My dad was a farmer for many years, and he has practical advice for nearly any occasion. His advice for chickens that pick at each other? The same thing he uses for cracked fingers and cattle injuries. I found at my local feed store a small container of Dr. Naylor’s Udder Balm, and smeared it on my hen’s deep scratches (and later on Mavis’ wing). It was greasy and sticky, and had a pungent aroma of … cloves, I think. The hen didn’t seem to mind it, and by morning I could tell that she had not been picking at herself. After a few days, there was definite improvement. The scratches were healing! I left her separated from the others until the wounds were completely healed, and reintroduced her to the flock. Since that time, I have used the udder balm at the first sign of picking.
How can picking be prevented?Well, there’s not much that can be done if picking is instinctive … just be vigilant and watch your flock carefully. If picking is also partially caused by boredom, however, I have a few suggestions. Try hanging a cabbage or a stem of overgrown Brussels sprouts from a rafter in your coop.Hang it just high enough that the chickens will have to stretch to reach it.Or, take them the Sunday newspapers.They might not be able to read them, but they will have an afternoon of fun trying to scratch the letters off the paper.I read somewhere that a hay bale maze gives chickens something different to do.If you have enough room (and enough hay bales) make pathways for them to walk down and around.Another suggestion is to hang wind chimes or sun catchers in the coop where the breezes or afternoon sunshine can cause them to shimmer and twirl.I haven’t tried this myself, but I think I might.It would be important to hang them high enough that the chickens wouldn’t be able to reach them.And finally, this time of year my chickens really like a big bag of leaves dumped right in the middle of their yard.They remind me of my kids when they were small:They’ll leap right into the middle of them!It’s an autumn afternoon’s fun.