Stop Chickens from Pecking Each Other

Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated February 17, 2009)


If you own a farm, likely you have chickens, and there are various issues associated with owning chickens. Some of the responsibilities of owning chickens are feeding them, collecting eggs, and even monitoring the chicken relationships. That may sound silly, but if you have chickens that have issues with bullying or pecking each other, that is something you may want to fix. Fortunately there are ways to deal with your chickens pecking each other, and it just takes a little vinegar!

Vinegar definitely seems to be a universal solution for just about everything from clothes stains to training your dog to not chew the furniture, so it shouldn't be surprising that you can use vinegar to stop your chickens from pecking each other. The taste of the vinegar isn't pleasant and probably works as a deterrent to pecking other birds because the taste could be renewed. However, this technique is kind of a shaky one, because your pecking problem may be more serious. Pecking can be a sign of impending chicken cannibalism.

When birds peck each other, it is often an attempt at dominance, or establishing a social order. If not checked and controlled, the pecking could escalate to serious injuring and damage of your birds. Here are a few techniques you should use in managing your chickens:

  • Crowding birds: the more crowded the birds, the more likely they are to peck each other
  • Feed and water: make sure that there's enough for every chicken to have a decent and fair share of food. Pecking can ensue if there's a competition for food and water
  • Light intensity: keep the lighting relatively low, because bright lights can irritate and aggravate chickens' behavior, increasing pecking
  • House temperature: make sure the temperature inside the bird house is a comfortable one. If you keep the temperature too high, it could aggravate the birds' behavior.
  • Dietary nutrients: make sure that your chickens are getting all the nutrients they needs and in the proper proportions
  • Parasitic control: maintain the health of your chickens and watch out for unwanted parasites. Parasites can increase the irritability of chickens, thus increasing the chance and risk of pecking.
  • Weed out the unhealthy chicks: remove the sick, weak, or discolored chicks from the coop. If there is a noticeably weaker animal, it will be a likely target for abuse.

If these tricks still don't solve the problem, your last result is de-beaking. While a pain, both time-wise and financially, de-beaking could be your only option for this problem. It's easiest to de-beak birds when they are chicks because their beaks are softer.

So, if your chickens pecking each other is a serious problem in your coop, take the necessary measures to stop it and solve the problem. By solving this seemingly small problem, you will have succeeded in solving a slew of other problems.

Author Bio

Doris Donnerman

Doris is a jack of all trades, writing on a variety of topics. Her articles have helped enlighten and entertain thousands over the years. ...


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What is two less than 3?

2020-01-24 17:33:20


Was this article written by a Tyson rep or something? I'm horrified that debeaking is recommended even as a last resort. Especially since pecking is a behavioral issue that has many behavioral solutions, which have already been mentioned in the other comments (usually involving isolating either the bully or the victim, whichever there are fewer of, and reintroducing them later). I don't know ANYONE in the permaculture, backyard chicken-keeping, or humane/small scale farming communities who de-beaks. This is not a practice that was done before the industrialization of farming, and it's one of the main reasons consumers are moving towards backyard flocks and pasture-raised chickens and eggs. Just as battery cages are being phased out due to increasing consumer awareness and ballot initiatives, debeaking will likely be next in line for the wastebin of outdated farming practices.

Do you keep your chickens in battery cages? Are they in a big hoophouse all day long crushed so close together they can barely move? No? Then you probably don't want to mutilate and traumatize your birds when a simple isolation pen for a few days will likely do the trick.

