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How to Prevent Baby Chicks From Pecking Each Other
There’s no sugarcoating it: chickens can be downright violent. If you’re new to raising chickens, you’ll notice how young they are when they begin competing for dominance.
Some of these little pecks are no big deal. But baby chicks are fragile. If you don’t intervene, chicks can easily kill each other. Why do they do this? And more importantly, how can you stop squabbles between baby chicks?
In this article, we’ll talk about why chickens are so keen on hurting each other. And further, how to keep your chickens from pecking each other to death.
Why Do Chickens Peck Each Other?
Like most animal behaviors, the answer to this question is a little complicated. There are a lot of answers, and it’s usually some combination of them.
The first thing anyone raising chickens needs to know is that they’re highly social animals. They live in small flocks naturally. And like most animals that live in small groups, there are small social structures at play.
Chickens will begin struggling for dominance almost immediately after being born. These relationships will last into adulthood.
If these social structures are managed carefully, chickens usually get along nicely. But if the group’s dynamic is out of balance, it will result in near-constant bullying.
More pertinent to baby chickens is the issue of competition. A baby chick’s first instinct is to take as much valuable nutrition as possible for itself. From a biological perspective, it benefits each chick if all of its siblings die.
This causes a strange behavior in baby chicks. If one of their siblings seems sick, or weak, or has blood on it, they will peck at it mercilessly.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be like this for chicks in captivity. We’ll talk more in a minute about how to curb baby chicks’ competitive instincts.
When a group of chicks hatch, they will be more or less 50/50 male and female. But as adults, a single male will often “control” as many as ten or so females.
If a flock of chickens has too many males, those males will usually fight each other. But they may also pick out a few females to take their frustration out on.
Strategies for Stopping Pecking
That’s a lot of nastiness. It’s also a good reminder that domestic chickens still have a lot of wild animal in them. On to the more important topic, how can we stop our chicken friends from fighting? Here are a few key tips.
For baby chicks, it’s important that they have an abundance of everything they need. Lots of clean water, lots of clean food, and clean surroundings. Competition starts when the chicks feel like there isn’t enough to go around.
Therefore, if you make sure there always is enough to go around, they won’t go out of their way to hurt each other. Keeping a clean environment for your chicks is part of this. Clean food, clean water, clean brooder.
You also want to make sure their brooder is just the right temperature. Not too warm, not too cold. Remember, once there is a scarcity of any resource, they will start to fight over it.
Another bright idea you can implement is to use a red light bulb in the brooder. If a chick gets blood on it for any reason, its siblings will peck and peck until it dies.
The best way to avoid this is to make it so they can’t see blood. Red light hides any blood on their feathers or skin.
Keeping a generally stress-free environment will also reduce squabbling as your chicks grow up. It’s safe to say chickens don’t have very good emotional intelligence. When they get stressed, their brains tell them to start fighting for more resources.
So as they grow, make sure they have enough space. Keeping them outside in a safe coop will help with this. The happier they are, the less reason they’ll have to fight.
Keeping them healthy is another key part of this. Be sure to watch for signs of illness in your chickens. To simple animals like chickens, healthy equals happy.
Creating a Good Group Dynamic
Lastly, it’s important to watch your chickens as they grow. As soon as you’re able, find out if your chicks are male and female.
As they start to form a flock for life, it will be important to build a strong dynamic. Remember, the general rule is 10 hens to every rooster. If you have too many males, you may have to give some away in order to keep the group happy and healthy.