We are a humane farm, which means we treat our animals with kindness and care and that extends to their own community. We think there should be peace and harmony in the flocks. They all grew up together; they are in the same pasture together and roost in the same houses together. We have them living in plenty of space, more than four square feet per bird when housed and more than double that when out doors. We do keep them in moveable fencing to keep predators out and them safe. They have plenty of access to food and water and we provide shade during the hottest parts of the season.
Everything we've read points to management if there is an issue, like excessive pecking can be caused by competition, due to not enough access to food, water or space; soft egg shells indicates there is a calcium deficiency in the food source, like we are not getting the feed mix right; and too cold or too hot and egg production drops and so on. Fortunately, the problems we do create we find quickly and fix, but what we read was right. Most problems we've had with them could be traced back to our management or lack of attention. You look for consistency in all facets of their existence. If anything is inconsistent it usually is the start of a problem.
Every so often, one chicken will start pecking on another, it is their nature. There is a pecking order but we discourage this behavior from the time they are chicks; we do not de-beak because that's cruel and it works against the chicken and the goals of raising the chicks. A de-beaked bird will spend more energy eating and wasting food than a bird with a full beak, and that energy could be going toward laying eggs or gaining weight. We don't clip their wings either; we let them fly as much as they can. Once they get to a certain weight their wings can't sustain them in flight but they try to fly just the same and it’s a fun thing to watch when they all get going.
How we deal with pecking and rough housing is to yell. This startles all of them but it’s directed at the antagonist which usually gets her attention and given the attention span of a chicken it is long enough for the tormented one to get away. Seldom is there a prolonged problem. I yell" HEY," usually followed by "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" with a loud voice, deep timber and tone. They hear the volume and tone and that gets their attention. They stop briefly enough and look and forget what they were doing and go on to something else.
When the latest flock was put on pasture we put up a fence to keep them in and safe. At one point I was working near the flock on the outside of the fence, and I turned around to see that a chiken had come through the fence and was pecking at the grass. I yelled, the bird looked up did a u-turn and went right back in through the fence. That’s what I wanted it to do but never in my wildest thought did I expect it. But it did.
My neighbors on the other hand just hear me yelling, not knowing what I'm yelling at or why but they too hear the volume and tone. It doesn't help that we are in a valley and there is an echo. I can't help but think they must be thinking "organic farming must make you an angry person."