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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20843
Experience:  As a veterinary surgeon, I have spent a lot of time with bird cases and I'm happy to help you.
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Due to my chickens being confined from free ranging this

Customer Question

Due to my chickens being confined from free ranging this winter I have a chicken pecking problem. 4 out of 8 chickens are missing almost all tail feathers and the areas are red. How do I treat and stop problem.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee ones today.

Are they being allowed to free range now or are they still indoors?

Do any of the affected birds showing breaks in the skin or sores?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am free ranging them when possible. They seem mostly very red with a lot of tail feather loss
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you,

I have received your reply + will not start typing out my full answer and post shortly (just wanted to make sure you didn't think I popped away).

Speak to you again shortly,

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you,

First, as I am sure can appreciate, there are a range of issues that can motivate birds to feather peck one another. This can include behavioural issues, overcrowding (hopefully less likely with such a small group), nutritional issues, and when the victim bird is unwell or in a vulnerable position.

Now based on your situation, with the birds being indoors and 50% of the flock being targeted, we’d be most suspicious that behavioural issues are triggering this. Specifically, we tend to see pecking due to the birds being bored indoors and unable to practice their normal foraging behaviours (which naturally occupies 50% of their daily activity) as they would outside. As well, just to note in case you aren’t seeing feathers around the house, nutritional deficiencies could also being playing a role here.

Now since none of the birds have active wounds at this stage, we don’t need to isolate them for supportive care at this stage. Instead, if we can reducing the pecking of their peers that should be enough to give them a chance to heal.

In regards ***** ***** that pecking, there are some steps we can take. First, we’d want to adjust some of our indoor environmental settings if you have not already. To start, we want to make sure the house isn’t overly warm. High temperatures can actually predispose birds to pecking. Therefore, we’d want to keep the house around 70*F or matched with the outdoor temperature (depending how chilly it is). As well, do make sure we have good ventilation for them in the house.

As well, we need to assess how much light they are getting in the house. It has been found in large production flocks that when we have too much or too intense light in the house, this can also trigger pecking. Therefore, at the moment, we’d absolutely want to dim the lights (it will relax the birds, reduces the behavior, and will make those red vents less attractive for pecking) and make sure we are keeping the lights on for no more then 13 hours a day with bulbs < 40 watts.

As well, just touching back on possible nutrition issues, we do need to check that their diet is well balanced for their needs. A mash diet is better then a finely pelleted feeds since they require the birds to sift through the variety of ground particles and take longer to consume. As well, just to give them a protein boost (just in case) and also help distract them with indoor foraging indoors, you can throw some extra pellets or cat food into their litter. That way they have something to scratch, peck, and devote time to instead of pecking their friends. And you can even add green leafy vegetables, or grass clippings to the litter to again give them something to root through (though only give enough that they’ll eat and not leave to rot since that would need to be removed).

Furthermore, we can also try to lessen their focus on one another by trying to enrich their indoor environment Now rather then write you a long list of toy options for your birds (since I am conscious this is getting to be a wee book I am writing ;)), I'd advise a wee peek HERE @ for suggestions (they even have videos of the hens at play) So just like toddlers, if we divert their energy into non-harming activities, we can keep them from doing those things (like pecking) and can settle signs.

Finally, as we do all of the above, we can also use some deterrents to help the guilty parties give up their negative ways. Specifically, we can use anti-pecking sprays, which taste unpleasant and usually deter pecking. As well, we could use one with a color additive to determine if we have one problem bird lurking in the flock (since if this persists and one bird is to blame, she may need to be removed from the flock).

Overall, this is a very common issue when birds are overwintered indoors. That said, we can use the above to reduce their predisposition to do this and keep them distracted and active with positive pursuits while indoors. Of course, if you do find one bird is guilty of all this pecking, then she may need to be removed if we cannot settle her naughty ways with the above.

Please take care,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. *Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need, as this is the only way I receive credit for helping you today. Thank you! : )

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about Hattie, Clara, Gertie, Gladys. How is everything going?
Dr. B.