At wits end with veteran feather picker

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by azygous, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    I come crawling back for advice after being so certain pinless peepers were resolving a rather difficult feather shaving problem.

    My two-year old EE Flo, charming and precocious as she is, has adjusted to her pinless peepers to the extent that they no longer even so much as slow her down when she's on a feather shaving rampage,

    For over a year, the peepers have kept her annoying problem in check, but recently she is reverting to her old evil ways. I have trimmed her upper beak, and it makes no difference whatsoever. Flo is usually fine until late afternoon, and then she seems to rev up and snatches big hunks of feathers from backs of anyone who is in range.

    I've resorted to putting her in jail each afternoon when she starts liberating feathers. She's in a small pen adjacent to the main run, so she still interacts with the others without molesting anyone. Tonight at roosting time, I released her and she immediately snatched a huge hunk of feathers from my oldest hen.

    In desperation, I put Flo in the unused broody coop all by herself for the night.

    I'm not sure where to go from here. Has anyone had such a hard case as Flo? Does isolation do any good? Will it change behavior if she remains apart from the flock for a while?

    And she's much too precious to cull. Like I said, she's an amazing little hen, knows her name, loves to cuddle in my lap, and has other endearing traits I'd miss if she were gone. Also, I've ruled out a dietary problem - Flo's brain seemed to be hard-wired for feather picking from the very beginning.
     
  2. They say that the brain can be hard-wired as you suspect.

    I read in Gail Damerow's book that the chicken may need more salt. (I know it seems unusual)--- Have you tried that one...

    page 121
    "Since salt deficiency causes chickens to crave blood and feathers, try adding one tablespoon of salt per gallon of water to the drinker for one morning, then repaeat the salt treatment 3 days later. At all other times provide plenty of fresh water"

    She also says that it is probably hereditary and that feather picking chickens shouldn't be bred. (I think some BYC members have posted to that that was their suspicion too).

    In the UK there is a product called "BumpaBits" that prevent the beak from closing all the way. I have read that the owners who used them did have peace return to the flock. Omlet carries them...but of course they would have to be shipped.

    If you have her by herself...you could try the salt and see if there is any relief. Also they say 'interesting envirionment' plenty of space, high protein diet, even crimbles instead of pellets because they have to put more energy into eating...and free ranging...... but you have probably already tried all these. I just recently heard about increase in salt. Good luck with Flo.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  3. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Thanks for the response. The waterers are always set up with vitamins and electrolytes, but I'll give her a little extra salt and see if it helps. Come to think of it, this problem is more pronounced during the warmer months.

    I've heard of Bumpa-bits and am curious to see what they look like. I know all the mentions of them produced conclusions they really work.

    For the time being, I'll keep Flo segregated.
     
  4. I have threatened my Lily before with Bumpa Bits.... I had purchased some from Omlet in the UK along with a special plyers that the nose widens when you squeeze the handles -- opposite of most plyers.

    Today (surprising so soon after this post) Lily, for no reason pecked at one chicken and got a feather from her back...so I put Lily outside that fence, then she went directly to another chicken and pulled a feather from her back..I saw it because I was there and heard the squawks of the others.

    I separated Lily in the group and placed her where I had put her when she was broody (for a week)-- and since that is on the porch, and I have seen a big rat/chicken snake on the porch, and dh killed a different one on the railing two days ago--- I really didn't want to leave her alone. So I installed the bumpa bits in Lily. [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I think I will put a post specific to bumpa bits on the managing your flock.
    ETA here's the link with these pictures plus a couple more...and info on how to get them....
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/673137/device-to-stop-pecking#post_9089205

    Oh and --- they are called Bumpa Bits and Bumper Bits---and they can supposedly stop the hen from being able to break an eggshell. so they could stop egg eating as well...or so the claim to fame goes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  5. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Lilly appears sufficiently chastened. LOL

    I do so appreciate your taking the trouble to give me such a wonderful illustration of this amazing little device. I wish there were some way to get them here in the USA. I contacted Omlet and asked them if there was a way to get them. I think the currency exchange is the big hang-up.

    I fed Flo extra salt today, as well as some canned tuna. It made no difference whatsoever. If anything, she was even earlier at her feather removal task.

    I finally put her in a wing of the run with one of the most senior hens. She didn't dare touch even the tiniest feather on Irene. Flo has the utmost respect for The Fearsome Irene. Then at bed time, Flo was packed off to the broody coop again, where she has the rooster for company on the other side of a wire mesh partition. This may be the new routine from here on.
     
  6. If you were to go the Bumper/bumpa bits route...you could get them on eBay

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_nkw=chicken+bumper+bits

    paypal will do the currency conversion---then there is just the wait. Lily seems O.K. - a little subdued--and the whole flock is more peaceful...ahhh. :O)

    Now the pliers, that I don't know--but I'm sure the use must have something the same or similar. It sounds like you have it under control though. I was just thinking today that this little device can save a mean old chicken from her fate. lol
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Thanks for the tip about trying e-bay. They have everything.

    I had another hen, six weeks older than Flo, go feather-picker on me. She's now sporting pinless peepers. She was going after the main victim of all this picking. This is wearing me out.

    I'm going to try for the bumper-bits.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Yay! Success! While Omlet in Britain notified me they could not ship to the USA, I managed to place an order with e-Bay for ten Bumpa-bits to be shipped from Britain with Pay pal handling the currency conversion!

    I wonder why no one in the USA sells them.

    Flo is now the lone occupant of the broody coop, though she has the rooster just on the other side of the mesh partition. She's adjusted well to being isolated, though a couple of the senior hens do go there to lay their eggs, so she's not completely alone.

    I'm looking forward to the Bumpa-bits getting here so she can join the hens again in their coop.

    Thanks again for pointing me to e-bay and the Bumpa-bits, ChicKat!
     
  9. Yea for you & Flo......

    Hope that there are those kind of pliers available to you. Something that widens when you squeeze the handles instead of pinches together. Sorry about Omlet...I used to be SUCH an advocate for them. They have good ideas...but customer service ---hmmm. Just like you, I don't know why they have better chicken management stuff in the UK...except maybe they have more backyard chicken owners and we have more factory-farming chicken operations where they trim the beaks etc. (ouch).

    My Lily continues to look silly---and I wonder about removing them---but I think she is a grouchy old girl (she really isn't old)--and she would just start causing trouble again. She doesn't seem to have trouble eating and her daily egg is indicating to me she is handling the device. Best of luck to you hope it works.
     
  10. steffkec

    steffkec In the Brooder

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    National Band in Kentucky, USA carries them!
    http://www.nationalband.com/bit.htm

    I am going to order some bits, bumpers, and pinless peepers.... my hens are having issues with feather plucking too.
    Good luck!
     

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