Chicken Cannibalism: Why It Happens and How Can You Prevent It

When someone informs me how animals are constantly nice to each other, and humans are the only species with the potential to be cruel or mean-spirited, something that usually seems to elevate my blood pressure.

That is a baldfaced lie, whether you’ve ever raised chickens or not.Don’t get me Chicks may be affectionate, cuddly, and quite delightful to raise.

A chicken may, however, have a half-mile-wide mean streak. It can be quite aggressive and violent in temperament.

If you’re going to raise chickens (especially in large numbers), it’s a sad reality that you’ll have to face up to the fact that some of them will be eaten by them. Chickens are omnivores, so whether their supper is delivered via a bug or another chicken, they won’t mind.

You’ll need to be prepared to face it head-on if you want to avoid it and deal with it in your flock.

The reasons and possible solutions for chicken cannibalism are listed below. Fortunately, you can prevent it from becoming a problem in the future by taking the appropriate steps now.

What is Chicken Cannibalism?

Just as its name implies, cannibalism of chickens is normal. Chickens resort to picking the comb, feathers, vent, or toes of another bird when they are stressed by poor chicken management.

Cannibalistic behaviors spread quickly across the flock as soon as blood or open wounds are visible.

You may frequently keep things in check and save the attacked bird if you can see cannibalism early enough and intervene quickly.

Left unchecked, it may quickly kill a bird and become a bigger problem, with more birds being assaulted by hens that have acquired a taste for blood.

Causes of Chicken Cannibalism

If you want to avoid chicken cannibalism in your flock, there are a few common reasons that you should address.

1. Overcrowding

Overcrowding is perhaps the number one cause of chicken cannibalism. When birds don’t have enough room to roam, they get irritable, cranky, and bored. This leads to feather pecking behaviors that often turn into full-blown cannibalism.

In addition to the fact that chickens who are being bullied don’t have enough room to flee, overcrowding is a issue.

2. Feed and Water Issues

Not feeding or watering chickens enough may cause them to cannibalize one another, which sounds obvious. Finally, it creates the impression that they must go into starvation mode and fight for their food because they are in danger.

Cannibalism can also be caused by unequal distribution of food and water, as well as an lack of it. When there isn’t enough food at the feeder, some hens are inevitably going to go hungry because of the pecking order, which is the top determinant in which birds get to eat and when.

Chickens may become cannibalistic if their diets aren’t quite balanced. Birds may turn on one another if their feed is insufficient in protein and other nutrients, such as fiber and methionine.

3. Heat and Light

Birds can become cannibalistic when they are too hot. Other animals, not just chickens, experience this phenomena. When people are overworked and overheated, their behavior becomes more aggressive.

Chickens become hostile against one other when exposed to white light. When compared to other hues, white light is significantly brighter and more vivid. Chickens don’t need light 24 hours a day, regardless of whether you’re using red or white light. For chickens, constant light may cause bullying behaviors and be harmful.

4. Abrupt Changes (of Any Kind)

Chickens have a difficult time adapting to change. It’s critical that any modifications be tiny and gradual rather than sudden when it comes to relocating the birds or shifting the location of feeders and waterers.

5. Mixing of Different Breeds and Ages

You should be careful when mixing flocks of different ages and breeds, especially when it’s acceptable to do so most of the time. If the fowl species is of vastly different sizes, it may be difficult to brood them all.

Curiosity frequently results in pecking, which subsequently translates to eating.

6. Crippled Animals

Allowing dead or crippled birds to remain in the pens is a common rookie chicken keeper mistake. This is sometimes done with the genuine assumption that the wounded hen will recover on its own. You may not realize a wounded or deceased animal is there until it’s too late at other times.

Leaving an animal like this in the enclosure, on the other hand, is harmful because it induces more pecking and promotes cannibalistic conduct.

7. Slow-Feathering Birds

Remember to keep an eye on mixing chickens of various breeds, ages, and sizes as I mentioned earlier. When mixing slow-feathering hens with a mixed flock, you must be cautious. Slow-feathering birds’ immature, more delicate feathers are exposed for a long period, exposing them to pecking (and cannibalism) because they’re slow to feather.

8. Inadequate Nesting Space

Chickens may turn on one other in a cannibalistic manner if they don’t have enough nesting boxes. It might also cause egg-eating behaviors, as you are probably aware.

9. Introduction of New Animals

You’re disrupting the pecking order whenever you add or remove chickens from your flock. This disruption might not be visible to you, but it is significant.

10. Prolapse

The vent area, which is the most prevalent location for chickens to peck at one another (which ultimately leads to cannibalism), is also the most common. A simple prolapse often precedes this type of behavior.

