How to Stop Chickens From Pecking Each Other in 3 Easy Steps

Nobody wants to encounter a hen pecking in the coop; a few simple changes can block boredom.

Have you ever wondered what goes through a chicken’s mind? Wouldn’t it be helpful if they could say, “My feathers are itchy!” or “I’m bored!”? Though humans and hens don’t speak the same language, simple changes can help backyard flock conversations go smoothly and provide answers to common flock owner questions like, how to stop chickens from pecking each other.

“As backyard flock owners, we are tasked with becoming chicken whisperers,” says Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “Keeping a peaceful flock requires us to interpret behaviors to decipher what our chickens are telling us.”

A week-by-week guide to a happy, healthy flock!

Our friends from Purina® wrote this free guide to help you enjoy your first year with chickens.  YES! I want this Free Report »

During fall and winter when chickens are spending more time in the coop, boredom can bring out changes in behavior, such as pecking.


“Chickens are naturally inquisitive, but they don’t have arms and hands to inspect things. They use their beaks to explore instead,” says Biggs. “Pecking is a natural chicken behavior that allows them to check out their surroundings, including their flock mates.”

Though hen pecking is a natural occurrence, the nature of this behavior can change when birds spend more time inside.

“Understanding the difference between curious and aggressive hen pecking is key to knowing when there is a problem,” Biggs continues. “Not all pecking is bad. When it is gentle, this behavior is fun to watch. If pecking becomes aggressive, it can be problematic to other birds in the flock.”

How to Stop Chickens From Pecking Each Other

1. Investigate the reason for hen pecking.

If the hen pecking behavior becomes aggressive, Biggs’ first tip is to determine if something is causing birds to act out.

“Start with a list of questions about the environment: Are the hens too crowded? Do they ever run out of chicken feed or water? Are they too hot or cold? Is there a predator in the area? Is there something outside of the coop that is causing them to be stressed?” he asks.

After the stressor has been identified, the next step is easy: remove the problem and the behavior may go away or diminish.

“To maintain this newfound peace, make sure your birds have a minimum of 4 square feet indoors and 10 square feet outdoors per bird. Adequate feeder and waterer space is also critical,” adds Biggs.

If a new hen is added to the flock, there may be a period of uneasiness.

“Remember, there will always be some dominance in the flock as part of the pecking order,” Biggs says. “There are typically one or two boss hens who rule the roost. Once the pecking order is determined, the birds usually live together peacefully.”

A week-by-week guide to a happy, healthy flock!

Our friends from Purina® wrote this free guide to help you enjoy your first year with chickens.  YES! I want this Free Report »

2. Chickens take baths, too.


The next step to prevent feather picking is to keep birds clean. Chickens take a different type of bath then you might expect. They often dig a shallow hole, loosen up all the dirt and then cover themselves in it.

“This process is called a dust bath,” Biggs says. “Dust bathing is an instinct that helps keep birds clean. On our farm, we make dust baths for our hens by following these three steps: 1. Find a container at least 12” deep, 15” wide and 24” long; 2. Combine an equal blend of sand, wood ash, and natural soil; 3. Watch your birds roll around in the bath and clean themselves.”

Dust baths can also prevent external parasites such as mites and lice. If external parasites are an issue, supplement your birds’ dust bath with a cup or two of food-grade diatomaceous earth.

“If you add diatomaceous earth, be sure to mix it in well,” explains Biggs. “Diatomaceous earth can be harmful if inhaled in large amounts. By mixing the diatomaceous earth into the dust bath, it has less probability to become airborne while still helping prevent external parasites.”

3. Offer an alternative place for birds to peck.

Next, provide birds something to keep their minds busy. Perhaps the most fun of Biggs’ three tips is to find toys for chickens that bring out their natural instincts.

“Interactive objects can make the chicken coop more complex and exciting,” he says. “Logs, sturdy branches or chicken swings are a few flock favorites. These toys provide unique retreats for hens who may be lower in the pecking order.”

Another flock boredom-buster is a block for hens to peck, like the Purina® Flock Block™. You can simply place this block in the coop for hens to peck. The block can be a fun experience for hens and prevent flock boredom when they are spending more time in the coop.


“The Purina® Flock Block™ encourages natural pecking instincts,” says Biggs. “It also contains whole grains, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and oyster shell to provide nutrients that contribute to the hen’s well-being.”

To learn more about the Purina® Flock Block™ and backyard chicken nutrition, visit or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.

