock, food and water may be limited.
Make sure you are providing enough food and clean water for your flock.
It is also helpful to add additional feeding stations, so your chickens have more options.
Like animals in the wild, chickens will fight over their vital resources.
As a chicken keeper, it is your job to reduce stress and ensure they have consistent access to their food and water.
Lack of these resources increases stress in the flock and will likely increase the number of fights in the coop.
Another problem with this type of fighting is improper nutrition for the losers of the fight.
If those lower in the pecking order keep losing in fights, they won’t have access to the food and water they need to be healthy and strong.
For many reasons, you need to observe the eating habits of your flock and make sure you have enough feeding stations and food at each station for your entire flock to eat and drink water.
If resources are really scarce, some chickens may even break glass or fences to escape and get more food.
Establishing a pecking order is natural for all flocks.
It is also important for the overall survival and health of the flock.
Fights from establishing a pecking order are instinctual and to be expected.
Once the pecking order is established, the fights will be few and far between.
They likely will only occur when hens at the top of the pecking order begin to age and lose their strength.
Younger hens will attempt to take their spot and rise in order during these times.
In general, we do not recommend interfering with the pecking order fights.
Chickens establish this hierarchy naturally, and it helps them know their place in the flock.
This helps them feel safe and reduces overall stress because each chicken knows exactly where they stand.
Breaking up the pecking order fights may increase stress in the overall flock.
Unless fights evolve into particularly brutal or bloody affairs, let them run their course.
For the most part, a chicken will challenge another chicken, and the quarrel will be over in less than a minute, and each will know their place in the hierarchy.
Lack Of Stimulation
Feeling bored and unstimulated will have even the happiest of us feeling down in the dumps.
It is no different for chickens in a flock.
Chickens need to be entertained and engaged just like we need stimulation to feel happy and fulfilled.
You may not think of chickens as playful or in need of stimulation, but they are not content to just sit around laying eggs all day.
There are many ways to provide stimulation and entertainment for chickens.
The best way is through food.
Chickens love to peck and scratch for food. Providing some vegetables and fruits like squash, melon, corn on the cob, and berries gives them the opportunity to peck and scratch while getting a tasty snack.
Providing diverse snacks will give you some very happy chickens.
Consider installing a few suet cages like this in your chicken run and coop.
Placing cabbage or a head of broccoli will provide hours of entertainment for your flock.
Increasing their satisfaction through stimulation will decrease the likelihood of fighting because they are bored.
Introduction Of New Hens
Another common cause of chicken fights in the coop is the addition of new hens into the flock.
When you bring new chickens into the coop, they will need to be initiated into the pecking order.
For this to happen, there will be some squabbles and fights.
Just like with the pecking order, you don’t want to break up these fights as they are very important for the social aspects of the chicken flock.
There are a few tips to keep in mind when introducing hens to the flock. It’s important to set your birds up for success to get along and establish good social boundaries.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you bring home a new chicken to add to your flock.
Keeping these things in mind will help integrate your newest birds:
- Introducing more than one hen at a time helps with the integration process. Introducing one hen at a time is daunting for the new solo hen, so it helps to do it in pairs.
- Bring your flock to a new and neutral location to help limit territorial behavior.
- Adding new birds at night helps to ease the introduction process.
- Make sure the new birds are roughly the same age and size as the rest of your flock. Differences in age and size are common causes for disputes and fights among the chickens.
There Is A Predator
Chickens have very strong instincts and primal behavior.
They respond to different situations with ingrained behavior.
When the flock senses the presence of a predator, they will often fight to establish who is the weakest link.
Predators are a reason for concern.
If your flock is acting like a predator around, make sure to make your presence known outside.
Predators are significantly less likely to attack when a human is around.
Your chickens should also associate you with safety.
Coming outside will likely be enough to calm your flock down.
Once the flock establishes the weakest hen, they will use this bird as the shield for the rest of the flock.
If you ever witness this behavior, you must take the time to make your flock feel safe.
Reinforce the coop and install added protection against predators.
Some ways to further protect the coop from predators are to install a motion sensor light, tall chicken wire, and collect eggs regularly.
Motion lights will scare off some predators.
