Cannibalism in the Flock
Cannibalism can be a serious problem in the flock if it’s allowed to continue without intervention. Noticing flock persecution can help you identify the victim. I remember years ago I had a chicken that got outside it’s lot and without giving it a thought, I threw her back in with the rest of the guys. Hours later we found her a bloody mess where she had been brutalized by the flock. We brought her into the utility room and tried to take care of her, but it was too late. I felt so bad that I had thrown her back into what she had tried to escape, it bothers me to this day. It became obvious a little too late that she was trying to escape the bullying and if I had taken note of the problem she probably would not have died such a violent death.
Overcrowding, boredom, lack of exercise, too few feed and water containers, parasites, injury or bleeding, too hot without enough ventilation, dark nests, too much light in the coop, abrupt changes, injured or dead birds left in the flock are all conditions that can trigger cannibalism.
Head picking generally occurs in older birds, due to fighting. Feather picking can be spotted by bare patches on a bird’s neck, breast, back and below the vent. Tail feather picking is common in growing birds, when new feathers filled with blood attract pickers before enough plumage grows to cover the area. Vent picking is the worst form of cannibalism because it escalates quickly and often ends in death.