Back when we first got the chickens, there was some butt pecking going on in the flock. I now suspect that it was just that the babies needed some more space, but not having any experience with chickens, I freaked out a little. I was worried it was going to be a fight to the death or something, and that would not do. I ended up searching the internet high and low for “butt pecking” and after much reading, expanded the size of the box that they were in, and things got o.k. again. That problem was solved, but a new one arose. I noticed that after that, any time I did an internet search that began with the letter B, “butt pecking” popped up as a suggestion. In most instances, this wasn’t a big deal. However, as the tech support guy at work, people often come to me with questions, and sometimes the thing to do is look up the answer right then and there. So there was the risk that someone would come to me with a problem that started with B, and then, as they looked over my shoulder as I searched, they’d see I’d been looking for butt pecking. Eventually, I stopped worrying about it. “Maybe this is a good way to get people to stop coming to me with their problems,” I thought.
Butt pecking is back in my search history again lately. They’re not chicks anymore, but butts are getting pecked anew. It started with Henny Penny. One night I noticed her butt was featherless, and I panicked, thinking she might be egg bound. However, she’s reliably laying eggs, and pooping up a storm, so I don’t think it’s that. It happened at the end of the winter, so my thinking now is that the other birds may have been eating her feathers for protein. I’ve read that this happens. I put some Blu-Kote on her butt just to make sure nothing got infected, and she seems to be o.k. otherwise.
Then the other day I noticed that Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt looked a little worse for the wear. Sure enough, her butt was getting pecked too. And hers looked even worse than Henny Penny’s. She had lost fewer feathers, but had a couple of open cuts. I Blu-Koted everything right away, and then did Henny Penny’s area again for good measure. Henny Penny’s feathers do look like they’re starting to grow back, but her skin seemed a little red. That may have been because I was holding her upside down and she was freaking out, but I decided to look it up anyway. There is a pretty epic thread on one of the chicken forums I read about red, featherless butts that are also squishy. The squishiness of her butt was what made me think it might be a stuck egg. The thread speculates a lot, but there seem to be no real answers, or at least consistent ones. I’m not sure regular butts aren’t also this squishy, and you just don’t notice because of the feathers. And since Suzy Creamcheese Junior is also getting pecked, it makes me think it’s more of a pecking situation going on, rather than anything else. The chickens may be getting bored, and butts are an easy target. I put a cabbage in there today to give them something to occupy themselves with that wasn’t a butt. I’m also going to throw some diatomaceous earth in the coop to rule out parasites. This seems to be one of those issues that can be caused by a whole range of different things.
There’s also the chance that I’m looking at two entirely different problems. The squishy butt problem could be egg peritonitis, which is what killed the original Suzy Creamcheese. But other people with chickens with red, featherless butts have said their chickens get it and just soldier on for years. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt problems could be a result of a pecking order situation. There are really no clear answers. I’ll be monitoring the situations and applying antiseptic creams, salves, and unguents as needs dictate. And in the meantime, should I find time at work to search for more butt pecking advice, maybe I’ll consider clearing my search history. Though, if butt pecking is the worst thing you have in there, you’re doing pretty good, as long as you’re still talking about chickens.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: 1909 – Mlle. Modiste (Mademoiselle Modesty) Selection by Victor Herbert Orchestra)