It seems that they even they know they’re delicious! Cannibalism is the leading cause of death for laying hens. It is a serious welfare and economic problem at chicken farms. Though, cannibalism is somewhat normal in the animal kingdom, it is considered abnormal behavior in captive populations.
Farmers have tried to reduce the problem by trimming hen beaks. However, this is not a good solution, because the pain it causes can cause the hens to become apathetic! It was once thought that hens became cannibalistic due to protein deficiency.
The most accepted explanation is that hens need to be able to forage (search for food). The more foraging a hen is allowed to do, the less likely they are to peck at each other. Evidence has also suggested that cannibalism within poultry is a learned behavior. This means that if a chick or young hen witness’s violence between other birds, they are more likely to become cannibalistic themselves, which is a pretty creepy thought! Those beady little eyes really are paying attention and learning.