Vent pecking is a particularly distressing behavioural issue which can occur among a flock of hens and quickly become very serious if not dealt with.
Thankfully, if caught early, it’s relatively easy to deal with and the hen being bullied should make a full recovery.
For this reason, it’s particularly important to keep a close eye on your flock; you know their behaviour best and will be able to pick up when something is wrong.
Where is a hen’s vent?
A hen’s vent is, simply put, her bottom, and also where her eggs come out. It is located underneath her tail and should be nice and clean.
A round hole means a hen is off lay, while and elongated vent (like a slot) usually means she’s in lay.
Why does vent pecking occur?
Vent pecking is a habit-forming behaviour whereby a hen pecks at the rear end of another bird, often causing bleeding by damaging the surrounding skin and underlying tissue.
Bare bottoms can be a target for vent pecking so it’s important to keep a close eye on newly rehomed hens if they are lacking feathers in this area. When the feathers are regrowing the quills around the vent can bleed easily if pecked which can lead to further damage, since hens are attracted to the blood.
Similarly, if a hen has an existing vent issue such as a prolapse, this will attract other birds to the area which is when pecking can begin.
Vent pecking can prove fatal if not dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Remove any hens with signs of vent pecking from the flock immediately and assess any injury. If you are concerned, take your hen to a vet as soon as possible or, if you do not think the damage is extensive but would still like advice, call our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084.
Do not put your hen back in with the rest of the flock until her vent is fully healed.
Prevent vent pecking
The best way to prevent vent pecking is to keep hens with any vent injuries out of the flock until they are fully healed.
You can also apply purple spray to a hen’s vent by way of prevention, especially if they are newly rehomed and lacking feathers.
Often, vent pecking can occur due to boredom so providing enough enrichment for your hens is a good of keeping them stimulated.
Overcrowding can be a cause of behavioural issues which is why we recommend giving your flock the maximum amount of space possible in your garden.
It’s worth noting here that we are aware of a product which is fitted to your hen’s beak to stop her from pecking other birds; however, we do not recommend this as it can interfere with feeding and, especially for newly rehomed hens, can add yet another trauma in their lives which have already changed very suddenly.
By following the advice above you should be able to prevent behavioural issues like vent pecking without the need for any such product.
Vent pecking advice
If you are struggling with vent pecking or any other hen health / behavioural issues please call our Hen Helpline for support on 01884 860084.