Peck­ing prob­lem

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

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.

RE­SPONSE:

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

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