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Will Chickens Kill and Eat Each Other?

Rowan Burgess |

Ideally, raising hens is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. More and more non-farmers bring home their very own flock in expectation of fresh eggs and a rewarding adventure.

However, all too often, the dark side of poultry farming rears its ugly head in the form of tragedy within the coop.

Even experienced farmers often deal with killer chickens. If you notice blood in your coop and injured birds, don’t lose all hope.

There are several solutions to keep the peace on your farm and save a few poultry lives.

At Dalton Engineering, we know chickens, and we have the tools to help you maintain a safe and prosperous farm. Read on to find out why these birds fight and how you can cultivate order.

Will Chickens Kill and Eat Each Other?

While a pecking order is simply a metaphor in your office culture, it is all too literal when it comes to chickens.

Chickens harshly peck at each other to establish their social hierarchy. The strongest and most resilient birds come out on top, and the weaklings are left to starve as cast-out pariahs.

Roosters are a tricky business. If you are going to have one — keep it to only one. They are known to be aggressive around other male competition and aren't afraid to show it. But hens are not exempt from eating one another either.

Unfortunately, evolution has instilled a lust for blood in these birds, and when the flock gets even a tiny whiff of blood, they enter a frenzy. An accident that breaks a blood feather can be enough to set off the chickens, and the hens will pluck away at an injured bird until she is featherless and dead.

Do Chickens Know When Another Chicken Died?

Yes, chickens can tell when one of their fellow kind has passed away. Often hens peck with intent to kill and only stop once they are satisfied that their victim is motionless and dead.

The pecking order is so established that when one hen is removed, it will take a while for the flock to sort itself out again. There is even a risk of more pecking as the hens must again decide who is in charge and who has been pushed aside after losing a key link in the social order.

This only applies to hens though, roosters do not generally show any reaction at the sight of a dead bird.

Do Chickens Grieve The Dead?

It is a great irony that studies have proven hens are capable of displaying empathy for fallen comrades. Despite taking part in a vicious attack, after the bloodlust has cleared, they mourn the loss of the very creature they destroyed.

There are reports of hens squawking in pain at the loss of a loved one. Hens often pair bond in non-mating same-sex relationships, and losing half the pair is a difficult transition for a social hen.

How To Prevent Chickens From Killing and Eating Each Other?

Boredom is a common culprit of spats between hens. In the long Winter months, lack of free-range access, lack of fresh grass, and tight quarters in the coop can lead to naughty behavior. Trauma also is a cause of fighting among your hens. The stress of losing members of the flock leads to more aggression.

But with proper care and management, you can lower the chances of intra-poultry homicides.

Use Effective Products From Dalton Engineering

With over 30 years in the poultry business, Dalton has designed sprays that quell bad attitudes in hens and roosters.

  • The Poultry Wound Spray contains an instant anti-bacterial formula designed to heal minor external wounds. Use this spray at the first signs of blood to promote fast healing. Protect your birds by keeping them healthy. An infected wound will mark a hen as weak and lead to more bullying.
  • To stop pecking before it starts, hit the flock with our Anti Cannibalism Spray. This product has a strong odor which neutralizes the birds' scent and prevents the animals from attacking each other due to an excited state. The Anti Cannibalism spray also works well with feisty pigs who need to be calmed down.

Give the Birds Room to Roam

Hens need enough room to live happily. The rule of thumb for space is about 1 square meter per bird inside the coop and 3 square meters per bird in the outside run. If you lack room outside for free-range grazing, add some affordable chicken wire to expand the space exponentially.

Feed a Proper Diet

A high protein and low-fat diet is the best way to keep your girls healthy and strong. This is especially important when they are confined to the coop, and you have to feed them for every meal. In the Summer, a healthy diet usually comes from free-ranging grasses and protein-rich insects.

A healthy bird is a happy bird. When you look after the well-being of your feathered throng, they will take the violence down a few notches.

Lock the Bad Birds Up

…but just until they learn a lesson. Spending time segregated from the others for a few days usually reforms a misbehaving hen. Monitor her reintroduction to the group and keep an eye on known aggressors while she re-acclimates.

However, this method does not work on angry roosters, as a cock's fury cannot be quelled so easily.


Chickens are not all fun and games. There will always be a risk of assaults and bullying in their midst, but with proper techniques, you can stay one step ahead and keep decorum in the coop.

Dalton Engineering carries everything you need to raise poultry, from chick paper to manual feeding to our ever-popular sprays. You can trust us to have the high-quality equipment you need to raise your poultry efficiently.

Do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or order inquiries. Find us by email at or by phone at 01845 578325.