Why Do Chickens Peck Each Other’s Bottoms? (& What To Do)

Chickens pecking is a rather inevitable behavior in any flock. Sometimes, it’s light, friendly, or even helpful. Other times it’s more aggressive and troublesome.

In most cases, chicken pecking can normally be explained by simply observing what’s going on in the flock, before, during, of after the incident. 

But one scenario that’s a little stranger is when chickens decide to peck each other’s bottoms. In fact, sometimes it can be quite worrying.

Here are all the most common reasons why chickens peck each other’s bottoms, how you can identify when it’s a problem, and what you can do to prevent it from happening again.

Why Do Chickens Peck Each Other’s Bottoms?

There are a number of reasons why your chickens might be pecking each other’s bottoms.

Some are clearly more harmless than others. But, it’s clear that chickens pecking each other’s bottoms can become a BIG issue, especially when you start to see feather loss, redness around their vents, or even blood.

The most common reasons why chickens peck each other’s bottoms come down to stress, boredom, or personality conflicts within the pecking order.

To try to narrow down why YOUR chickens are conducting this pecking behavior, here are all the reasons chickens will peck each other’s bottoms, in order of least concerning, to the most troublesome and harmful.

1. Grooming

You won’t believe it until you see it, but chickens are capable of grooming each other. Sure, this is usually limited to their face (I see my Silkies do it to each other all the time).

But, it’s also possible that your chickens are pecking each other’s bottoms as a way to help keep them clean.

You’ll also see this behavior in mother hens.

If your chickens are pecking each other’s bums gently, and with precision, they may simply be grooming each other.

2. Setting The Pecking Order

Another rather harmless reason your chickens could be pecking each other is that they are just setting the pecking order.

This phenomenon is the natural social hierarchy a flock of chickens makes to maintain order within the flock.

If you’ve recently started raising chickens or have added more chooks to your flock, you’ll often see them work out the pecking order by means of literally pecking one another – even on the bottom!

Although it may look aggressive to begin with, once chickens learn their place in the pecking order there is very little conflict.

3. Boredom

We can all suffer from boredom every once in a while – even chickens.

Especially when chickens are cooped up for longer than normal, such as during the colder winter months or during particularly dreary weather.

In these situations, chickens may get frustrated more easily, which can lead to pecking each other, or an increase in bullying.

4. Ill-Fitted Space

Although chickens don’t require a huge space to live, they don’t like to be too crowded either.

If you’re finding your chickens are pecking each other’s bottoms when they’re inside the coop or chicken run but not when they’re free-ranging, it may simply be that the space is not big enough for your flock.

5. Irritation/Stress

When chickens get irritated, they tend to be more aggressive.

However, the root cause of the stress can vary from insufficient space, to a new environment or members of the flock, to extreme heat or extreme cold.

If you suspect your chickens are stressed out, it could explain why they’re pecking each other in this way!

6. A Sick Chicken

As much as chickens can be loving, and make friends in the flock, they can also be savage creatures.

Just like all other animals, chickens have a natural instinct to survive. 

If any of your chicken’s sense or can feel a weakness in their flock, like that of an injured or sick chicken, they may consider them a liability.

That’s one of the many reasons why it’s important to separate any injured or sick chickens from your flock until they recover, or in some cases until you say your goodbyes.

7. Bullying 

Bullying in chickens isn’t too common and is normally limited to just one or two aggressive chickens (or roosters!).

But, even slight bullying behavior should not be overlooked and early intervention is always recommended.

Sometimes the “bully” chicken may simply target one or two others, or sometimes they will show aggressive behaviors toward most of the flock.

It is important to note, however, although bullying may explain why a chicken is getting its bottom pecked, normally it wouldn’t be so specific to this area. 

In any case, it’s important you take action and separate the bully from its victim.

8. Vent Pecking

Vent pecking is a serious and rather dangerous behavior amongst chickens.

Although it’s more common in commercial, caged hens with limited space, vent pecking is an unhealthy formed habit whereby a chicken or chicken(s) will purposely target and peck another chicken’s vent.

