I have read a bunch of posts on here regarding the missing feathers, but am not yet convinced on any one reason for what is causing it.
One of my hens, Dot, is missing feathers on her back just above her tail. I have 6 hens outside with no rooster (so that rules out one reason). They are all the same age, on lay pellets, in a coop and run when we are gone and are free to roam the yard when we are home (which rules out boredom and cannibalism in my opinion). I have not seen any of the girls peck at each other. Today, while they were ALL at the sliding glass door (there "hang out" spot) two of the girls pecked out lose fuzzy feathers from Dot, not in the featherless area though and Dot didn't seem to notice whatsoever. We've heard that hens will peck out the lose feathers in each other, though I am not sure this is true. Anyway...still haven't seen any feather picking in that particular area (oh and no skin damage). Maybe she is doing it herself? Even the pin feathers that are starting to come back in are broken and frayed. If it is pecking is it behavioral or a protein-deficiency? Doesn't help her if I can't correct the cause.
Another possible cause that I am considering is nesting. Pia, one my EEs, is the sweetest little bird. However, she turns into the devil bird in the nest. If she wants to lay, the nest is HERS (regardless how many nests there are, of course! ). She has bit off pieces of one of my other hens comb and is always blooding up their combs over the nest. She is not the top hen and is bossed around outside. Could it be that she is tearing up Dot's back feathers when they fight over the nest? (Dot is above her in the pecking order as far as we can tell.)
I want to correct the problem, but helping Dot and correcting the behavior are two different issues.
Edited by BarkerChickens - 4/8/09 at 1:24am