In previous blogs, we have looked at different forms of cannibalism and the causes of cannibalism. But, despite your best efforts, your chickens keep pecking at each other. So let’s take a look at how to control cannibalism in chickens once it starts.
At the first sign of picking, remove the affected bird(s). If possible, place the bird nearby, where it can see the rest of the flock without being disturbed while it is recovering.
Then try to identify and remove the instigator(s). If you can’t catch them while posing, look for birds with blood on their beaks and facial feathers. If the feline is a cannibal, look for the egg yolk smeared on its beak and face. Since chickens learn from each other, separating the offender is an essential step.
Alter Coop Lighting
Switch your nursery or barn lights to red light bulbs. If bright sunlight passes through a window, cover the board with red translucent plasticine (imitation of stained glass). Red lighting gives everything a pinkish hue, making the blood sores more difficult for chickens to identify.
Another option is to change the bright lights to soft lights. A good guideline for dimming the lights is to provide just enough light that you can barely read the newspaper.
In hot weather, open windows or turn on a fan to move the air and reduce the temperature inside the coop. Like people, chickens get upset when it’s too hot.
Relieve boredom by feeding the flock less at one time and feeding more often. Or by letting the chickens spend time outdoors, where they will get busy exploring and finding things next to each other.
Provide toys such as wall-mounted, shiny aluminum pie tins at head height for them to peck at. Or install chicken swings to play on. Hay bales give the chickens something interesting to explore, and they also attract insects for the chickens to peck at. A therapeutic game also offers opportunities to click.
It is very likely that the feather-plucking chickens that subsequently eat the feathers are in search of the necessary fiber. Providing fodder pastures is an easy way to solve this problem. Oats are another good source of fibre.
Most of the sodium in a chicken’s body is found in its blood. So a lack of salt can cause chickens to crave blood. Solve this problem by adding 1 tablespoon of salt per gallon of water to the drinker for one morning. Repeat the salt treatment after 3 days. At all other times, provide plenty of fresh, unsalted water.
Feed a portion of the herd’s ration in the form of grain, table clippings, or garden vegetables scattered around the yard. This gives the chickens something to hunt and peck next to each other.
Prevention works best
Pine tar and many other lotions—such as Blu-Kote, Hot Pick, or Pick-No-More—work for a short time, especially when you first start picking. It also needs to be reapplied often. None of them do well after the picking gets serious.
Blinders or specs or so-called peepers prevent or control cannibalism by preventing chickens from seeing straight ahead in order to shoot. The main disadvantage of using specs, aside from their ridiculous appearance, is that they can lead to eye disorders.
No measure of how to control cannibalism in chickens will be successful until the conditions that led to the problem are first eliminated. And no attempt to stop cannibalism once it has started is as effective as managing your flock to prevent the problem from starting in the first place.
And that’s today’s news from Cackle Coop.
Gil Damero is the author of The Chicken Health Handbook.