After the egg is deposited, the uterus stretches and tears, causing prolapse. This takes a long time to recover from. Young chickens who began producing early, as well as obesity in layer birds, are both susceptible.

How to Prevent Cannibalism in a Flock

Here’s how to avoid becoming a cannibal now that you know what causes it.

1. Address the Living Conditions

First, consider how you’re treating your animals’ living conditions. The coop of adult birds must have at least 2 square feet per bird, and the run must have more.

Purchasing game birds or heavy meat birds will need a lot more room, so you may get away with less area for chicks or bantams. To be on the safe side, I always double the recommendations.

When possible, adjust the temperature. During the first week of life, young hens should be brooded at 95°F, but it’s critical that you gradually lower the temperature each week after that. Ultimately, you should obtain a temperature of about 70°F. This should be done at a pace of around 5°F per week to avoid a sudden shift.

Likewise, make sure the light is on. Avoid using bulbs larger than 40 watts; they’re especially harmful. Don’t shine the light all of the time.

2. Fine Tune the Feed and Water

Make sure there are enough waterers and feeders for everyone. This will cause aggression if there isn’t enough room.

Make sure that the chicken feed you’re giving contains all of the essential nutrients. Also, make sure that there is enough methionine (a vitamin often present in vegetarian chicken diets that is usually missing).

3. Be Careful When Introducing New Chickens

Raise a flock of chickens of the same age, size, and breed if possible. Animals that do not have these qualities should not be kept around brooding hens with crests, beards, or feathered legs.

Make sure there are several of each breed in the mix to offer some protection against bullying if you must mix breeds. Begin by slowly and gently introducing new hens.

For a week, split the pen with a wire wall to acclimate the birds to one another. When everyone is on the roost for the night, you can also introduce new birds. This is a more compassionate way to introduce yourself.

4. Upgrade the Nesting Boxes

Every 4 hens should have at least one nesting box. These locations should be gloomy and isolated.

5. Be Vigilant for Problems

Frequent monitoring is a must for chickens. It’s possible that you won’t realize there’s a bullying issue until it worsens. By interacting with your flock on a regular basis, you’ll be able to understand the flock’s dynamics and avoid issues.

6. Prevent Prolapse

To avoid your hens becoming overweight, give them a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. If prolapse happens, treat it right away (blood streaks on the eggshell are a surefire indicator). Hens with severe or persistent prolapse issues may need to be isolated.

7. Let Them Burn Off Their Energy

Free-rangeing your chickens will accomplish two things. Second, it will offer them more area. Second, it will keep them busy pecking for bugs, greens, and other food instead of eating another chicken, allowing them to spend time away from the flock.

8. Provide Distractions

In the coop, hang shiny, colorful objects. While providing your hens some diversions (particularly in the winter) is a good way to avoid pecking behaviors, you don’t have to go out and purchase pricey chicken toys.

9. Trim Beaks

Finally, be aware that in troubled flocks, you might have to resort to drastic


For commercial producers and chicken owners who can’t seem to kick this habit, trimming beaks is a contentious practice, but it’s required for whatever reason.

It entails removing roughly a third of your birds’ beak tips, making it impossible for them to damage each other. Make sure you do your homework and that the trimming is done by a professional before undertaking this. It’s possible to be hurt.

Addressing Incidents of Cannibalism Among Your Chickens

There are a variety of reasons that might lead to cannibalism in your flock, so determining what the root of the problem is may take some time.

Beyond removing any injured or dead birds, this should be your first step. Figure out what went wrong and try to fix it.

Next, lowering the pen temperature and darkening the brooder or coop with red bulbs are steps you can take to prevent those conditions in the future. This should help calm chickens down in the meantime, even if you don’t implement it as a long-term solution.

You may need to remove certain chickens from the flock if you know it’s them that are bullying and cannibalizing all of the others.

Finally, the first thing you should do after rescuing injured birds is to treat them; nevertheless, it is important to point out. Apply an ointment to the affected regions. Blu Kote, for example, is a product that cleanses and heals the wound while also changing it color. It is ideal for use in this situation.

Remember that pecking is more likely in red, bloody areas. Blu Kote, a spray that turns it blue, may help prevent future accidents. Spraying the wound and allowing the chicken to stay in the flock might be more logical if it’s a minor injury. This disrupts the pecking order and should be avoided if not 100% necessary, but severely injured hens should be removed from the flock to recover.

Keep Your Chickens Safe!

If you want to keep a healthy, productive flock, you must prevent pecking behaviors and cannibalism.

You can put a stop to chicken cannibalism by following the steps above, even if it’s something that no chicken keeper ever wants to face.

Leave a Comment