Regular egg collection will keep large amounts of eggs from accumulating in the coop.
Predators will be drawn to the allure of eggs, so it’s best to keep the temptation to a minimum.
Broody hens are very temperamental and moody.
Broody hens are laying hens who begin to incubate an egg even though it is not fertilized.
They often become frustrated as the egg does not hatch.
The broody behavior leads to aggression and an overall bad mood in the hen.
Broody hens will not leave the coop very often.
Most of the folk steer clear of the temperamental hen when they do.
She will huff and puff about aggressively.
If other hens get in the way of the broody hen, she will likely start a fight with them.
For the most part, most of the other hens pick up the broody hen and stay away from her when she is out of the coop.
It is important to break broody behavior in hens.
There are a few tips and tricks for breaking broody behavior.
Some ways to break the broody behavior include taking the egg away from the hen.
You will likely get pecked and scratched at if the broody hen is still in the nesting box.
It’s best to remove the egg when she is out of the coop.
Alternatively, use gloves and protective gear to keep the chicken from injuring you as you remove the egg.
Once the egg is gone, most hens quickly bounce back to a more pleasant demeanor.
Hens With New Chicks
Most animals are very protective of their young, and chickens are no different.
Hens with new chicks are more likely to be put in a position to defend themselves and their chicks.
Introducing chicks into the flock is sometimes a difficult ordeal.
The chicks are not excluded from the pecking order.
For young chicks, it is often a dangerous situation.
Older and more mature hens will still fight chicks to establish the pecking order and hierarchy.
In some of these fights, chicks are severely injured or even killed by the more mature hens.
In these instances, the mother hens will attempt to defend their chicks.
If you have newborn chicks and fights are happening, consider separating the mother hen and her chicks until the chicks are old enough to be integrated into the main flock.
Maturing Young Pullets
Pullets are young hens.
They will fight to earn their spot in the pecking order when they reach maturity.
Often, they underestimate their opponents and are quickly put in their place.
Having hens of diverse ages often leads to more intense fights to establish the hierarchy in the flock.
When young pullets reach the age of maturity, chicken keepers will start to notice a few more squabbles and fights among the flock.
If you start to notice these fights happening, you may need to separate the maturing young pullets from the mature chickens in the flock until they are roughly the same size as the rest of your flock.
Older and more mature hens are capable of injuring and even killing younger chickens.
You don’t want to interrupt the establishment of the pecking order, but you also don’t want your chickens to be injured or killed.
Feeling Cooped Up
Even chickens feel cooped up; no pun intended.
Spending too much time in the limited space of the coop and chicken run often leads to bad temperaments and disputes among the flock.
If possible, allow your chickens to free-range on your property.
Consider establishing a larger run to allow your flock to wander about if this is not possible.
Chickens may seem like simpler creatures, but they still experience similar feelings to us.
Too much of the same thing leaves us feeling cooped up, and chickens experience the same thing.
Establishing an area for your chickens to get out of the coop or run and see some new areas will help improve the overall mood and morale of the flock.
If you feel like your chickens are cooped up, give them space to roam.
Even if this is not the cause of their fighting, it will reduce overall stress, which is important for keeping your flock happy and healthy.
In some instances, your chickens may be starting fights because they are sick or injured.
Some chicken keepers find their most aggressive chickens to suffer from parasites.
If you notice an increase in aggression and fights in particular chickens, make sure they are not suffering from a parasitic infection.
It’s important to regularly treat your flock for parasites and worms.
If your chickens are not feeling well, they may be more defensive or irritable and start to cause fights.
Although this is rarer as far as causes of chicken fights go, it is still an important thing to consider when your flock is getting into frequent fights.
When To Stop A Chicken Fight?
Like all chicken keepers, we just want our flock to get along.
It is disheartening and concerning when our chickens start to fight more frequently than usual.
In many cases, chicken fights are healthy for the social aspects of your flock.
They are very important for establishing pecking order and hierarchy within the flock.
We don’t like to see our birds fighting, but often it’s just a quick skirmish to establish who is in charge.
