Do Chickens Kill Their Chicks?

Hens will jealously defend their chicks from intruders and other chickens that pose a threat to their chicks. Chicken may, however, sometimes kill their chicks, especially first-time mother hens. Chicken can also kill chicks either accidentally or deliberately.

Why Do Hens Kill Their Babies?

Cannibalism is a common issue with chickens. Hens may kill their babies due to cannibalism, mainly when the hen is living with its babies in an overcrowded coop. Stress, amino acid imbalance, and high light intensity are also common reasons why hens kill their young ones.

Some hens can behave aggressively towards their babies, prompting them to injure and ultimately kill the chicks. Isolate your chicks from their mother if the mother exhibits signs of aggression. Else, the mother will intentionally continue hurting the chicks until they die.

Hens also kill their chicks due to confusion, mainly if two mother hens are in the same cage. In such a scenario, one hen may confuse her chicks with the chicks from the other mother. The mother will then peck the chicks to death. Consider separating the two hens and their offspring to avoid any confusion that could lead to the death of your chicks.

Do Chickens Eat Their Chicks?

Yes, chickens can eat their chicks the same way they eat their eggs. Nonetheless, this isn’t a common habit among chickens. Once in a while, however, mothers can eat their newly hatched chicks and later develop a habit of eating their babies.

Cannibalism is the ultimate reason why chickens eat their babies. Cannibal hens have a high chance of killing their chicks, even if you separate the mother hen from other chickens in your flock. Stress also prompts hens to eat their babies.

Nutritional deficiency can make hens eat their babies. A diet that is low in methionine, an essential amino acid, is crucial for chickens. Chickens can eat their babies to make up for this essential amino acid if they don’t get it from their regular diet. Provide your chickens with a protein-rich diet to reduce their probability of eating their chicks.

Eliminate any chicken that starts to eat their chicks. Eliminating such a chicken is the ultimate solution to eliminating cannibalism from your flock. Consider eliminating such a killer hen the moment it eats its first chick. Getting rid of the killer chicken is an essential move that will guarantee the survival of the remaining chicks.

Why do Hens Peck Chicks to Death?

Hens kill chicks by pecking them to death. It is pretty normal for hens to peck their junior counterparts occasionally. Pecking, however, becomes an issue of concern when it is more frequent, leading to injuries and death of the chicks. Although the reasons for hens pecking chicks aren’t well-known, some things can, however, make hens more likely to peck chicks to death.

For instance, hens can peck chicks to death as they strive to create a pecking order and establish dominance among the chicks. Pecking can be pretty common when the chicks try to compete for food and water with older hens. Larger and more aggressive hens are more likely to peck the little ones to death if the latter agitate the more senior flock members.

Chickens, including hens, are naturally attracted to the color red. When a hen intentionally or accidentally injures a chick, it will show interest in the red, fresh wound. As a result, the hen will continue pecking the wound until the chick loses a considerable amount of blood, finally succumbing to the resulting injuries.

Aggression is another possible explanation as to why hens peck chicks to death. A mother hen may not tolerate the presence of other chicks from a different mother. It won’t be very friendly towards such chicks. The hen, in this case, perceives these chicks as a threat to her chicks. Thus, it will start pecking the chicks to death as a way of eliminating them.

Lack of food can make hens peck their chicks to death. Starvation makes hens peck their little ones in an attempt to meet their dietary needs. Provide your hens with enough food to end the pecking habit that leads to deaths. Check these tips on preventing your hens from killing chicks.

  • Isolate your chicks from their aggressive mother
  • Establish the reasons why your chickens are killing chicks. If it is cannibalism, for instance, provide your hens with a protein-rich diet.
  • Avoid keeping chickens and hens in an overcrowded cage
  • Provide a stimulating environment for your chickens to eliminate boredom which results in older chicken killing chicks

Will Hens Accept Other Chicks?

No, hens rarely accept chicks from other hens if even these hens are members of one flock. Older mothers are particularly very hostile against other chicks that aren’t theirs. Hens prefer to raise their chicks independently, even if several hens with chicks in the same flock.

Nonetheless, there are some exceptions, though, since there are some pretty motherly hens. Such mothers won’t hesitate to adopt kids that aren’t hers and raise them as their chicks.

You can therefore try whether your hen can raise chicks from another mother. Suppose the hen doesn’t accept other chicks other than its own, consider separating such chicks from the hen. Don’t try forcing the hen to adopt other chicks since it won’t work.

Will Rooster Kill Baby Chicks?

Yes, a rooster can kill baby chicks. The chances of your rooster killing baby chicks are incredibly high. Roosters are overly aggressive towards anything they perceive as intruders. Thus avoid keeping roosters together with baby chicks since the roosters will kill the chicks on sight.

Nevertheless, some roosters will tolerate the presence of baby chicks. However, the more significant majority of roosters are territorial, and they will attack and kill new baby chicks.


Chicken killing their chicks is a common issue that chicken owners have to encounter when keeping chickens. Luckily, chicken owners can stop this habit by ensuring their chicks aren’t living together with their older counterparts.

No matter the size of your backyard, desist from keeping older chickens with chicks lest you lose all your chicks to their older counterparts.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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