Why Do Chickens Peck Each Other’s Feathers?


One day you may walk out to your chicken coop to find your chickens plucking feathers out of each other. This seemingly unusual behavior can be disturbing to the attentive homesteader: you might find one of your chickens with a completely naked neck or large patch of feathers missing from the vent area. Patches of unfeathered areas on your chickens is a signal that something is wrong. If your chickens are plucking each other’s feathers, or their own feathers, there are a few likely explanations for this behavior.

Reason 1: Inadequate Space or Overcrowding
Chickens need space to roam and peck at things. If your chicken coop is too crowded or you don’t allow your chickens to roam around outside of the coop, they may pluck at each other’s feathers. When chickens have adequate space and are allowed to roam freely, they will feel content and will have the freedom to peck at their own accord. When these conditions are not met, your chickens will become stressed or bored, and they will start engaging in destructive behaviors.

If you cannot give your chickens more living space or let them roam freely for a good portion of the day, provide them with some sort of stimulation inside their coop. One good way for chickens to satisfy their urge to peck is to hang a cabbage from the roof of their coop and allow them to bat it around with their beaks. You can also accomplish the same thing by placing a broccoli or cauliflower crown in a suet container and hang it from the coop roof.

Reason 2: Mites, Fleas, or Lice
Infestations of mites, fleas, or lice on a chicken’s body can cause it to pluck its own feathers out. Mites, fleas, and lice are parasites that feed off of the blood of other animals. When chickens are irritated by these parasites, they will often peck at their own feathers. If left undetected, mites, fleas, and lice can multiply extremely quickly, causing an infestation in your coop.

To control these parasites, make sure that you are allowing your chickens to dust bathe regularly, as this is their natural way of fighting parasites. Isolate and treat any infected chickens with a malathion bath, Adams spray, or Sevin dust. If your entire coop is infected, you may need to do a thorough cleaning of the coop, and treat the wood with an animal-safe disinfectant and a coat of kerosene, change the litter.

Reason 3: Lack of Protein
If your chickens are plucking at one another’s feathers, the cause may be a lack of dietary protein. By plucking and eating each other’s feathers, they are trying to get a small amount of protein-rich blood from the other chicken.

When raising backyard chickens, its important to remember that chickens are indeed omnivores, not vegetarians, and they do require some animal protein as part of their balanced diet. Although some chickens are vegetarian-fed, they will usually obtain protein by finding grubs, mealworms, and other bugs to eat. If your chickens are not eating bugs and are on a vegetarian diet, supplement their feed with some cooked eggs, a small amount of fishmeal, or hamburger meat.

Finally, if you’ve addressed all of the above causes and your chickens are still pecking at each other, you can try adding white vinegar or salt to their water for part of the day. Although a seemingly random remedy, this just might get your chickens to calm down!


There are many tips and tricks to raising happy chickens, but nothing makes sense unless you have a properly built chicken coop. Get a safe, comfortable coop for your birds and you'll have yummy fresh eggs every morning. Make a critical mistake or two and your whole chicken operation will turn into a disaster. Learn what these critical coop mistakes are and how to avoid them. Download my FREE report right now - Go here: http://www.mysnazzychickencoop.com/free-report/

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12 comments to Why Do Chickens Peck Each Other’s Feathers?

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  • Jennifer Moorhouse

    Thank you for the information about dealing with chickens pecking each other. We’re raising our second batch of chickens and the first batch didn’t peck until one was attacked by a cat and I put her back with the others too soon in her healing process. She is still separate because I’m afraid she’ll get pecked again in an area that was too injured to regrow feathers. Three of my newest pullets have been pecked since they’ve been molting. They’re my three smallest, possibly bantams. They’re separated until they heal, and then I may house them together separate from the others. I’ve taken some notes and am adding some of your suggestions to entertain them and give them extra protein to my shopping list.
    Thank you again from this slightly freaked-out chicken owner.

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