In some cases, you’ll need to break up chicken fights and take some action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
It will be obvious when this happens, but here are some tell-tale signs indicating it’s time to step in and break them apart:
- Bloody combs
- Large amounts of feathers missing
- Fights last over a minute at a time
- Specific chickens starting most of the fights
If you notice any of these things, take some time to observe the behavior of the chickens in your flock.
Spending some time watching your birds will help you determine the cause of the fights.
Once you know the cause, you’ll be able to take some action to stop the chickens from fighting.
How Do I Stop My Chickens From Fighting?
Seeing your chickens fight is an unpleasant thing to witness.
Once you see them fighting, you’ll likely want to do whatever it takes to keep it from happening again.
Fortunately, there are a lot of methods to keep your chickens from fighting.
The first step is determining why they are fighting.
Pay attention to chicken sounds too! (Click the link to check out our complete list of sounds and what they mean.)
Stopping Fights From Overcrowding
The best way to stop chickens from fighting over space is by extending the space in your coop and the run.
It is good to add more nesting boxes into the coop for laying hens.
Laying hens will often fight over nesting boxes if there is a limited number.
If you find them fighting over nesting boxes, add a couple and see if the fighting stops.
Stopping Fights Over Food
If your chickens tend to fight over food and water, you’ll need to fix the issue.
Add more feeders and water sources to make more space at each feeder.
This is especially important for those of us with larger flocks.
Stopping Fights In Pecking Order
In general, you do not want to stop fights when the flock establishes the pecking order.
The only time you want to step in is very young pullets and chicks in the mix.
In most situations, you’ll want to keep young pullets and chicks away from the more mature hens.
Older hens have no problem fighting younger birds to establish their dominance, but this usually is not good for the younger birds.
When Should I Intervene In Chicken Fights?
Most chickens will fight for about 30 seconds or so.
This is normal behavior to establish their social order.
As long as space and resources are available for the entirety of the flock, fights shouldn’t be happening very frequently.
The short squabble every once in a while is acceptable and does not require intervention.
In cases where chickens are seriously injured, you’ll want to assess the situation and see what may cause the fights.
Another rule of thumb is to intervene when fights between chickens last longer than a minute.
In these cases, serious injuries may occur.
Stepping in and separating the birds is the best way to ensure neither bird sustains significant injuries.
With broody hens, you’ll also want to intervene.
Other situations include sick birds with aggressive temperaments.
Also, make sure each bird has adequate space and access to food and water.
Is Chicken Fighting Normal?
Chicken fights are normal.
They are important for establishing relationships in the flock.
The occasional, short-lived fight is normal.
For the most part, hens will fight less frequently than roosters.
Roosters tend to fight more often and more violently.
The only way to end a rooster fight is to separate them.
With laying hens, the fighting usually establishes the pecking order.
You do not want to disrupt these fights.
While they may be hard to watch, they are very important in keeping the overall, long-term peace in the flock.
In most cases, the lead or head chicken of the flock will likely step in and determine the pecking order.
This is one reason why the hierarchy is so important.
It helps to establish the head hen who will take on the responsibility of keeping the peace in the flock.
How Do Chickens Fight?
Chicken fights are usually very quick.
If you’ve never seen chickens fight, you may wonder how they do it.
Most of the fighting tactics include feather pulling and pecking at the combs.
Chickens will go after each other’s combs and feathers.
Usually, this does not do too much damage, but injuries may happen if there is a significant difference in size and age.
Keep an eye out for bloody combs and excessive feather loss.
The comb is the red, rubbery piece of flesh on top of the chicken’s head.
The chickens will go after this in most fights until the less dominant one submits.
How To Tell The Difference Between Fighting And Playing
If you are new to keeping chickens, you may not be able to tell the difference between playing and fighting.
It is important to understand the difference between these behaviors.
In general, you will notice when a fight begins, the chickens will fluff out the feathers on their necks.
They will also spread their wings and point them towards the ground.
Most chickens don’t play in the way we think of it.
If you see two chickens engaging physically together with ruffed-up feathers, they are fighting.
Younger pullets tend to play more than mature hens.
The younger pullets will play-fight before reaching maturity.
Once they reach maturity, they will likely start to enter into fights to find their place in the pecking order hierarchy.