Causes Of Cannibalism in Poultry, Signs and Solutions

Causes Of Cannibalism in Poultry, Signs, and Solutions

Cannibalism in poultry is one of the issues that poultry keepers face on a regular basis. If this problem is not addressed quickly, it can result in significant productive and economic losses, as one of the main consequences is bird mortality. Continue reading if you want to learn more about cannibalism in poultry, particularly laying hens.


The natural tendency of poultry birds, particularly chickens, is to peck at almost everything they see. It is unfortunate, however, that they also peck at each other. In fact, they could continue doing so until blood comes out.

Cannibalism is abnormal behavior in poultry that involves a chicken pecking at the skin or completely removing the feathers of other birds. After other birds have begun laying eggs, they may peck at their cloaca. This behavior is commonly associated with hormonal changes in the animal.

The pecking of the cloaca and skin in various parts of the bird’s body causes blood loss, visceral protrusion, and even death. When pecking is observed in a flock, it is critical to take action.

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Signs Of Cannibalism in Poultry

When pecking has begun, you will notice continuous picking of toes in chicks; in growing birds, you will notice chickens pecking at maturing feathers; and in older birds, you will notice vent or head pecking. It is difficult to distinguish between random pecking and cannibalism-inducing pecking.

This is why you should pay more and closer attention to all of your birds. Normal flock behavior entails establishing a pecking order. You might wonder if the pecking habit can spread. Yes, the answer is YES. Pecking is a harmful behavior that can spread quickly in a flock. It usually begins innocently in all types of chickens and quickly escalates into a more serious event if not treated promptly.

Various Causes of Cannibalism in Poultry

There are different factors that influence birds to develop cannibalistic behavior which is as follows


Food and water shortage

If the chickens do not have enough food and water, they will have to compete for scarce resources, which will lead to pecking among them. Furthermore, if the birds are always hungry, they will seek ways to satisfy their nutritional needs, leading to an increase in cannibalism.

Causes Of Cannibalism in Poultry, Signs and Solutions
Poultry Chickens practice cannibalism by eating each other


Large breeds of chickens should be allowed:

  • 1/4 sq. ft./bird for first 2 weeks
  • 3/4 sq. ft./bird for 3-8 weeks
  • 1.5 sq. ft./bird from 8 to 16 weeks of age
  • 2 sq. ft./bird from 16 weeks on

Bantam chickens require half the space as large chickens.

With game birds, double the above recommendations. With pheasants, allow 25 to 30 sq. ft./bird after 12 weeks of age or use pick prevention devices like plastic peepers or blinders.

Imbalanced diet

Birds become aggressive and hyperactive as a result of a high energy supply and a lack of fiber. Furthermore, a lack of proteins and other nutrients such as methionine and salt causes chickens to crave feathers and blood.

Excessive heat

Chickens become extremely cannibalistic when exposed to excessive heat or very high temperatures. This is because the extremely high temperature makes the birds irritable and annoying.

Excess Light

Long periods of light or extremely bright lighting cause chickens to become hostile to one another, resulting in cannibalism.

Birds Infected with Parasites

External and internal parasites can both stimulate chickens to peck and injure their skin, resulting in a cannibalism frenzy. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with some of the most effective deworming products for chickens on the market.

Keeping Both Healthy and Sick Birds in the Same Pen

Healthy chickens frequently peck at sick birds, either out of curiosity or as a survival instinct, which leads to cannibalism.

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Solutions To Cannibalism in Poultry

Provide enough feed and water

Make sure that all your chickens have access to enough feed and water always so that they are completely satisfied and do not have to resort to pecking.

Provide a balanced diet

A diet that covers the nutritional requirements of the birds will prevent them from becoming cannibals. Be sure to provide your birds with a well-balanced diet for each stage of their development.

Provide greens

We recommend that you supply your birds with a good amount of green, clover, or any other herb, as these foods are rich in fiber and make the chickens’ crop keep full and satisfied.

Salt solution

A lack of sulphur and salt in bird feeds may cause flock pecking by increasing the birds’ appetite for blood (blood contains salt and sulphur). One tablespoon of salt should be added to one liter of water, and the solution should be consumed as the only drink for half a day. The water is then replaced with regular drinking water. If this does not stop the cannibalism within a day or two, it is repeated after a three-day period. If the problem is caused by a lack of salt, it will remedy the situation.

The right temperature

Make sure the area where your birds live is cool so that they are comfortable and do not become stressed. Maintain a temperature of 35°C for the chicks for the first week, then reduce it to 2.7°C per week until the temperature reaches 21°C.

Maintain adequate light intensity

Avoid using white light bulbs over 40 watts during chick growth. If you require powerful light bulbs to provide heat, use infrared lamps. For birds 12 weeks of age and older, we recommend 15 or 25-watt lamps in the drinking and feeding areas. Avoid lighting the environment for more than 16 hours a day.

Deworm the birds

Try to regularly medicate your birds against parasites, since as we have mentioned, parasitized birds usually resort to cannibalism.

Remove sick or injured birds from the house

If you notice any of your chickens are mutilated or injured, it is best to separate them from the other healthy birds to prevent others from pecking at them. Similarly, if you notice that some of your chickens have developed pecking behavior, you should separate them from the rest of the flock, as chickens have a natural tendency to imitate their surroundings. So, if one of the birds starts pecking, others will follow suit, and cannibalism will spread quickly among them.

Debeak the birds

This is very simple but could be laborious. Beak trimming or clipping could be the solution for a large flock) while for small flocks, preventive measures are recommended.