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Poor feather condition - nutrition?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hello,

 

I have 3 one-year old chickens. They are allowed to roam the whole property, which has grass, trees, garden beds and some bits of wilderness. So there is plenty of diversity and theoretically plenty of food for them. In the evening, when I put them away, I feed them a mixture of seeds. When they were growing up, they had beautiful, shiny, healthy looking feathers. But for some time now their feathers have lost their shine, they look matt and frayed. Since they have so much space and freedom, I am assuming that it has nothing to do with dust bathing, preening or any other behaviour. So I can only assume that it has something to do with nutrition. Does anyone have any ideas? We have some younger chickens as well (about 5 months old), and their feathers are still really beautiful.

Now that I am writing this, I am wondering if it has anything to do with egg laying?! Maybe a lack of calcium, that they now use for the eggs, rather than their feathers?

 

I am attaching a couple of photos to show you exactly what I am talking about. Many thanks in advance for your advise!

 

 

post #2 of 9

Given what they are eating and the change in feather condition I would say you need to increase the protein in their diet -- feathers are built, in large part, of protein.   What is the mixture of seeds you are giving them?  While they are obviously finding enough forage to survive, in order to truly thrive their diet does need to be balanced for optimal condition which is not always available in forage. 
Are you opposed to using commercial feeds?  Asking as some are and in those cases suggesting a commercial feed is not going to be helpful.  If you are not opposed, I would suggest a good grower ration (something with 20+% protein) and, of course, oyster shell to meet their calcium intake needs.  If you are opposed to commercial feed you can increase the protein by adding good protein sources to the feed you are giving them now - the best choice, imo, being animal protein, though there are non animal based food items that are high in protein.

Where are we going, and why are we in this hand basket?
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Where are we going, and why are we in this hand basket?
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post #3 of 9

The second pic looks exactly like what I went through when mice invaded my coop at night. They were seen climbing on sleeping hens and nipping feathers. Nasty buggers indeed. I am using the bucket traps now to reduce the population.

 

I would also increase the protein in the feed. I keep layer pellets available all day every day and feed wet mash (like fermented feed without the fermenting time) every morning. Mine leave none in the dish.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks! I knew some smart chicken person would be able to give me a good answer quickly :)

 

To be honest, Im not even entirely sure, what is in the mixture. It is commercial feed (if the definition of that is that it is bought from a feed store). I know it has corn, millet and a few sunflower seeds. My chickens are extremely picky about what they eat, so I would rather not buy a different brand/type altogether. But adding a protein source sounds good. I have actually started breeding mealworms a couple of months ago, but I still need to wait until they start reproducing, before I can feed them to the chickens (the mealworm population got decimated recently, because I have a sick duck that refused to eat anything, but ended up being quite happy gobbling up lots of mealworms). So that would definitely be a good protein source I assume. What do you use as protein source?

post #5 of 9

Mine are fed a commercial layer ration that is made locally. HOWEVER I am a fan of Nutrena Feather Fixer 18% protein feed.

post #6 of 9
You can certainly increase the protein levels, it won’t hurt. Feathers are made mostly of protein, but once they stop growing I’m not sure how much an increase in protein will help the existing feathers. But any new ones that come on will be nicer if you are feeding a higher protein diet. Hen feathers fall out they are replaced.

In my opinion you’ll be better off drizzling a little vegetable or mineral oil on their feed. Not a lot, just a little. That’s a trick that people that show chickens sometimes use to get nice shiny feathers.

The reason chickens need to molt is that their feathers wear out over time and need to be replaced. I think what you are seeing is normal wear and tear with chickens that get to enjoy their environment, chickens that get to be chickens. I know some people are really concerned about appearance but I’m not that worried about it. They do look really nice after a molt though.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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post #7 of 9
It doesn't look like the work of mice to me. It looks like just worn out feathers. My girls neck feathers had started looking pretty tattered and I figured out they were sticking their heads through the wire fencing to get at grass. Their feathers were taking a beating.
post #8 of 9

The feathers look dry and frail, a boost in protein and extra fat in there diet might help.

You could start feeding a 20% protein feed and top there feed with a supplement called "Rooster Booster" which is mostly soybean oil and also supplement with a product called "Poultry Cell".

When your birds molt the new feathers will be a lot better.  

 

NPIP # 31-516
Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities http://sppa.webs.com/

Breeding Large Fowl Single and Rose Comb Rhode Island Reds to APA Standard


"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares." – 

George Washington

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NPIP # 31-516
Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities http://sppa.webs.com/

Breeding Large Fowl Single and Rose Comb Rhode Island Reds to APA Standard


"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares." – 

George Washington

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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for your opinions! More fat in their diet is something that I have been thinking about too. Since I don't want to change to a completely different feed, I'll see if I can find some fishmeal somewhere for extra protein. Any thoughts on the kind of shops that might sell that? I live in rural Australia, so my options are limited. And I'll continue with my mealworm breeding, as I think that's a great thing to do. As for oil, I will probably try to find something like crappy macadamias, that are grown a lot around here - the chickens certainly love those (who doesn't?). If anyone has any other ideas on a supplement that provides protein and/or oil, and isn't a readymade product, then that would be great! Thanks again!

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