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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > Sept/Oct 19 > CANNIBAL CHRONICLES


Cute little chicks are capable of some viscous deeds, so look for these common causes of cannibalism in your flock to nip cannibalism in the bud.

Cannibalism is a nasty but all too common habit of chicks that peck one another, pulling out feathers and tearing flesh. It typically occurs when feathers first start to appear, inviting pecking that draws blood, which in turn attracts other chicks to join in. Sometimes a whole flock gangs up on one unfortunate individual and pecks it to death.

Eating is a primary activity for chickens, and their mode of eating is to peck and swallow. Cannibalism therefore plausibly originates from a chick’s inherent need to peck. A bird that is not busy pecking to satisfy hunger will keep itself busy pecking to make mischief. Frustration and stress increase the problem.

Cannibalism is not likely to occur among chicks raised by a mother hen, but it often does appear among chicks in a brooder, as soon as they start growing their first feathers. Trying to stop cannibalism once it gets rolling can be nearly impossible. Prevention involves avoiding the following all-too-common poor brooder management practices, which alone or in combination can trigger cannibalism.

High energy and low fiber diets can cause chicks to be aggressive.
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