Eye Pecking in Baby Chicks

June 13, 2014

Everything had been running so smoothly. The baby chicks were settling into their brooder and seemed to be growing right before our eyes. Their wing feathers began to grow in and our little ones had gotten the hang of scratching in the shavings and preening. Lots and lots of time spent preening. Sometimes, they were sweet and even preened one another.  They dined together and slept together like a chicken quilt under the EcoGlow 20 Brooder. We just cannot get enough of these fluff balls!

Then two nights ago while laying on the couch. I hear someone “screaming”. It was loud. I could hear it in the house even though they were out in the garage. I needed to investigate. When I arrived they all scattered as I peered into the brooder. I pulled up a chair, sat down, and quietly watched. Then I saw what the commotion was about. Adorable Cuddles, one of the Easter Eggers, was pecking at Lucy, our Salmon Favorelle’s, eye. She grabbed onto the lower eyelid as Lucy screamed. Immediately I put my hand into the brooder and pulled Cuddles away. I watched. She did it again.  I took Lucy out to assess the damage. Both lower eye lids were bruised. This was not good.  Then, as I was examining Lucy, I heard more screaming. Cuddles was now attacking Storey’s eyes!  There was only one solution-chicken jail.

Immediately, I called to Mr. Tilly’s Nest. He came out and held Lucy while I trimmed a piece of hardware cloth to divide the brooder into two sections.  Thankfully, I had double chick waterers and feeders. I also took the mirror for chickens and placed it in the chicken jail. If Cuddles wanted to peck at the mirror, it would be just fine. I also introduced the heat lamp. This would not only keep Cuddles warm, but would also help to deter pecking. I scooped Cuddles up and placed her in jail. Then I sat and watched for about a half an hour. Cuddles did a bit of pacing while the others piled up right adjacent to the hardware cloth divider and fell asleep. Soon enough, Cuddles snuggled up as closely as she could to the rest of the flock. Their chick fluff connected between the hardware cloth.  For now, they had settled into this arrangement.

That night, I did a quick internet search to see if this was happening to anyone else out there in chickenlandia. I almost immediately found my answers in a chicken forum. Yes, it is not uncommon for darker colored chicks to peck on lighter colored chicks’ eyes. Some were of the thought that the chicks did not know theses were in fact eyes, but bugs. Their instinct to peck at shiny glistening things was overwhelming. Eyes show up best on light colored chickens. This made perfect sense as Storey and Lucy both have very light colored fluffy heads. In all the cases, folks were of the consensus that Cuddles would out grow this behavior in a few days. So for now, Cuddles is in chicken jail.  In a few days, we will try and reintroduce her to the flock.  Keeping her in the brooder allows her to still see and be part of her flock, so the reintegration will be easy, as long as she forgets her lust for eyeballs.

Tilly's Nest- chicken jail2wp

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest


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14 thoughts on “Eye Pecking in Baby Chicks”

  1. I had the same problem with my chicks. After spreading them for a couple of days I hung a hand mirror in their brooder along the edges of the mirror I painted dots of bright pink nail polish. It gave them something to peck and I reintroduced my chicks with no further pecking. The nail polish adhered to the plastic frame of the mirror and did not come off with the pecking of the chicks.

  2. Wow interesting. Did not know this. I just had to rehome a chicken that was often broody and literally trying to peck one of my sweet girls to death. She went to live with a large standard sized flock. Always something but I take it in stride as it is part of the hobby.

  3. It makes sense about the lighter colored chicks. I, personally, have experienced how fascinated chickens can be with shiny eyes! Happily, corneas can heal quite quickly!

  4. Do you think if you leave the heat lamp on then the color of the bulb will help them not see the eye colors…that probably makes no sense but mine didn't do any of the pecking at eyes and they had the red heat bulb on them…love your blog. Hugs, Di

  5. I want to have chickens! But as I read your blog and my other favorite chicken blogs I know there is way more than just having chickens. So for now I will continue to get my chicken fix through you and others. Glad you were home when it happened. Glad the chicks are ok.

  6. Very timely article for me! I just got 3 chicks…a buff orpington, a barred rock and a black austrolorp. I noticed at 3 days old, the barred rock pecking at my buffs eyes and wasn't sure why and what to do about it. Fortunately, she stopped doing it after a day or two or she would have been put in chick jail! Thank you for helping me understand what they were doing!

  7. I am so glad you solved your problem, we had the same one and did as you did. it seems to have worked fingers . we have a chick that hatched yesterday and it seems to have no eye lid on one of its eyes. we don’t know what to do about it, it’s fine apart from that. except for walking round in circles, don’t think the eye is fully open and looks like it can’t see. any thoughts

    • Oh dear, do you think perhaps you could try to gently cleanse the eye with something like artificial tears or Vetericyn for the eyes and a cotton pad? Maybe that will help open it all the way? I would also add some chick electrolytes and vitamins to the water. Sounds like there may be something going on with the eye/ear pathway that relates to orientation, balance and coordination. Please keep me posted.

  8. Just got my chicks. They hatched yesterday. 2 Rhode Island Reds and 2 Buff Orpingtons. One of the reds is already pecking the eyes of the 2 buffs. I’m glad I Googled the problem and read about your experience. Off to Tractor Supply for another waterer and feeder. It’s quarantine time!


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