2017-07-19 14:45:44

Stephanie Stewart

I've been raising chickens for 4 years now and have two separate flocks, one is older birds going on four years while the other are not quite a year yet. I have a pure Barred Rock Roo who grows feathers on his feet and his hens bloody his feet in tearing them out - apparently they are not supposed to be there.
The only thing you can use vinegar [apple cider] for is to put a tsp in a 4 L jug of water. This helps to maintain health. It cannot be used for pecking. I've been using Stop Peck to little avail so I know it works only a short time before the hens are pecking his feet again. My hen house is not large enough so aside from their outdoor pen I've been experimenting with different roosting structures and places to explore inside their pen including putting a five gallon bucket in a corner filled with straw. Hubby makes more than one structure and I leave one in for about two weeks and put in a different one to keep there interest. Just today I hung a zucchini and lettuce up from the ceiling suspended by twine so they'd have to jump to reach it. I'm putting a fan in this evening to cool it off during the day. I already have a sand pit inside each pen and will clean it out from all the junk they throw in.
Its not a bad idea to find a recipe for a hard food block or buy one and put that in to help with their natural pecking behavior. I will also get hubby to cut some tree limbs and fit them into the pen for various levels of roosts for the birds. With enough distraction they will forget about Kizzy's feet. Hope this helps.

2016-11-18 10:44:27


What good is this site if no one answers the questions? A lot of people asked about the vinegar? no one told them how to use it. I would like to know too!

2016-10-27 15:32:31

ruby stephenson

do you put the vinager on the chickens

2016-10-19 16:06:45

Noreta Vernon

I have 3 chickens and I chicken has.been pecked and is missing feathers how do I stop this pecking behaviour

2016-09-25 06:45:15


I put the vinegar in a spray bottle. I have chicks that are about a month apart in age. The older chicks want to peck the little ones, so I just spray the little ones with vinegar before I allow them to mingle. It really does work.

2016-09-05 14:40:02

joh griffinq

dont debeak!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2016-08-24 18:08:25

Nalini Rose

how do i use the vinegar on the birds

2016-06-27 00:39:10

Lynette Ryan

Ok, I am other Binegar question.
What do you do with the Vinegar?
In a spray nottle n spray sll the chooks till wet
(B) Put into their drinking water and at what rate.

2016-06-24 22:42:43

Billee\'s Joann

I agree debecking is cruel, I am going to try the vinegar,or oregano and the styrofoam. My brown egg layers are picking on the Easter egg layers and each other it's a free for all.

2016-06-11 23:55:17

Terry Shreeve

How do you apply the Vinegar to the chicken? How to mix also Thanks Terry

2016-06-09 17:27:08

Pam Tyler

We have had 4 Isa Browns for 18 months. Over the last few months 3 Isa's have suffered pecked bare necks. The only Isa that has no pecking or bareness is the one the other 3 Isas chase around the coup/run. Not sure what to do. They lay 4 eggs a day so are not stressed. Need advice..

2016-05-14 20:05:04


hat dI here all this about chickens being to crowed. I have 3 houses 2 are 8 x 20 feet and one 8 x 10 the chickens houses are open every morning by sunup. They run on about 3 acres. They still peck each other, they have plenty feed water and scratch, pecking blocks. Lots of nest,and roost.
Help! P.S. What do you do with the VINEGAR!!

2016-05-05 19:50:59


I wish someone would say what to do with the vinegar. I do know it changes the ph in water so green algae doesn't go crazy, I use it in dog watered but my chickens?

2016-02-12 22:31:50

Kevin thorne

Sometimes they peck when they are bored. Give them an old Styrofoam ice chest to occupy them

2016-02-12 16:47:13


Come on tell us what to do with the vinegar ore don't you know

2016-02-12 09:01:21


Please be explicit on how to use vinegar to stop chicken pecking each other!!

2015-10-09 20:57:20


Put a game hen in with the bully hen/hen's. I bet that'd solve the problem. Give them a taste of their own medicine..

2015-04-20 12:57:42


Didn't see any reply...That have problem one hen peck one hen ....
Is there way use Red sunglasses? Not sure the name.
What about use apron over her empty feather...She Naked.
What this about Vinegar? How to use it?
Thank YOU...

2015-03-19 12:31:26


How do I apply the vinegar on my chicks?

2015-03-16 11:22:39


I am new in thi industry'My checkens a busy removing onther feather'I aske someone he said it shortage of an ano iorn in a body'is that true'the other said I must use a rever sand'the othe one said I must buy somthing called stork column tah*Wich is right*I need your advise please

2015-03-08 17:22:17

Aine savage

I have two chickens and would like to get two more, but I,m afraid of the older ones pecking the new ones. Is there such a hing as hens sunglasses.?

