January 2014
Homeplace & Community

Aggressive Pecking in Backyard Flocks

  SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block can help alleviate aggressive behavior by providing essential nutrients as well as alleviating boredom.

Aggressive pecking is a very real problem for the backyard flock owner. While it is perfectly normal for birds to establish a dominance hierarchy or "pecking order" by pecking one another, it is not normal or healthy for birds to actually wound or even kill one another.

What is aggressive pecking?

In a nutshell, it is any pecking that extends beyond normal establishment of hierarchy. Often aggressive pecking starts as feather pulling, especially in young birds. If this proceeds to the point of causing injury and blood is drawn, other birds will be drawn to the red color and can literally kill the wounded bird. Unfortunately, this aberrant behavior is a learned vice and can spread throughout the flock.

What causes aggressive pecking?

Backyard poultry species are highly evolved for pecking behavior. They have keen eyesight and depth perception in order to scratch and search out insects, plant materials and even small animals. In their natural setting, birds spend a great deal of time occupied by this investigating/hunting behavior. Some contend that aggressive pecking is caused by boredom or other stresses placed on the birds related to limiting their ability to scratch and forage for food. Others state the general stress of overcrowding, bright lights, high temperature, poor ventilation, parasites, etc. cause the birds to turn on one another. Another proposed cause is dietary deficiency, particularly protein.

Aggressive pecking resulting in feather loss or injury is a problem in backyard flocks.  
   

How Can Aggressive Pecking be Prevented?

Because this behavior is learned, it is very difficult to stop once established in a flock. For this reason, prevention is your best bet.

Good husbandry is key in prevention. Provide adequate space, ventilation, roosting and nesting sites, etc. to minimize stress on your birds. There is a wealth of information as to these requirements on the Internet.

Remove any sick or injured birds from the flock and isolate them until they have recovered to keep other birds from turning on them.

Genetic selection for more docile breeds or more docile birds within your own flock will help to curb aggressive pecking.

Provide adequate nutrition through a balanced diet and make sure each bird has equal access to feed.

Provide mental stimulation for the birds.

The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block can help prevent aggressive pecking by providing nutritional supplementation in addition to mental and physical stimulation through the pecking of the block. The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block contains protein, energy, minerals and vitamins to help bridge any gaps in the birds’ diet. Additionally, the SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block is full of whole grains, so it provides visual interest and allows the birds to focus on pecking individual grains. This occupies the birds’ brains and engages their scavenging instincts. In simple terms, happy birds = less destructive pecking.

In summary, prevention of aggressive pecking is important for the backyard flock. Good husbandry, management and nutrition are all crucial. The SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block is an excellent all-purpose supplement for any type of poultry or fowl and can help alleviate instances of aggressive pecking in your flock. Ask for the SWEETLIXFarm Flock Supplement Block by name at your local feed dealer!

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.