Farm Flock/Wildlife

Aggressive pecking in backyard flocks

Aggressive pecking is a real problem for the backyard flock owner. While it is perfectly normal for birds to establish a hierarchy of dominance — or a “pecking order” — by pecking one another, it is not normal or healthy for birds to actually wound or even kill one another this way.

What is aggressive pecking?

In a nutshell, any pecking that extends beyond the normal establishment of hierarchy is considered aggressive. This often starts as feather pulling, especially in young birds. If this proceeds to the point of causing injury and blood is drawn, other birds will be attracted to the red color and could potentially kill the wounded bird. Unfortunately, this aberrant behavior is a learned vice, so it has the potential to spread throughout the flock.

What causes aggressive pecking?

The pecking behavior of backyard poultry species is highly evolved. Their keen eyesight and depth perception helps them scratch and search out insects, plant materials and even small animals. In their natural settings, birds devote a great deal of time to this investigative, hunting behavior. It has been suggested that aggressive pecking is caused by boredom or the stress of having only a limited means of scratching and foraging for food. Others posit that the general stress of overcrowding, bright lights, high temperatures, poor ventilation, parasites and other factors are the reasons why birds turn on one another. A third proposed cause of aggression is dietary deficiency — particularly a deficiency in protein.

How can aggressive pecking be prevented?

Because this behavior is learned, it is very difficult to eradicate once it has been established in a flock. For this reason, implementing preventative measures is often the best option.  

  • Good husbandry is key to prevention. Provide adequate space, ventilation, and roosting and nesting sites to minimize the stress your birds experience. A wealth of information about proper bird husbandry can be found across the internet.
  • Remove any sick or injured birds from the flock and isolate them until they have recovered, thereby minimizing the opportunities for other birds to turn on them.
  • Genetically select for more docile breeds or more docile birds within your own flock to help curb the likelihood that aggressive pecking behaviors will manifest.
  • Provide adequate nutrition through a balanced diet, and make sure each bird has equal access to feed.
  • Provide mental stimulation for the birds.

The SWEETLIX® Farm Flock Supplement Block can help prevent aggressive pecking by providing nutritional supplementation in the form of a block that birds must peck, giving them a form of mental and physical stimulation that can keep them from getting bored. The SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block offers protein, energy, minerals and vitamins that will help bridge any gaps in the birds’ diet. Additionally, this supplement block is full of whole grains that are visually interesting to birds. Focusing on pecking individual grains stimulates the birds’ brains and engages their scavenging instincts. In simple terms, happy birds mean a decrease in destructive pecking.

In summary, prevention of aggressive pecking is important for the backyard flock. Good husbandry, management and nutrition are all critical. The SWEETLIX Farm Flock Supplement Block is an excellent all-purpose supplement for any type of poultry or fowl and can help alleviate aggressive pecking in your flock.

Ask for SWEETLIX supplements at your local SWEETLIX dealer or call 1-87-SWEETLIX to speak with one of our nutritionists.