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Levy, D.M. (1935). A Note on Pecking in Chickens. Psychoanal Q., 4:612-613.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:612-613

A Note on Pecking in Chickens

David M. Levy

The following observation on poultry, in line with previous studies of the sucking reflex, may help to elucidate the principle of instinct satiation or instinct completion. Tensions in the oral zone are thereby explained as a result of incomplete discharge of the sucking (or, as we shall see, pecking) component of the feeding act. It is hoped through these studies, to which the reader is referred, to contribute further understanding of the erotogenic zone.

While in Hawaii I visited a school for delinquent boys. In touring the grounds I had a chance to observe the farm, and was struck especially by four well-grown chickens which were almost entirely denuded of feathers. The poultry man told me that these feathers had been plucked by the chickens pecking at each other. In every poultry yard it does happen that chickens will do this, but among his poultry the problem concerns every one of them. At any rate, it is necessary to put a steel brace on the upper beak of every chicken. This prevents their getting a good purchase on the feather, so that when a feather is pecked, it slips through.

The situation seems to me to be quite clear. The hundreds of chickens in this poultry yard are raised above the ground on a wire mesh. There are various practical reasons for this, including cleanliness, prevention of picking up parasites from the ground and of infections from contact with the droppings. All the feed is put in a trough and pecking from the ground is eliminated. As a result, there is no possibility of satisfying the pecking needs, as in a natural state. The chickens, therefore, peck each other, since they are the only peckable objects about. I witnessed some of this pecking.

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