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Pecking Out Feathers

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello!  It's been a really long time since I've been to this website but I have a question that I'm confused about.  All of my girls (8 Brown Shavers) have been pecking each others feathers out of their backs and the soft fluffy feathers from around their bottoms.  They all look ridiculous.  They have a large pen and they get to free range around our large backyard for about 2 to 3 hours per day.  Do you think they are doing this because they are bored, unhappy or have they developed a habit?  Perhaps they have mites?  I have checked for mites but I can't see anything.  I haven't treated them yet but will get some pestene tomorrow and treat them ASAP.  Does anybody have any other ideas as to why my girls might be doing this?  

They are not my first flock I have had a flock of 10 hens in the past and none of them ever behaved in this way and they were also Brown Shavers.  These girls are just over a year old.

Thanks for your help.hmm.png

Mummy to 3 Boys, 1 Dog, and 8 Chickens oh and 1 Husband.......they're all happier if you feed them!

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Mummy to 3 Boys, 1 Dog, and 8 Chickens oh and 1 Husband.......they're all happier if you feed them!

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post #2 of 8

I am sorry you are having to deal with this.  I have had my own experiences with this nasty behavior, so I will share what I know.  It starts out usually as a nutritional deficiency- a lack of protein specifically.  Some folks change feed or add extra protein sources to the birds' diets, and see a marked decrease immediately.  This behavior could also be in response to too crowded conditions.  You will need to look at run and coop space and figure out if your birds have enough room.  The guidelines are 2'/bird coop space and 10'/bird run space.  These are the minimum requirements.  If the behavior continues then you need to look at ways to alleviate boredom.  There are many diversionary tactics you can try.  If you look through the archives here you will find all kinds of ways to keep chickens amused. 

 

If the behavior continues after adding some diversions then you need to decide what route you want to take from here.  There are several products on the market to aid in stopping this behavior.  I will tell you right now that they only work temporarily (if at all), and they will not work on the truly dedicated feather pickers.  The products are- Vick's VapoRub, Blukote, pine tar, No Pick/Hot Pick, and pinless peepers.  The first 4 are topical applications that must be reapplied often to be effective.  The last one is a little chicken head gear that needs to be applied once.  The only one that I had any success with was the pinless peepers.  It was moderately successful in stopping the picking. 

 

If you continue to have picking problems, then you need to look at separating the culprits from the flock either temporarily or permanently.  I tried separating the birds for a couple weeks at a time, but it didn't stop them from picking.  By that point I had several birds that had learned the bad habit (it is a contagious habit), so I needed to permanently remove the worst offenders.  I culled out several birds before I got them all.  Once I removed the birds doing the damage, within a week the damaged birds started regrowing their feathers.

 

I hope this helps.  I suffered through this problem for a year before finally resolving it.  I hope you can fix yours sooner. 

 

Good luck.

post #3 of 8

Try giving you chickens some dry cat food. This will increase their protien which is most likely the culprit. Do this for a few days along with their normal feed. Then give it to them once a week or every other week. You will know if they are getting enough by whether they are picking at eachothers feathers again. I would also spray any 'bald' sopts with Blue Kote when you do this it helps to mask that there are any feathers missing to the other birds, there for they should not be as prone to pulling out eachothers feathers.

I had a rooster that the hens loved to pull his feathers out from around his neck. We gave them cat food for a while, sprayed his neck, and it stopped. I hope you have the same luck. Here is a pic of my poor roo when he was at his worst.

Elvis 2.JPG450

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply
post #4 of 8

No clue why there is a second pic there or what it is sorry.  lol

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply
post #5 of 8

I would like some clarification on this as well.  I am a new chicken person. I have 17 10 week old Buckeye's that were put outside in the cold around Christmas.  I have noticed that the 2 smallest chicks are getting bald spots in the middle of their backs.  The smallest is the worst.  I originally just thought that the smallest was just feathering slowly or picked on by other birds.  They are closed in a small coop at night for warmth (its 15 at night, 35F in day) but let out to the full garden all day.  Should I separate them? 

Homeschooling mom with a Math Teacher husband, 3 growing girls who love to raise sheep for 4H
want to perfect my organic garden with the help of Buckeye chickens
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Homeschooling mom with a Math Teacher husband, 3 growing girls who love to raise sheep for 4H
want to perfect my organic garden with the help of Buckeye chickens
Reply
post #6 of 8

If you have blue kote then spray it on their backs. since they are chicks I would give some kitten chow, since they are normally smaller pieces. Keep watch of them and if they continue to loose feathers then I would seperate. But I would try other methods before seperating them like I stated above. Good luck and keep us posted.

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply

I don't judge others...

And in return appreciate not being judged...

We all make mistakes..

We all try our best to take care of our birds..

Reply
post #7 of 8

I try to avoid using catfood except in very limited quantities.  The protein in it is good.  The sodium content can be dangerously high, though.  I like using BOSS instead.  Good crude protein, no salt.  Tuna packed in water is another good source.  Non-processed meats.

 

In fact, the day I was going to cook a pot roast up for my flock was the day I finally came to my senses and decided to start culling for the feather picking in my flock.  When my birds are eating better than most families and still ripping each others' feathers out... That is a problem that I am not going to be able to fix without some drastic action.  So action was taken.

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your help.  When you say "dry cat food" do you mean cat biscuits?  I'm in New Zealand and the only dry cat food we have here is biscuits.  Anyway I think I will try them with tuna first.  Occasionally they do get cooked fish as my husband is a mad fisherman.  I have checked their pen size and it's way more than adequate.  They also spend alot of time roaming around the backyard which is very large so I'm sure that cramped conditions is not the problem but the lack of protein could be my problem.  I did think the feed they are having was of a very high quality but perhaps the protein amount is not enough.  I love my girls and they are fantastic layers, so if I can avoid culling them that would be great.  I'll get right on to the protein with tuna as a start.

I can't thank you all enough for your inputsmile.png.  I will keep you posted with the progress.

Mummy to 3 Boys, 1 Dog, and 8 Chickens oh and 1 Husband.......they're all happier if you feed them!

Reply

Mummy to 3 Boys, 1 Dog, and 8 Chickens oh and 1 Husband.......they're all happier if you feed them!

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