When it comes to keeping your chickens healthy and sore free, preventing aggression is a key piece of the equation. One of the biggest causes of sores in chickens is pecking sores. While pecking is a natural part of chicken interaction, aggressive pecking can cause health issues in the form of cuts and sores.
Below, you will find a list of preventative measures that you can take for keeping your chickens healthy and sore free. These tips will not only help your chickens to stay healthy and safe, but they will also help you maintain control of your flock.
How Food and Clean Water Can Divide a Flock
Food has the potential to be one of the most significant sources of competition with your chickens. Instinct drives your hens and roosters to be territorial over food. As such, you must do your best to integrate feed into the daily routine in a way that doesn’t increase animosity or foster competition among your backyard flock.
Many people that raise chickens find great success in feeding their backyard flock at a particular time every day, instead of continually having food out. Having set feeding times prevents your chickens from overeating and will promote good health by keeping obesity in check. Furthermore, having set feeding times prevents one or two chickens from becoming territorial over the food and guarding it.
In addition to having set feeding times, it is also suggested that there are multiple feeders and waterers for your chickens so that one particular food station doesn’t become overcrowded. Having multiple water stations and feeders will ensure that all your chickens have plenty of space to drink and eat. The easier it is for all your chickens to eat, the happier and healthier your chickens will be.
Birds of a Feather Do Better Together
If you are new to raising backyard chickens, you may be tempted to think that having a variety of chickens is better than having several of the same breeds. Chickens, like other animals with breed distinctions, tend to interact better with their own kind.
Unlike dogs or cats, chickens do have a propensity for cannibalism, a threat that increases exponentially as you begin to mix bird breeds. Certain breeds like the Speckled Sussex are incredibly docile, whereas breeds like variations of the American Game Chicken are notoriously aggressive.
If you are going to mix bird breeds, do your research first as different breeds have a propensity for health issues that may put your whole coop at risk. For a healthy and sore free flock, keep it simple and start with one or two breeds.
It should also be noted that particular rooster and hen combinations do not mix well together. Typically roosters are far more aggressive than hens, and if you combine the two, you really need to keep an eye on how they interact.
Play Time is Pivotal
Believe it or not, chickens love backyard playtime! Chickens are social animals, and much of their ability to create positive social bonds comes from a healthy daily dose of social interaction.
While there are social activities that take place inside the roost, the coop tends to be a more rigid social construct. Alternatively, the social interaction that happens in open spaces allows your chickens to test social boundaries and even change the social dynamics of the flock.
Exercise in the form of play and socialization keeps your chickens healthy and in shape. Additionally, the social aspect of playtime will help prevent things like pecking and the resulting sores that accompany it.
The Right Kind of Light
Chickens thrive in natural light. Similar to their need for exercise, natural light and fresh air are a few essential requirements for a chicken’s long term health. Light influences a lot of instinctual behaviors for chickens, especially hens. Mannerisms like roosting, pecking order, and egg laying can all be attributed to the way chickens experience light.
There are indications that chickens who live in fluorescent light settings become more aggressive than those who get natural light. As we know, one of the biggest culprits for sores in chickens are pecking sores due to aggressive behavior. As a result, giving your chickens fresh air and plenty of natural light are critical components for keeping your flock healthy and sore free.
Sores Happen: What to do
If you find that your chicken has developed sores, the first thing to do is determine how and why. Usually, the most common form of sores on a chicken are from aggressive pecking. However, sores can be the result of illness. Some sores can even be symptoms of bumblefoot in chickens. If you are unsure of the cause, consult a medical professional like an avian vet for an expert opinion.
If the sores are minor and appear to be inflicted rather than contracted, a poultry care spray is the best tool to assist recovery. Your chicken is exposed to a plethora of bacteria every day, and keeping the sores clean with an antimicrobial agent is a best practice for fostering healing.
Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine. She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.