QI keep three Bluebelles in an Eglu coop in a large gravel run. Two have been badly pecked – the third has been pecked a little. They are well-fed and always have plenty of water. What shall I do?
AAnne Perdeaux says: This needs sorting out quickly. Once pecking causes bleeding it leads to more serious, even fatal, attacks. Treat wounds immediately with antiseptic spray, and try to resolve the cause of the problem.
Dietary deficiencies, boredom and stress are the main causes of featherpecking. Although your hens are fed well, their environment sounds rather sterile. Provide a dust-bath (a plastic box of soft sand or soil), and places to perch. Try stringing old CDs across the run, and hang vegetables just above head height so the chickens have to jump. Halved swedes will also keep them busy and fruit is popular – variety creates interest and helps avoid digestive upsets.
Ensure the coop is well-ventilated, and check coop and birds for parasites. There should be at least two square metres per bird in the run, but allow free-ranging if possible.
Thank you for your good advice. I’ll try free-ranging, although we have foxes. My large, wild garden has plenty to amuse them, with shallow ponds to drink from and places to perch and dust-bathe. Anne says: It will definitely help if your chickens can go out to play. The bullied hens will find hiding places, and the bully may forget them if she’s busy foraging. Consider using electric netting as protection from foxes. Ponds can harbour disease – put fresh water and food in the run so the chickens return there, making it easier to shut them in again if necessary.
Let chickens free range if possible