Vices of Domestic Fowl

Published on: 8/8/2018
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Vices is French origin word “vitium” which means a fault, defect, an immoral, wicked, or evil habit/action/trait, a degrading practice, habitual abnormal behavior of a destructive kind. Most common in horses, pigs & chickens but may occur in any species if animals are kept in confined spaces.

       Important vices of domestic fowl

Birds may suffer from certain vices (bad habits), that needs proper attention and care for complete eradication. These vices may cause loss to the poultry farmer.

       Some of the important vices are-

–     Cannibalism

–     Egg eating

–     Egg hiding

–     Pica


  • Condition in which birds of a flock attack their pen mate and eat its flesh, which may impose deep wounds and heavy mortality.
  • Vent pecking is common in laying birds.
  • Once the birds adopt this vice it spreads rapidly through the flock.
  • Poultry farmer must remain vigilant to prevent cannibalism as it has got no direct treatment.
  • Presence of wound especially around the cloacal orifices is indicative of cannibalism.


Possible reasons:

  • Overcrowding in the poultry house.
  • Hemorrhages in the external genitalia due to laying stress.
  • Protein deficiency in the diet.
  • Provision of less diet.
  • Excess of corn/maize in the diet.
  • Deficiency of arginine and methionine in diet.
  • Deficiency of salt and minerals.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Parasitic infestation.
  • Wounds inflicted by fighting between the birds.


  • Debeaking - most recent and cheapest way to avoid cannibalism which can be done right from the day old chicks to any age.
  • It can be done either manually or mechanically.
  • Mechanical way of debeaking has an advantage that it does not require second cutting of beak which is sometimes required in case of manual debeaking.
  • One-third of the upper beak and tip of the lower beak is to be cut.
  • To stop bleeding, hot iron rod is touched at the site of cut. Debeaking must be performed by a competent and trained person, otherwise, there may be excessive bleeding and the bird may die due to starvation. These days debeaking has become mandatory in almost all poultry farms.
  • Birds involved in cannibalism must be isolated.
  • Wounded birds should also be segregated and given proper treatment.
  • Overcrowding of the birds must be immediately corrected.
  • Feed must be available in sufficient quantity at all the times.
  • Laying nests must be built at peaceful, isolated places, because the congested external genitalia of layers, following laying, attracts other birds for cannibalism.
  • Provision of red bulbs near laying nests may help during the period of the problem.
  • Addition of raw meat in the feed has been found to be helpful. If raw meat is not available increase in the amount of fish meal will serve the purpose.
  • Quantity of vitamin, mineral mixture and salt may be marginally increased in poultry ration.
  • Increased amount of methionine in the diet is said to prevent this habit in layers.

Egg eating

  •  Sometimes birds develop the tendency to eat their own eggs.
  • It becomes quite difficult to prevent this vice.
  • It may start due to the presence of cracked eggs or accidental breaking of eggs and once the birds develop taste for it they start breaking their own eggs.
  • Factors responsible for breaking of egg or cracking of egg are thin or soft eggshell or lack of sufficient bedding material in the laying area.
  • Presence of eggs for longer period in the pens may also encourage the birds to start egg eating.




  • Isolation of the birds
  • Quantity of limestone and protein should be increased in the diet.
  • Egg eaters should be caged such that the eggs drop out after the lay.
  • Debeaking also reduces this tendency.
  • Darkness in the laying area may prevent his habit.
  • Egg collection interval should be reduced.

Egg hiding

  • Egg hiding is a maternal instinct of jungle fowl and is not encountered in domestic fowl.
  • But sometimes this habit may develop in the domestic fowl which are allowed freedom of movement.

They hide the eggs in the field, bushes etc.



  • Restrict freedom of movement of the birds.
  • Laying area should be built inside poultry house and made comfortable by providing sawdust, straw etc.


  • Birds start eating materials which are not fit for consumption, such as feathers, litter material, threads, etc.
  • It is less commonly found in modern poultry farm.
  • Phosphorus deficiency, parasitic infestation, new litter material etc. may predispose the birds to pica.
  • Good managemental care and balanced diet are recommended for the prevention of pica.


Birds which develop abnormal behavior should be taken care of as soon as possible. Occupy the birds by supplying grass in the unit for them to pick on. Regular debeaking of birds will help. Provide adequate nutrient supplementation. Treatment of injuries should be done gently.

References: 2/8/2018) 1/8/2018) 26/72018) 26/7/2018)

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