Why Do Baby Chickens Fight?
Nutrition is among the leading aspects that determine your susceptibility to certain diseases. As such, people are pretty careful to get the best foods. This has seen people recently take to growing their food to guarantee the highest levels of health. Most have also turned to rearing chicken for meat and eggs. Also, a few keep chickens as pets.
Chickens are among the most studied animals, with most researchers focused on their behavior. Chicks will exhibit no competitive behaviors until they turn three days old. At around sixteen days old, you will notice the chicks start fighting. Though the fights are not so serious in most cases, it can be distressing when you do not know why your chicks are fighting.
To keep you at ease when your chicks start fighting, here is some information on the cause of this behavior and how best to intervene.
Reasons Baby Chickens Fight
If you notice that your chicks are fighting, below are some reasons why they might be doing so.
1. Establishing a Pecking Order
In simple terms, a pecking order refers to the social rank of each chicken within your flock, including the roosters and hens. The more aggressive larger chickens will want to prove to the flock that they are the strongest and thus deserve a spot at the top of a pecking order.
Chicks will often start fighting to determine their pecking order when they are sixteen days old. In flocks comprised of only female chicks, the order is usually established when the chicks turn eight weeks old. In male chicks, the order establishment will take longer than this.
When fighting for a pecking order, you will notice your chicks start showing themselves off by crowing at other chicks, puffing their feathers, and strutting. If they do this and the chicken they are trying to oppose does not back down, this is when fights will start to determine the better of the two.
Remember that the hierarchy system your chicks establish is natural and has served different birds since time immemorial. Though it might seem violent to you and sometimes cause a chick to get hurt, this is their system. Therefore, it is best to respect it but take steps to avert injuries.
2. Fighting Over Food
Like almost all animals, chickens can get a bit cranky when they are not well fed. This is often so when you keep more chickens than you can care for. Though most people venture into chicken farming to save cash by avoiding the purchase of eggs and meat, few factor in the expenses of taking care of their animals.
You might lose some money initially while trying to figure out how much to feed chickens, but with time, you will learn just how much feed to buy. It is best to err on too much rather than too little food at the start. Ensure the chicken have enough water as well.
3. Chicks of Different Sizes
The larger birds in your chicken coop will often fight the smaller, weaker ones when establishing a pecking order. It is not advisable to put chicks of different sizes in the same coop because the bigger ones will start fighting the smaller ones.
Do not place chicks in an enclosure that has full-grown hens. You might assume that the mother hen will protect the chicks, but this is not always so. The mature birds will still fight these chicks, and the mother will have little control of the situation. Aim for the same breed of chicken in one coop as well to reduce the odds of chicks of different sizes.
4. Overcrowded Room
Other than the pecking order, overcrowding in your chicken coop is a common cause of fighting among chicks. This often happens in factory farms where the chickens are placed body-to-body to maximize a farmer’s profits. When overcrowded, your chicks will start pecking at each other as they fight for some personal space.
Debeaking is done in factory farms to keep the chicks from being hurt when jostling for space. Nonetheless, this will not be a helpful solution to overcrowding on your farm because it will also stress the chicken and reduce their egg production.
Protein in chickens is crucial for the formation of toenails, beaks, and feathers. The commercial feeds for chickens have proteins that can be supplemented with worms, lizards, bugs, and snakes throughout the day.
Nonetheless, there are times when your chickens will need extra proteins. These include during high-stress situations, in winter when they will not forage much, and during fall molting. The amount of protein your chicken will need also depends on its activity level and age.
One reason for chicken fights is cannibalism when they do not get enough protein to match their needs at different times. In this case, the birds resort to nibbling on each other’s skin when fighting to meet their protein needs.
Can Baby Chicks Kill Each Other?
Yes, unfortunately, baby chicks can kill each other when fighting. They often peck at each other harshly when establishing their social hierarchy and easily kill a weak or injured bird introduced into a flock.
Unfortunately, there is a lust for blood instilled in chickens through evolution. When they get a whiff of blood, your birds will often go into a frenzy. As such, even seemingly harmless fighting that draws a drop of blood can quickly set off your birds and leave an injured one dead.
What to Do If the Fighting Gets Bad?
Some fights among your chicken are expected. However, if you determine that the fighting among your chickens is getting out of hand, here are the steps you can take to handle this.
- Ensure your chickens have enough space. The minimum recommended space per hen in a coop is 3-4 square feet. If you choose free-range, the space should be 250 square feet per bird so that they all have enough foraging space. If you have too many birds, consider reducing your flock.
- Have enough bowls and water bottles for your chickens so that they do not fight over feeds. One large bowl is often enough for three hens.
- Check for the signs of illness in your chickens and isolate the sick ones. Some conditions might cause the chicken to bleed and cause the healthy ones to attack. Moreover, the healthy chickens can view the sick one as weak and attack to establish a pecking order.
- Introduce new chickens to a flock in pairs and place them in an isolated location first to give the others time to get used to them.
- When one of your sick chickens recover, take time to bathe it before placing it back in the coop. Though chickens can bathe in dust then groom themselves with beaks, these steps are often inadequate in getting rid of all maggots, feces, and blood on their feathers after an illness. These maggots, blood, and feces can cause other chickens to attack the recovered one.
- When chickens are bored, they can start fighting to engage themselves. To avoid this, it is best to keep your flock adequately entertained. You can pile some hay in the coop to give chickens a place to dig for treats or bugs. Adding some décor like mirrors or perches in the chicken coop will also provide the birds with something to explore.
Most farmers will choose to separate the aggressive birds in their flocks when they notice fights, but this is generally a temporary solution. Irrespective of the reason for disputes among your chickens, the above information has proven that there is a solution for it.
Identify the cause of fights among your chickens, then resolve the problem. This will keep your flock calm and minimize conflicts until a need to renegotiate the pecking order arises.