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losing feathers...not looking healthy

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Our babies are about 9 months old and we are headed into winter (central Illinois).  One of the girls started looking gangly and we noticed her neck and tail feathers are falling out.  I have been seeing them on the coop floor, but assume that was normal.

 

We have checked for lice and mites.  We don't see any.  I regularly DE their areas...and have even done a food grade DE dust bath per other things we saw on the net.  I admit we have been letting them have more treats (USA brand meal worms and some scratch) than they probably should have.  Their normal food is organic non GMO pellets and we get them a seed feed for layer organic mix that we put together.  We put calcium in their food as well.  I keep their water clean and have them on buckets with horizontal nipples they peck for water.  

 

She appears to otherwise act normal.  The last two days I've been adding yogurt and taking up the other treats.

 

This morning I noticed one of the other girls dropping some too.

 

Egg production is way down - but winter is here and it is dark more.  While we've had a mild start into winter I'm very concerned about her ability to keep warm without enough fluff.  

 

What have we missed here?  We've combed over and over other posts and can't seem to find a direction we need to go.

 

As of now, she has no bald spots showing...just goofy feather spots.  The feathers appear to be both breaking off at the stem and pulling/falling out.  She is losing both the fluffy down and standard outer feathers.  Vent looks good - her skin is a pale white/yellow - there is no pink irritation.  

 

Her comb also has a bit of a white/dry looking.  We put some vaseline on that and it seemed to red it back up pretty well.   

 

Just don't know what to do...we did lose one out of the blue a few weeks ago...no warning signs, just found her dead on the coop floor in the morning.  She was not losing feathers prior to.

post #2 of 7

Even though they're only 9 months, it sounds like molt. Anytime the coop looks like there was a pillow fight in there, that's either molt or a predator attack.

Feathers are 93% protein so higher protein can help. Perhaps switch from layer to grower temporarily.

 

If you've ever read the label on the feed, it likely says that it is a complete feed and no supplements are needed.

For the time being, lose all the additional things like scratch and stick with their feed. Only add treats that are high in animal protein like mealworms, meat and fish scraps.

 

Do not add calcium to the layer pellets. They are already 4% calcium which is sufficient and excessive for any birds not laying - like yours.


Edited by ChickenCanoe - 12/13/15 at 7:25am

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

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NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChickenCanoe View Post
 

Even though they're only 9 months, it sounds like molt. Anytime the coop looks like there was a pillow fight in there, that's either molt or a predator attack.

Feathers are 93% protein so higher protein can help. Perhaps switch from layer to grower temporarily.

 

If you've ever read the label on the feed, it likely says that it is a complete feed and no supplements are needed.

For the time being, lose all the additional things like scratch and stick with their feed. Only add treats that are high in animal protein like mealworms, meat and fish scraps.

 

Do not add calcium to the layer pellets. They are already 4% calcium which is sufficient and excessive for any birds not laying - like yours.

thanks for the response..Question:  If she is molting...how do we help keep her warm once the really nasty cold gets here?

 

I had been under the impression they molt at an older age...and not this time of year.

 

As far as the calcium...that's interesting.  We had been getting some soft eggs early on until we added it.  Once we did...the shells started being very solid.  No more softies...but - they are also obviously in the process of getting older and better at laying.  So, we have been putting some in and stirring it up with the feed...and if not that I have had a oyster shell feeder area where they can just peck.  

 

One thing we haven't done is add grit.  We have some in a bag - but I haven't had any reason to believe they are not digesting.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Oh...and other than mealworms...and possibly Yogurt...we've pulled their other "snacks"

post #5 of 7

Where do you live and what do you call nasty cold? It's all relative. I had Norwegian Jaerhons that always molted in January. I think that was their way of saying, "You call this cold?"

Unless she has big bare patches, I wouldn't worry. Chickens have very high body temperatures. Just put your hand under a wing when it's really cold out.

 

They normally molt in their second autumn and each thereafter but if they hatch early in the year, the breed I raise almost always molt their first autumn.

Molt can be any time of year but normally as days get shorter.

 

Pullets will often have soft/thin shells until their oviduct works out the kinks. Calcium percentage isn't a hard and fast rule. Birds not laying eggs (roosters, chicks, molters, old hens) should only be getting about 1% calcium. If they are laying regularly, then 4% is about right and what commercial hens get. When our birds aren't laying regularly, we need to look at that. At any rate, extra calcium should be in a separate container, not mixed with food. Otherwise, they can't choose whether to consume it. If they want to eat, they would have no choice but to eat the higher calcium as well.

 

Grit:

All birds should get appropriate sized grit as it helps develop the gizzard even if they are only eating chicken feed. You've been giving scratch. They need the grit to assist the gizzard in grinding those seeds.

They don't have teeth so the only way they can break down their feed is with the gizzard. If they are getting anything other than chicken feed, they aren't properly grinding their feed.

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

Reply

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

Reply
post #6 of 7
Seems like a lot of posters here have 8-9 month-old chickens that are moulting right now.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

How cold?  Well...we can hit periods of -40 with wind chill in January.  This has been a warm winter thus far...but that is subject to change.  I expect single digits on a regular basis soon.

 

We will certainly address the calcium going forward.  These were fairly early spring chickens...and if this is molting, the rest should take care of itself.  I'll just double make sure the drafts are as controlled as possible for her sake. 

 

We are going to be out of town for two weeks through the end of the year and have a house sitter and a helper that will be watching over them in our absence.  Just hoping to be as sure as possible to what is up before we leave so they are not dealing with something they can't handle.

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