10 Reasons Why Chickens Fight – How to Stop Them?
Keepers often witness squabbles between their chickens for various reasons. Although roosters in the flock usually handle disagreements, sometimes they may escalate if there is a bully amongst them. Also, aggressiveness can be genetic, hormonal, behavioral reinforced, or instinctive.
Mainly, the wrangle ranges from minor shoves to full-blown encounters that lead to bruises and loss of feathers. Unfortunately, frequent brawls amongst fowls affect general wellbeing plus egg and meat production. It would be a shame to spend so much money on your flock and get nothing in return.
This guide will define the topmost basis of chicken fighting to guide you to avert them and increase productivity. Before addressing the topic, it is vital to understand the distinction between establishing pecking order fights and other conflicts. What is the pecking order? Basically, it is the ranking status in the flock determined by dominance among the roosters and hens.
1. Not Enough Food
If there is a food shortage in the coop, there is a high likelihood of competition brawls. You see, some people venture into chicken farming without planning well. In the long run, they may end up feeding their chicken substandard or insufficient food.
Before investing in chicks, ensure that you have enough sharing bowls. Two or three shallow bowls would be ideal for a flock of six chickens. That way, the birds may not have to fight over one bowl or waste food in the process.
Next, learn to estimate the correct quantity for each bird. For instance, an adult hen feeds on approximately ¼ pound of food daily. You would want to get the best production from your birds. Therefore, offer them a nutrient rich diet of mash, crumbles, and pellets. If possible, allow your chicken to scavenge for bugs around the backyard.
While it may save you a few coins on food, the chicken will also thank you for a different source of proteins. Finally, do not forget to keep plenty of clean water in the coop. Empty the containers daily to prevent bacterial invasion.
Staying in the coop for long durations can trigger immense boredom in your chicken. When bored, birds may attack each other to release the tension. While separation of the aggressive bird may save the situation, it is not a long time solution.
If you have a portable enclosure, ensure that you change position at least twice a month. For stationary coops, offer occasional entertainment like hanging a cabbage or throwing pumpkins to peck.
Above all, give them enough space to dust bathe. The best solution to chicken boredom is letting them out of the coop once in a while. In addition, please find out the leading cause of irritation among the birds and resolve it permanently. Eventually, you will realize that calm chickens are less likely to fall into fights.
3. Hierarchy Challenge
Chickens are social creatures that prefer living together in a flock. One common trait is the pecking order where bigger and aggressive birds bully others. You may notice these chickens pecking others to surrender with their beaks. Usually, they start with a squawk, swagger, and fluffing of feathers. If the other chicken fails to notice their presence, they may proceed to the next level, pecking.
Another cause of hierarchy hostility among roosters is fighting over females. If you have more than one rooster in the coop, the aggressive one may always have its way when it comes to mating. To limit these brawls, keep a healthy ratio of hen and roosters in a coop.
The proportion depends on the number of hens and chicken breeds. In most cases, experts recommend one rooster in 6-10 hens. When one becomes excessively aggressive against others, you may consider segregation.
4. Broody Chicken
The worst case of fights you may ever witness among hens is when they get broody. Broody hens instinctively guard their eggs and would peck or squawk at their counterparts or anyone who comes close to them. In short, broodiness boils down to the tendency of nesting on eggs for incubation.
Often, the birds may neglect themselves and only vacate the nest to drink and eat daily. As a result, they may lose considerable weight and appear pale or dull. The hen may not tolerate any interference in such a state and may peck or scream at an intruder.
If you do not intend to breed your hen, there are various ways to break the broodiness. For instance, you can keep cold dips or ice water bottles or remove nesting materials from the cage. In addition, block access to the nesting area or allow the hen to sit on unfertilized eggs.
5. Different Personality Chickens
Unknown to most people, chickens are curious and fascinating animals. With a cognitive ability almost equal to dogs and cats, they can learn tricks, master faces, and complete complex tasks. However, behind it all, they have distinct individuality that differs from one bird to another.