This vent-pecking behavior can become so severe that it can actually mutilate and cause permanent harm to the receiving chicken.

If you think one or more of your chickens is experiencing vent pecking it’s essential you separate them, treat your harmed chickens, and look for a permanent solution.

When Does Chickens Pecking Each Other’s Bottoms Become A Problem?

In some cases, chickens pecking each other is nothing to be too concerned about. These are situations where your chooks may actually be grooming each other, or even when establishing the pecking order.

However, a chicken’s pecking becomes a problem when it’s clearly causing injury or stress to the receiving chicken.

Some obvious signs include:

  1. Redness around the vent.
  2. Feather loss around the affected area.
  3. Blood.

If you see any of these signs when you’re inspecting your chickens, you should make every effort to prevent the behavior from reoccurring.

How To Stop Chickens Pecking Each Other’s Bottoms?

Although the exact reasoning behind chickens pecking each other’s bottoms can vary considerably, there is a good framework to follow regardless of the root cause.

To stop chickens from pecking each other’s bottoms, you should:

  1. Separate Any Trouble Makers And Victims
  2. Treat Any Sick Or Injured Chickens
  3. Ensure Your Chooks Have Adequate Space
  4. Try To Determine The Cause
  5. Gradually Reintroduce Your Chickens 

Separate Any Trouble Makers And Victims

As soon as you see any kind of aggressive pecking going on in your flock, the first step is to separate any troublemakers and separate the unlucky victims.

This could be done by placing any injured chickens indoors temporarily (like in the garage) and shutting any aggressive chickens in the coop.

Treat Any Sick Or Injured Chickens

Once you know that you’ve stopped the conflict, you can start your investigations.

A good place to start is by carefully examining any of the victims of the bottom-pecking. But, it’s important to check them for injuries, not just on their bottom-pecked areas, but also for any obvious signs of illness or injury which could be encouraging the other chickens to pick on them.

If you do come across any signs of illness or injury, it’s vital to make an effort to better your chickens, otherwise, it will be harder to prevent future incidents.

Create Adequate Space

Now, although it sounds simple, you should go ahead and reassess your housing environment, making sure it’s big enough to hold your flock.

As a general rule, you should allow 15 square feet of space per chicken for free-ranging layers, or 10 square feet of space for raising broiler chickens

This also means having a large enough coop for your flock (4 square feet of coop space per chicken), as well as enough nesting boxes too (one per 5 chickens, plus one nesting box extra).

Try To Determine The Cause

Now, using our handy definitive list of why chickens peck each other’s bottoms, try to determine what the most likely cause is.

Watch what your chickens are doing before the event, during the bottom pecking incident, and how they react afterward to help you determine what the cause may be.

In all honestly, sometimes it’s quite easy, and sometimes it’s incredibly complex.

No matter what the exact cause is, you can still try some general strategies we’ve mentioned above to try to prevent it from happening again!

Gradually Reintroduce Your Chickens

When you think you’ve found the answer (or even if you haven’t) you’ll need to eventually reintroduce your chickens.

Keep a close eye on the peckers and peckee’s, to see if you’ve effectively squashed the bottom pecking behavior.

If the behavior hasn’t stopped, repeat the steps while you try to find a permanent solution!

You know what they say “At first you don’t succeed, try and try again”.

Tending To Any Injuries

Once you’ve separated any injured chooks and isolated serial bottom-peckers, it’s time to assess the damage and tend to any injuries. 

Luckily, feather loss and redness will normally heal on their own, so long as there are no repeat offenses.

But, if there’s any amount of significant blood, or your chicken seems overly lethargic or is acting strange, it may be best to consult directly with your local veterinarian for the best options.

Quick Recap

No matter how long you’ve owned chickens, chances are they will find a way to surprise you.

One day you think you’ve got yourself a fully functioning and egg-producing flock, the next day you’ve got chickens pecking one another’s bottoms!

Luckily, there are really only a handful of reasons your chooks will be doing it, and after close inspection, it’s often not too difficult to find the cause.

Still, if you see any aggressive pecking behavior it’s always best to address it as soon as possible to prevent injuries and further conflict in the flock!

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