I recently became exposed and acquainted with an ugly side of raising hens-cannabilism. How could my sweet little feathered friends turn into cannibalistic monsters?! Well, this is how, and it is largely my fault.
We went thru a real cold snap for about a week. Temperatures dropped down into the single digits at night. Based on what I had read, in many places, I put an incandescent bulb in the coop just to take the chill off but not get too warm. One morning I noticed that Trudy was missing feathers. I discovered that one of the hens, and I suspected Red Beak, had been pecking at her. I looked into it and this seems to be a common thing usually brought on by boredom which the winter months can certainly do. I rearranged a couple of things in the yard hoping that might break up the monotony a bit. In the meantime, Deac and I had been working on installing a fence to give the girls more roaming room which would also help.
To my horror one Saturday morning I let the hens out and poor Trudy was a bloody mess. Deac jumped online and discovered a timely post regarding cannibalism. He read how to treat the hen, and steps to take. Meanwhile, poor Trudy is being eaten alive as the other hens peck at her. The red blood makes them peck.
Deac made a quick trip to Tractor Supply and I l opened the gates! I let them out of the yard to forage, and distract them from Trudy. When he returned we applied Blue Kote to her wounds and then pine tar to prevent further pecking. We had discovered that another hen was getting pecked as well but fortunately no blood drawn yet. We did the same for her.
I had a meeting that day and was gone most of it. I fretted about my poor Trudy and was ready to bring out the dog crate and put her in it separate from the others. Nearly two weeks later and she is healing nicely. No one is pecking anymore. The expanded yard is now fenced. We put out feed blocks and give them meal worm treats regularly as well.
We learned so much that weekend, but this is was my biggest mistake: I left the light on for too many days in a row. Not only did it make them a little crazy, but once blood was drawn, they were all cooped up in the light and attracted to it. Thank goodness all has ended well. No more light. It really is not needed. They have faired so well in the cold. They have a nice little coop protecting them from wind, rain and cold. Lessons learned for new chicken caregivers. 🙂