Individuals who have spent considerable time with fowls can quickly tell apart gregarious, calm, fearless, or aggressive birds. Remember that while some breeds would appreciate human contact, others would shy off or even peck when disturbed. The friendliest breeds are the Silkies, Speckled Sussex, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpington, Cochin, and Wyandotte.
On the other hand, aggressive varieties include Malay, Asil, Cornish, Modern, American, and others. A feisty chicken may display mean behaviors such as flogging, pecking, or typically terrorizing anything around.
If the chicken becomes excessively hostile and harms others, you can isolate the offending member for some time. Moreover, cull or harvest the belligerent poultry to reduce tension.
6. Rooster Defend its Territory
Hens kept alone in the coop may rarely fight, not unless when broody or fighting for food. However, bringing in a rooster may cause a fuss as the bird competes for attention. Likewise, roosters can become protective of the fowls or hens within the territory.
While roosters play a significant role in a flock, consider if you need one or not. For farmers solely keeping birds as pets or sources of eggs, a rooster is unnecessary.
Furthermore, males may intimidate the hens and inhibit the egg-laying process. If you have to keep a rooster in the flock, you can domesticate them instead. The best way to go about it is to show them that you are the boss.
While some chicken owners kick back an attacking rooster, it is not recommended. Recall that you are much bigger physically and capable of incapacitating or even killing them. Instead, grab the intimidating rooster and force him down. Then continue holding him down until he stops struggling.
This behavior indicates that they have accepted their fate and understand who the boss is now.
Most importantly, ensure that you keep a similar rooster breed with the hens. If the rooster has a more prominent posture, there is a higher chance of fighting the hens more often.
7. New Chicken in the Flock
A new hen or chicken in the coop would most definitely cause some distraction resulting in a clash. The situation may get more complicated if there is little food or when the birds fight to maintain their pecking order. For this reason, they may give the new member a tough time. You can introduce new poultry to a flock in a much safer way.
First, bring them in pairs instead of one. This approach ensures that the fresh chicken has company even when others bully them. Alternatively, place the newcomers in a secluded corner where the others can see them but not attack. After a week or two, introduce them for a few hours while keeping an eye. Above all, place other distractions in the coop the same way you move in the birds.
Most likely, the old birds may be so engrossed in their toys to take note of a newcomer. Another trick is to avoid introducing chicks in a flock of fully grown birds. Keep in mind that even if you only have hens in the flock, their maternal instincts may not deter them from attacking new chicks.
As a matter of fact, the pecking order will still apply to hapless defenseless chicks. To prevent the chicks from getting injured, isolate them until they attain a certain age. Then using the guidelines above, you can easily integrate them with the rest.
8. Get Mad to Each Other
Chickens experience many emotions like sadness, anger, fear, empathy, happiness, and others. It is not uncommon to find them getting mad or jealous of other chickens. Usually, this happens when the owner pays more attention to one bird compared to others.
As a form of retaliation, the other flock members may gang against this particular chicken and make life almost impossible for them in the cage.
As mentioned earlier, some roosters may have a naturally inclined hostility towards others. If they happen to intrude on their space or eating area, there is a high probability of the stronger bird throwing a fit.
In a nutshell, chickens get mad at each other if their space gets intruded. The bottom line is to ensure that your birds live in a spacious enclosure and have enough living and sleeping areas. Then place similar breeds together to avoid hostility due to size or temperaments.
The bottom line is that you should not have birds that often hate on each other. Not only will the behavior affect productivity, but it also makes the coop a little hell on earth.
9. Hen Protecting Its Chicks
Like a lion protecting its fragile cubs, hens use the same agility to defend their young ones. Most impressive, they keep them close, day in, day out. When they notice an intruder, they often cluck to warn the babies. Immediately after, the young ones run to their mother for safety. In return, the mother hen puffs up and hides all her chicks beneath her wings.
