Keeping chickens is more often than not a pleasant and rewarding experience.
They supply eggs, take care of table scraps, and provide you with their often quirky and hilarious antics.
However, there is a darker side to keeping chickens many owners don’t love talking about.
One of these things is the very serious issue of chickens killing each other.
Chickens will kill each other. Sometimes a flock gang up on one chicken and rip its feathers out or starve it by keeping it away from food. Often this results from lack of space, stress, and too many roosters. There are some things to prevent this, but sometimes it seemingly happens randomly.
Keeping your chickens safe is an obvious priority for chicken owners.
Sometimes this means protecting the flock from itself.
Let’s look into whether or not chickens kill each other and if there is anything to do to prevent it.
Do Chickens Kill Each Other?
One unfortunate reality of owning chickens is how they get aggressive occasionally.
This sometimes means finding dead birds in the chicken coop.
You may have found an injured bird who fell victim to feather picking from aggressive chickens and flock mates.
Unfortunately, any backyard chicken is susceptible to being the victim of flock violence.
There are some ways to prevent this, but sometimes this aggression seems to come out of nowhere, and your flock will isolate one backyard chicken and either pluck its feathers out or keep it away from the chicken feed until it starves.
There are a few common reasons why chickens kill each other.
The most common reason is having an extra rooster or two around, which leads to more aggression in the coop.
Tight quarters also encourage chickens to fight for space.
In this case, adding a few square feet to the coop or chicken run will help alleviate the need for fighting.
For the most part, keeping chickens is a wonderful experience, and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in increasing their self-sufficiency and taking charge of their food supply.
However, social hierarchy among chickens often leads to chicken bullying.
It is not uncommon to see raw spots from blood feathers on a singled-out weak chicken.
It is all a part of chicken keeping.
Luckily, there are ways to make chicken keeping less stressful and keep chicken bullying to a minimum.
Why Do Chickens Kill Each Other?
It may surprise new flock owners how susceptible their birds are to chicken bullying.
It is not fun to deal with, but it is an important issue to address.
Chickens kill each other for a variety of reasons.
One of the best ways to keep tabs on bullying in chickens is to spend time with the flock.
This way, you’ll be able to single out why the chickens may be starting to fight, so you don’t find a chicken dead in the coop.
Here are some common reasons chickens fight among themselves and kill each other.
Lack Of Space
One basic chicken lesson for all beginner flock owners is the need for ample space.
If your chickens do not have enough room to roam, sleep, eat, roost, and lay eggs, they will start to fight.
This means your boss chickens will start to take charge and single out a weak chicken to remove them from the mix and increase the amount of space they have.
Make sure the chicken board for roosting supplies enough space, and you have the recommended 3-4′ square feet of space per chicken in the coop.
Too Many Roosters
Having too few or too many hens per rooster is a common problem among chicken keepers.
This leads to aggressive hens and angry roosters.
An aggressive rooster is a serious issue as they will harm the flock, other animals on the property, and even people if they get in their way.
It is not uncommon to get a rough rooster prone to fighting and to get too aggressive with the hens.
Removing the rooster often helps reduce overall stress and tension in the flock.
A variety of factors causes flock stress.
Limited food, lack of access to water, predators, and poor shelter are reasons chickens get stressed out.
Stressed-out chickens are much more prone to not only aggression but also illness.
Make sure your chickens are well provided for and protected from elements and predators to keep them feeling safe and calm.
Introduction Of New Chickens
Introducing new chickens to a flock is a tricky task.
Due to the social hierarchy among the flock, it is sometimes difficult to introduce a new member.
If the flock rejects the member, they may seriously injure or kill the bird.
It is very important to introduce the new chicken slowly and research the best ways to ensure the successful acceptance of your newest chicken.
Pecking order is something you’ve undoubtedly noticed if you’ve sat and watched your flock interact.
There are usually some dominant hens who lay claim as boss chickens.
They get first dibs on nest boxes, food, water, and roost space.
These chickens are significantly more likely to bully other chickens into keeping their status as the top hen.
How To Prevent Chickens From Killing Each Other
Part of chicken husbandry is identifying issues and preventing them from happening.
This is especially true for chicken maladies and dangers to their health.
Chickens who fight, injure, and kill each other make for a stressful time for us chicken folks.
The first step to stopping the fights and bullying is identifying what is causing the issue.
Since our chicken friends don’t speak, it helps remove common causes of fighting until you find what is setting them off.
Here are some great ways to prevent chickens from killing each other.
Separate Baby Chicks and Wounded Birds
If you have some birds you know to be aggressive, it is best to remove them from the mix.
If you are nervous about particularly vulnerable flock members like baby chicks and wounded birds, it helps separate them from the rest of the flock.
Wounded birds are significantly more likely to be taken out, so it is best to separate them to keep them safe from harm until they are fully healed.
Baby chicks are also significantly more likely to be picked on.
Raising the chicks separately until they gain more strength and grow is a great way to keep them safe from larger flock mates.
Introduce New Birds Slowly
Introducing new birds takes some tact.
They will be hesitant about a new member if you have a tight-knit flock of hens.
Many flock owners have luck introducing new birds in pairs, and introducing a solitary bird is very daunting for the newest addition.
It also tends to help introduce new birds at night in an open location rather than throwing them straight in the coop.
Ensure the birds you introduce are roughly the same size and age as the rest of the flock.
All these tactics help to increase the chance of successful introductions.
Roosters cause a lot of problems for a lot of chicken keepers.
If you are predominantly interested in egg production, we recommend completely taking roosters out of the mix.
If you plan on breeding, you will need a rooster.
Finding the proper rooster-to-chicken ratio is tricky and requires trial and error.
It takes some time but is worth it if you plan on breeding.
Removing roosters often reduces flock stress if the ratio is off.
Provide Ample Space
Chickens need space to eat, sleep, lay eggs, and roam.
Too little space creates tension in the flock.
Birds will fight for their place in the chicken hierarchy to ensure they get food, water, and space.
On average, chickens need about 3-4′ square feet each in the coop and around 10′ square feet in the run.
If you notice tension and aggression among flock mates, consider building out your coop or chicken run or reducing the number of chickens you keep at a time.
Learn more details in our article on how much space a coop needs.
Allow The Flock To Free Range
One sure-fire way to reduce stress is allowing your backyard chickens to free-range.
Foraging and pecking about are great ways to reduce overall stress while simultaneously providing exercise and mental stimulation.
There’s a reason for the term “cooped-up,” and chickens know the feeling too well.
Fence a portion of your yard with chicken wire to keep the flock contained and allow them to forage and free-range throughout the day.
This will often help eliminate flock stress and keep all your birds happy.
Make sure to put the flock away at night to keep them safe from predators, but roaming during the day is great for your birds.
Check out more information on how to keep free-range chickens from running away.
Get Rid Of Overly Aggressive Flock Members
As heart-breaking as it may be, removing the most aggressive members is the best way to prevent flock fights.
If you have a particularly mean chicken, the easiest way to keep the rest of your flock safe is to get rid of them.
It is hard to get rid of a bird, but if they are causing harm and death to the rest of your chickens, action must be taken.
Read next: Will ducks kill chickens?
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