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Ask Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP Your Own...
Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP
Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP, Veterinarian, Bird
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience:  DABVP Specialist in Canine and Feline Practice, Veterinarian since 2000
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Why are my chickens attacking each other and plucking the chickens

Customer Question

Why are my chickens attacking each other and plucking the chickens rear ends. They have already pecked one to death. We believe their diet is well balanced and they have fresh water each day. We have separated one that was pecked badly and cannot integrate her back in with the others without them attacking her. Now another has started after two weeks. Only one of four for now seems to be unaffected.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
Thanks for your question.

Have you recently introduced any new birds into the flock?

The "pecking order" is quite normal behavior, and they can be vicious to the point of death.

At times, certain birds can become more and more aggressive with time.

You could remove the worst birds from the flock. You can enlarge their enclosure and add additional areas to hide, more nest boxes, etc. Add food and water containers to minimize competition.

You can also enclose the worst bird or two in a small separate cage in the center of the flock. Over several weeks, as she is present but unable to harass other birds, she may loose her dominant position and allow things to settle. Also, you can remove her for several weeks and then reintroduce her.

I hope this helps!
Dr. Devlin
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
These birds have been with each other for months, two we ebought together that now attack each other. Is there a type of sickness they could have? They have plenty of space and it is the newest one who is not affected by all this.
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
I doubt they are sick, as again, this is normal behavior. It is not unusal for dominance to develop or worsen as the chickens age.

If they are showing symptoms of illness - weight loss, weakness, scale of legs or beak, etc, then I would have them examined.

Make sure they are on good feed and properly dewormed.

Here's more information:

Dr. Devlin
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
Do you have any other questions?

Did you find the link helpful?

Thanks you!
Dr. Devlin
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I will try the vinegar trick tomorrow and see what happens. I just can't understand the sudden spurts of serious aggression to the point of killing each other. Would a parasite cause this?
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
It's possible that there's something that has changed - maybe an illness in one of the birds that they can sense. Maybe maturing of one of the birds that affected the status quo.

It's thought that parasites might increase irritability, but it shouldn't to this extreme.

We're getting buff orpington chicks next month. One of my vet school classmates and I raised chickens, and I just couldn't wait to get a bit of land - finally happened last year.

What breed do you have?
Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP and other Bird Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
We have a blue swede, a sussex, a silkie (little fluffy white with black eyes and beak) and a brown one which I don't know what the breed is. I had the brown one, then introduced the white and grey at the same time in July then the little white one in September. She is the one who had no problems. We tried the vinegar and it seems to work to keep them away from each other. Thanks for your help. We have asked our neighbours who have had chickens for years and they have never heard of this. One of our hens that I bought with the white and grey grew much bigger than them was dead when we came home from four days away over Christmas. The insides were out and the grey was in very bad shape. She has since been removed to recover. It is very strange.
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
How sad.
Sounds like a beautiful bunch. I'm glad the vinegar is working.
Yes, they can be so aggressive in some cases. It's so sad. Growing up, we would eat the aggressive ones. :( Seemed to solve the problem, but I was not happy about it.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
My ten year old son who wants to be a vet is the one who takes care of the chickens. As a matter of fact, I have not been to see the chickens for two weeks. He checks on the chickens morning at lunch and evening. He spends hours taking care of them. He is the one spraying the vinegar, separating them, mixing their food, etc. He is the one who put on the gloves and put iodine on the rear end of the grey who was in such bad shape. He is now saying maybe we should just kill the aggressive ones. I guess he is learning what farming life is like!
By the way, we live in France. I am American and my husband is French making for an interesting life.
We do like pretty birds. But we like having the eggs too ( the main reason we got hens).
Take care. Julia
I'll let you know the results. Can I keep in contact with you through this website or is it random vets each time?
Expert:  Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP replied 7 years ago.
You can request me. :)

Your son sounds terrific and so responsible for his age!

Wow- I've only ever dreamed of France. My husband and I are avid cyclists and would love to see le tour one day...