Cow Muller's Lane Farm Blessing Rooster
Muller's Lane Farm
Home Products Our Homestead Lessons in Homesteading
Introduction Farm Tours The Muller Pick Goat's Milk Soap
Paul's Handyman Service Animals Paul’s Musings &
(stuff I didn't know where else to put)
Custom Furniture

Cannibalism – Causes and Preventions

The Causes

Cannibalism doesn't have to occur if proper management procedures are followed. Just what is cannibalism in poultry? It includes toe pecking, head, wing and tail picking and feather pulling. It is usually impossible to determine any one reason for this problem to occur in birds. Some known conditions that are related to an outbreak include:

  • Insufficient quanity of feeders or waterers
  • Overcrowding.
  • Overexcitement (this could be breed related) or flock nervousness (do you have predators around?)
  • Too much light
  • Lame or injured bird left in flock.
  • Prolapse of another hen
  • Keeping different ages together.
  • Hot temperatures.
  • Cuts or scrapes.
  • Disease.
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • And sometimes, pure meanness.

It is much easier to prevent an outbreak of cannibalism than it is to stop an outbreak. Once established and becomes a habit for a flock, it may be too late to correct it.

Preventing an Outbreak

Outbreaks of cannibalism may occur in the best-managed flocks but the better the management, the less often problems arise. Your first step in preventing cannibalism is to give your flocks the best care possible. Correct possible problem areas before an outbreak occurs. If you must raise your birds totally indoors, be sure they have plenty of space, dimmed lighting and perhaps implement beak trimming. Other methods that have been tried with effectiveness on some flocks include:

  • Applying “anti-Pick” compounds (commercial “anti-pick” or pine tar) to wounded areas.
  • Remove the bird doing the picking
  • Replace white lights with a yellow or red light.
  • Dim the lights to minimize activity.
  • Reduce temperature. This could mean setting up fans or a misting system for older birds or raising the heat lamp in brooded chicks.
  • Put out more feeder and waters.
  • Allow more space per bird.
  • Beak trimming
  • Keep the birds busier
    • Turn the birds outside to scratch for insects
    • Hang or scatter green leafy vegetables or grass clippings for the birds
    • Give special treats like clabbered milk in pans throughout the chicken house or yard

    Beak Trimming

    Although we do not trim the beaks of our birds here at the farm, I understand there may be times that birds that are kept in confinement may have to have their beaks trimmed to prevent cannibalism. Most people reading this web page will have backyard flocks and do not have an electric trimmer which is necessary to make more than a light trim of the mandible (upper beak.) For a light trim, a dog nail clipper or sharp knife may be used. Be sure to cut only into the clear portion that is free of blood supply using a clipper or knife.

    Reduce the stress on the flock before and after trimming. You can accomplish this by:

    • Keeping the birds as cool as possible if trimming during hot weather. Try to do it in early morning or after sundown.
    • Extra vitamin K can be fed or added to the water 4 to 7 days prior to trimming. This minimizes any bleeding problems.
    • For the first 4-7 days after trimming, keep feed at a minimum depth of 2 inches.
    • If you worm or vaccinate your birds, refrain from doing so during the week prior or week after trimming.

    Back to Chicken Care


    Contact Us!

    Visitors since January 1, 2004:

    At Muller's Lane Farm we strive to give you the highest quality products and services.

    Rock Falls IL
    (815) 625-2607

    Home Sweet Home Graphic

    Muller's Lane Farm © 2002-2004.
    All Rights Reserved.
    Web Site Design by Cyndi Muller