I have 26 chickens and almost half of them have feathers missing on their back. I read some threads here, talked to workers at the 3 local feed stores, and to several friends who raise chickens about what could be causing this. I got about half a dozen different suggestions (all valid) but I'm just not sure what it is. At first I thought it was the rooster but now I don't think I have one. I was supposed to have 1 but apparently I'm the only person to ever request a rooster and get a hen. Then we thought maybe the hens are pecking each other. While I do see them peck at each other every now and then, I don't think they peck enough to be causing this kind of feather lose. Then someone suggested that they might be fighting over a nesting box. Even though I have 10 boxes, I frequently find 10 eggs in one box. But again I don't see them fighting (although I don't spend a lot of time watching them). The latest thing is that they might have lice and are actually pulling some of the feathers off themselves trying to get the lice. I have seen a few of them peck at their bold spots but not very often. I did dust them once with Seven Dust and put out a little lime in the pen. They don't seem to be getting any better or worse. I would appreciate any advice. I can't seem to find the pics I took. I'll have to take some more tomorrow.
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I,m having the same problem!
I don't know what to do either. Today I just got them started on 20% protein feed in hopes that the problem is not enough protein. I have 8 Hens in a coop that is 8x4 feet and it has an attached run that is about 10x10 feet. I,ve tried to give them snacks and some anti picking block made of seed and oyster shell but nothing seems to be working. The last flock I had was in a smaller coop and run, and I had no problems at all. We let them free range a little bit but they are really hard on the landscaping. All 8 birds are different breeds. There are 2 that are picked really bad. I am planning to separate them so they have a chance to grow back a few feathers before putting them back. Will that stress out the flock and stop egg production?
Feather loss on the lower back is usually not lice or mite related. If there is not an overly loving rooster, the girls are doing this to themselves. If they are using the same nest box, one hen most likely steps on the others' backs and scratches a bit trying not to fall off so she can lay her egg there as well. I have one hen that does this to my broody but without any damage. I recommend putting on chicken aprons. Also, you can spray the bald spots with a coal tar spray or blue kote to prevent them from pecking each others' bald spots.
Edited by nurse_turtle - 4/2/12 at 9:08pm
One thing that is different with this flock is that we have been using a light in the early morning. The egg production has been great with the light. The last flock we tried using a light in the evening but it did not change production so we stopped. Do you think they may be pecking each other in the morning because thier coop is light but its still dark outside? Every bird is missing feathers, some just a few 2 are missing at least half of them.
I wouldn't light the coop unless they can leave it while the light is on. The light tells them it's time to get up and gather food and such. Boredom is a common cause of feather picking.