I remember the very first time we got baby chicks. The excitement was off the charts! We were going to have this perfect little flock. Then reality set in. We had one little Barred Rock who just wouldn’t quit bullying the other chicks. At this point, I was not only mortified by her eye pecks, I was wondering if I was doing something wrong to have her exhibit this behavior. After some research, and now a lot of experience, this is what I’ve found.
When dealing with an aggressive chick, it’s important to rule out any environmental factors that may be encouraging this bad behavior. A brooder that is too warm, too cool, too bright, or too crowded can be a problem. So, take special care when calculating the size of brooder you’ll need along with the other necessary needs such as lighting and a heat source. I like to use a red light bulb as opposed to a white bulb. It seems to cut down on the pecking. Remember, chickens can’t see in the dark, so chicks absolutely need light 24/7 to find their food and water. If your brooder is too crowded that will obviously play a role in bad behavior. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 2 sq.ft. of space per chick in your brooder. They won’t use this entire space right away, but as they grow they’ll be so much happier!
Chicks are curious little rascals and that doesn’t change as they grow. I always like to put little toys, shiny objects, and even a small roost in their brooder. I switch the little toys out often to protect from boredom as well. Sometimes it’s a small cat toy and other times it’s a small twig from the yard. It’s never expensive and keeps them occupied for hours. One time, I even bought a bird play yard and the little babies went nuts over this. They had so much fun climbing around and had plenty to do to keep them busy. Because of this, my husband and daughter built me a chicken playset for my big girls. They enjoy hours of play on this easy-to-build set.
Now, there may be times that you’d need to separate an injured chick or even the bully chick for a bit. The best thing to do is to keep it in the brooder with the others if possible, but have it protected from the rest by using some sort of barricade. If this isn’t possible, you will have to have 2 brooders running. I’ve never had to do this, but once an injured chick is hurt, you have to take special care that the chicks don’t continually peck at it. They will get a taste for blood and have no problem trying to taste more. Yikes!
If these ideas don’t work, you can spend some time with the chicks. With Buck (our sassy Barred Rock), I sat and watched the chicks interact. When she’d go after the other chicks, I’d gently tap her back and move her away from the other chick. She eventually caught on that what she was doing wasn’t cool. Buck (weird name I know…you can thank my husband!) is now an adult chicken. She’s still sassy and doesn’t want me to hold her, but she’s definitely not at the top of the pecking order. However, she gets along with almost everyone in the flock and simply tolerates me. Chickens have so much personality! They are so much like us. With a little coaxing and care, your chicks will be just fine.