It is almost impossible to get any of the chicks from the brood without a fight. The mother would not only squawk but would also peck or create havoc. In some cases, hens hide their chicks for hours until they feel safe enough to allow them to venture out.
Surprisingly, a mother hen can be aggressive towards chicks from other hens in the vicinity. Mainly, this is to ensure that their offspring survive in the competitive environment. In short, they attack or even kill weak offspring to ensure that only the strong and resilient birds stay in the flock.
You can notice this habit on stressed-out birds who only want to take it out on younger chicks. Although the primary intention of stressed birds is never to kill, the pecking may cause bleeding, which is disastrous. In fact, chickens act crazy if they happen to find blood on their peers.
The main reason behind this is that chickens are naturally attracted to the red color. Therefore, a mere sight of blood creates unnecessary attention where every bird around wants to partake in the fascinating scene. Unfortunately, this may lead to severe injuries or death.
10. Roosters Will Always Fight
There is a myth that cocks fight till they die. Although this statement is entirely not true, roosters fight supremacy and position in the flock. Sometimes, they may turn their anger on their keepers and cause harm. Bring to mind that roosters fight to get attention to the hens. If there are no females to compete for, they can coexist peacefully with other roosters.
It is prudent not to separate the cocks because it can be a struggle re-introducing them again. Often, the agility in roosters has been used for centuries in cockfights. While this game is illegal in most countries, it is still a crowd-puller in others.
All in all, cocks used in these battles undergo intensive training and feed on special diets. Moreover, the fighting instincts are often exaggerated during selective breeding. In some cases, sham poultry keepers use enhancers like cannabis on their cocks. While this may trigger them to fight viciously, it is detrimental to their health.
How to Stop Chickens from Fighting?
Most fights among chickens are often harmless. However, if they happen more frequently or cause grave injuries, it is time to intervene. Below are quick tips on how to bring the habit to a stop. Note that these methods require considerable patience before bearing any fruits.
– Use Herbs
Strong smelling herbs like sage and rosemary works miracles in preventing chicken brawls. You can apply them to the peaches and on chicken beaks and feathers. It is best if you do this in the dark when they cannot see you.
Then sprinkle their favorite grains or sunflower seeds on the floor. Impressively, this acts as a distraction where they all eat together as a team. Above all, the herbs distort individuality scent making them smell almost the same.
– Invest in a Plastic Water Pistol
The first thing you need to do is pinpoint the bully from the rest. Once they embark on their habitual attacks, aim squats of water directly at them. The method works perfectly well because it distracts the birds instantly. Nevertheless, you have to repeat the process several times before the chicken understands your intention.
– Introduce a Rooster
If you are having trouble with the female chicks, it is time to introduce a man. The beauty is that cocks keep order and discipline in the coop. This method is only beneficial if you limit the number of cocks in the pen. The more you bring over, the higher chances of scuffles within your flock.
– Dust Bath Regularly
Dust baths prevent the chicken from pecking on each other. Often, birds dig a hole and cover themselves with the loose dirt. This also helps in keeping external parasites away. If you have limited space, fill a container with soil, wood ash, and sand. You can add diatomaceous in the soil, which helps with external parasites too.
– Rearrange the Pecking Order
The best way to get your house in order is by removing aggressive bullies from the rest. With the quarrelsome birds gone, the calm members left behind can form a less ruffled order. After a week or so, re-introduce the chicken again and take note of their behavior. Most likely, with new leaders on the throne, they may find it unnecessary to keep on fighting.
Witnessing your birds fighting each other can be stressful to any farmer. However, before losing your mind, take time to find out the primary determinant.
Are you chicken well-fed, crowded, or too cold? Do you have predators in the vicinity, or what causes frequent stress among your birds?
The thumb rule is to detect the stressor and handle it effectively. With newfound peace, your birds will enjoy the best time of their lives with minimal disturbance. Still, it is worth noting that a new hen will always cause uneasiness for a short period.
Also, expect some dominance wrangles within the pecking order. Once the order gets determined, the birds will lead a more peaceful and healthy life together.