Picking versus Pecking


Chicks will sometimes develop the nasty habit of picking at each other.  Picking is entirely different than peck-order fighting but pecking order fights can sometimes lead to bloody injuries which, in turn, can lead to picking and cannibalism.

There are two common forms of cannibalism in chicks, these are toe picking and feather picking.

Toe picking usually starts among hatchlings that are just beginning to peck.  Once they get the hang of it, they eagerly look around for things on the ground to peck at.  A common trigger for toe picking is running out of feed to peck at or not having enough feeder space.

Feather picking usually starts when chicks start feathering out.  The newly forming pin feathers contain a supply of blood to nourish the growing feather.  in using its beak to groom its feathers, a bird may accidentally pull out of of these tender feathers.  These new feathers are very interesting looking to the chicks and they will often peck at them to investigate.  When a pinfeather is pulled out it will spurt a small amount of blood, which attracts more attention and more picking.

Picking Triggers

  • Crowding
  • Excessive Heat
  • Bright light
  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Empty feeder
  • Too few feeders and drinkers
  • Feed and water stations to close together
  • Diet too low in protein
  • Brooding on wooden slats or wire mesh