2014-12-17 21:13:42


isolate her before they kill her, let her heal and refeather, use vinegar when reintroducing her to the flock and when you isolate put one of the others that doesn't peck her to become her comrade. Works even better with two others. Then when you reintroduce them into the flock do it at night in the dark. Put them on the roost after the others have roosted for the night. Pay close attention after reintroduction and if there is one or two in particular that are insigators/bullies then isolate them and when they go back into the coop 2-4 weeks later they are on the bottom of the pecking order and won't be the aggressive hens they were. hope this helps

2014-11-08 11:26:22


I was reading about the whole cannibalism thing, and my chickens are getting seriously hurt! The one being bullied is not getting any food due to the other chickens not letting her eat. They peck at her head and rip feathers off of her body all the time. She gets weaker every day and I don't know what to do!

2014-10-19 20:40:35


New comment on older topics. I love to use natural products and what I have found to work on my "Easter Egg" chickens is oregano essential oil mixed with coconut oil and rubbing it on the back of the affected chicken; all the chickens leave it alone because oregano is very powerful and a dab on the end of a toothpick will burn a human mouth something awful, therefore, it works wonders on chickens and will not harm or burn them if rubben on the outside feathers. Also some confusion exists on vinegar and what kind to use. I use organic apple cider vinegar because it's great for many ailments in humans and safe to use. I use about 1 tbl spoon per gal of water with many beneficial results on chickens. We use white vinegar in the medical field to kill bad bacteria/germs on medical equipment and apple cider vinegar works as good. It has been noted elsewhere that styrofoam in the coop helps eliminate pecking, I have used it but it is messy, so your best bet is to use oregano essential oil and coconut or avocado oil as they are thicker in nature.

2014-09-06 20:05:56



2014-08-29 09:55:12


So, I want to use the vinegar, do I spray it on my silkies puff where they are being pecked??


2014-05-24 21:02:57


Debeaking is cruel, look it up. DO NOT DEBEAK YOUR CHICKENS! It's not fair to them, it's cruel and useless. Sure, it might stop pecking, but they will not be able to peck normal things as easily, so it creates MORE STRESS which causes the pecking in the first place! Have some common sense people, how would you like to loose your lips or fingers because you simply were a bully? No, try a different method, people! It is very cruel and like I said, it creates more stress. Thanks for reading, and please take this into consideration and spread the word.

2014-01-15 12:06:27

l bullard

Still have not answered the question on how to use the vinegar on the chickens. In the water, spray it on them or make a paste, Thanks

2013-06-29 21:06:27


I want to try the vinegar but don't no how. What do I do with it. I think its the mail doing it. these r 1/2 grown guineas. all the same size. Please let me no what to do with the vinegar.

2013-04-02 23:10:45


Debeaking is stupid, cruel, and ridiculous. Look it up. Consult a real chicken keeping forum. Sometimes, if there isn't a rooster on the property, one hen will decide that she's the boss. Sometimes this resolves itself and sometimes it doesn't. The bully can be re-homed into a larger flock that has roosters and everyone is much happier. Would you like to lose the tips of your fingers? That's what debeaking is to a chicken. Again...consult real people who are experienced with raising friendly backyard flocks. We aren't factory farmers. We don't do things like they do things.

2012-09-23 03:09:16


Ok I want to try the vinegar idea. Just not sure I put it on the chicken or in the water? If on the bird do you spray it on or use a cloth? I am a first time chicken person and loving having them. They were all purchased together this past spring.

2012-06-18 22:46:52

W. Thompson

All of the above tips are being done. We are trying to combine two flocks. One flock is 4 months, the other is 11 months. One of the older chickens attacks one of younger ones, as soon as we put her in the coop, very visously. What can we do. I don't want to have to get rid of the older chickens.
Thanks, W.T.

2012-02-25 22:46:03


Does the de-beaking require a special tool and/or Profesional person?

2012-02-25 22:43:21


Thanks you. The information you gave me was very helpful.