Aggressive Chickens: Will Chickens Kill Each Other?

Chickens can be aggressive, but will they kill each other? Can you prevent it? I have been raising chickens for over a year now and I currently have a flock of 170 chickens on my micro farm. As a concerned chicken parent, this is what I have observed when it comes to aggressiveness in chickens.

Chickens will kill other chickens. This almost always happens when one of two scenarios apply. The first scenario is the chickens aren’t getting enough food. This will cause the chickens to be food aggressive and increase the number of fights between hens. These fights can be fatal for one or both hens involved. In this scenario, the other hens will eat the body of the murdered hen. The second scenario is when you introduce new chickens into the flock. Chickens don’t like change. They will not recognize newcomers as friends. Any new chicken you introduce will be pecked at and possibly killed. A chicken with an open wound will draw other chickens to it. Chickens are excited by the scent of blood and will continue to peck at the open wound. The other chickens will eventually kill the wounded one.

Chickens Kill Each Other Over Food

If your chickens aren’t getting enough food, the solution is to start feeding them more. Sometimes, in an effort to be self reliant you try an feed your chickens off the land you have. However, depending on the amount of land you have, the plant life, and the number of chickens your trying to feed, you may not have enough recourses on your land to satisfy your chickens. An easy way to fix this without buying feed is to use food scrap as feed. Food scrap is the food waste that you accumulate throughout the day. This can be strawberry tops, eggshells, apple cores, wilted lettuce, etc. The only food you should not give to your chickens is moldy rotten food. At least not directly.

There is a way to use these foods as feed for your chickens indirectly. This means feeding moldy, rotten veggies, cheeses, meat, etc. to something lower on the food chain than chickens. I’ve talked about Black Solider flies before on this blog in my post: What To Do With Spent Hens: How To Repurpose Them. Black Solider flies have made my life so much easier. Food that has gone bad won’t make them sick (unlike with chickens). The larvae will eat just about anything. They eat until they are ready to turn into a full grown Black Solider fly. You harvest them right before this happens so you get them when they are at the largest point in their larval state. Then you can feed them to your chickens! Food no longer goes to waste in my family’s house. It all turns back into food for my family and I.

Another option is to grow your own feed. Prolific plants like comfrey and Jerusalem artichoke are fantastic plants to grow for chicken feed. Both of those plants have the added benefit of being easy to grow as well. Some people grow cover crop for their chickens. I did this once and really liked it. My chickens enjoyed it immensely and it took a while for them to get through all of it.

Chickens Kill Newcomers To The Flock

As discussed above, chickens don’t enjoy change. When other chickens they don’t recognize as a part of their flock are introduced, it can be fatal for the newcomers. There are precautions you can take to make this less likely to happen. If you need to introduce new chickens into your flock, you will want to take a slow approach. You can put the new birds into a large, see through cage/enclosure the first time they are introduced to one another. This gets your flock used to seeing new chickens.

When you fully integrate them into the flock, You need them to have ample room, food, and water. This will lead to less stress and pressure for your birds. You could distract them from this change (introducing new chickens) with more change (changing their surroundings). Some people find that putting both the birds in a new place together with lots of distractions will prevent the flock from hyper focusing on the new additions (and therefore less likely to be super aggressive). The Happy Chicken Coop has a really good post on How to Introduce New Chickens to Your Existing Flock.

No matter how you introduce your chickens to new blood, there will be some pecking. Any addition to the flock upsets the pecking order. It will have to be re-established. The way chickens do this involves some pecking and aggression, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. The personality and breed of your chickens will also come into play. More aggressive and territorial breeds and personalities will have a harder time adjusting.

Remember to isolate any chicken with an open wound. Chickens are drawn to fresh blood. They will continue to peck at the wound and worsen it. Put it back into a see through cage until it heals. You can try re-integrating the chicken after it’s healed.


Chickens are capable of killing each other, but they rarely kill each other without reason. Food aggression and territorial concerns are the main reasons chickens kill each other. A certain amount of fighting and aggression is normal. Hens squabble all the time. Often your rooster will break these fights up. If you don’t have a rooster the alpha hen will help mediate in his place.

If you check on your chickens at the end of the day and find that there are fewer chickens than before but no body, you are likely dealing with a predator. When a chicken kills another chicken, they will leave a body. They might eat some feathers or meat, but they do not eat the bones and don’t often pick the bones completely clean. I have also had predators kill a couple birds through a fence (an electric fence that was not electrified at the time). They left the body because they were not able to get past the fence to carry them away. This is another consideration. Was your bird near the fence when he/she was killed? Is your fence secure? If you find a dead chicken, make sure you evaluate all the possible causes. You will keep your chickens safe that way.

This is the second time I’ve talked about Black Solider flies. I will likely write a post dedicated to them in the future. Once I write that post, I’ll link it here.

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