Purina Animal Nutrition LLC ( is a national organization serving producers, animal owners, and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven to unlock the greatest potential in every animal, the company is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is headquartered in Shoreview, Minn. and a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

  • Chickens need all you say plus calcium. Ground up oysterShell is good. They also need light. And any bloodied chickens need to be isolated or it will be pecked to death.

  • I have ten hens and one rooster. The hens are picking feathers from one another and eating them. I am feeding them Purina Layena with Omega 3 and keeping plenty of water. I have read you can use Hot Pic Spray, No pic Lotion, or Vicks Salve. I have tired all three. How often must this be applied to be effective? Would your recommend your flock block? Their coop area is approximately 4X12 and I have three nests which does not seem to be a problem. Their run is 12X20′

    • Friend O.

      Try taking plastic cola bottles, heat up a nail a little larger then their scratch or crumbs, burn holes in the bottles, Fill the bottle with feed, put the cap on tight. the chickens will roll the bottles around, and the food will dispense through the holes, the chickens will stay busy eating the food. This helps keep them busy, and they might stop eating the feathers.

  • Hi I was going to ask a question I have a hen that always wants to peck at all 5 other chickens these chickens are younger than her. She has a sister that has no pecking on her it’s just those 2 that don’t. They have said opted pecking but I am worried about the feathers growing back they have a few spikes on them but will they grow back like normal?

    • hi, I had a problem with one hen pecking one of my ex batts who couldn’t grow feathers because they were pecked out. I tried sprays, no use but bought stockholm tar – rather like nasty tasting treacle. painted it on my bex batts’ sore tiny feathers and lo! the pecker got covered in stockholm tar – job done! Applied it about three times over a week…no probs. I know have wonderfully feathered freinds and no pecking

    • I have 10 hens… fly pen 12×12 x8 metal roof… inside new insolated coop with plenty if roosting area 4 nesting boxes,3 windows auto door that opens and closes. We have had our girls since Nov 2016.Nener has a preitour tried or gotten in to fly pen or coop .We have music playing 10 hrs a day Dirt bath so that 3-4 girls at a time can be in it. Different roosting areas for them in fly pen area logs to perch on, chicken swing and a menerial block for them to peck at… 7 gallon of fresh water for them and two feeders for them to eat from every two days they will get a head of cabbage to eat or pumpkin or squash . The inside and fly pen area is cleaned every 2 days I have a sand and gravel mix in the out outside fly pen appox. 6incheds deep. We have 3 hens that have no feathers on their butts and back area. PLEASE HELP we do everything and more to keep them from doing this .

  • Several of my chickens are pecking and drawing blood from one of my pot bellied pigs. I have watched these chickens peck my pig and keep pecking even pecking out skin from the holes they peck at. My pig is covered with bloody holes. I have 3 acres. The chickens are feed daily and are free range. Chickens and my pigs have lived together for 4 years and no problems until now. My pigs are given meds for mites, etc. What can I do to keep the chickens from pecking my 10 year old pot belly? They don’t peck the younger pig.

  • I have 9 hens..all of a sudden 8 of them have begun picking on the same hen.They even chase her down and peck on her..Any idea why this would of just started…She is molting.but then again so are two others ,..thanks for any help

  • As for hens pecking each other we use what is called painless peepers on the trouble makers and they work awesome. We also keep a flock block in the yard to keep them from getting bored.

  • Hi, I rescued an old Battery caged Isa Brown who stopped laying. Shes living in our backyard *suburbs* with our old Cochin who is double her size. Shes taken over as BOSS. They are now best friends, but instead of pecking the Cochins comb, she now constantly pecks at her beak, and you see her tongue going in and out like shes trying to eat something from her beak..but there isn’t anything. Its not aggressive like before when she pecked her comb.. its almost like an friendship thing. Ive never seen this behaviour before from chickens. They go everywhere together, love each other, and cry when either is out of sight.. its only been about 8days since they were introduced.Any idea what the constant running up and gently pecking at the others beak?

  • Anna M.

    Thanks for not recommending clipping the beak. We’ve come a long way baby!

  • I have 4 hens nearly 12 months old. Their run is about 10 metres x 4 metres with a swing , perches, mirror and a dust bath. they have plenty of food and water and regular treats.Every afternoon they are let out into the garden to have some grass. Even though they are very spoilt I have one hen that is persistently feather pecking, they are all featherless around their bottoms and just above their tails, they look terrible. I have bought anti feather pecking spray, hasn’t worked, now we have painted stockholm tar over the bare areas but Margot the speckled hen wont leave the others alone and pulls out a feather every time she walks past them. I just don’t know what to do !!!


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