Back feathers are missing and there's blood - Please help!!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by andie01, Jul 17, 2011.

  1. andie01

    andie01 New Egg

    Jul 17, 2011
    Hello! This is my first post on this forum, so I hope that I'm posting in the right section. We got 12 chickens in April. Four Black Orpington, 4 Americaunas, and 4 Buffingtons (we were told they are Buffingtons, but can't find them in any books - they're yellow). This is our first time raising chickens. We built a nice big pen for them to run around in and play. They've always seemed to get along really well with one another. Today, I noticed that one of the Americaunas was missing all but one of her tail feathers. She fluffed herself up and I could see that where the feathers came out (the quills?) is all bloody. As I was watching her, another Americauna started pecking at her back end where the blood is. She's not bleeding to where if you hold her you end up with blood on you. It's just the stem-type part that the feather got pulled out of that has blood in it.

    We have her isolated from the other chickens right now. She is locked in the coop and the other ones are still out in the pen. We are totally new to raising chickens, so I'm looking for any advice or suggestions on how to handle this. Is it OK to let her with all the chickens in the coop tonight since it's dark in there and they won't see the blood? Do we need to keep her isolated until the blood is gone (this is going to be tricky at night-time)? Any ideas as to why this is happening? The chickens are in a 16' long x 6' high, x 4' wide pen - we were told that that is plenty of room. They have one feeder and waterer that they have access to at all times in their coop and one large waterer in their pen that they have access to until I lock the door to the coop at night so that no predators can get to them. I take fruit and vegetable scraps as well as scratch out to them in their coop every day.

    I'm completely lost as to what I need to do. Any advice, thoughts, or suggestions are greatly appreciated. My son and I are distraught with this.

  2. danniboi1990

    danniboi1990 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2011
    is the feather loss just on the tail? do you have any roosters? roosters sometimes wear away feather when the consistently mate with the hens. otherwise it could be a behavior problem called feather pecking. this can be self inflicted or the other chickens could be bullying her. however now theres blood showing the other chickens cant resist but to keep pecking at the injured bird. it would be wise to seperate her. she could also have a parasite. or an early moult. seperate her all the same [​IMG]
  3. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Quote:Welcome to BYC.
    You have 4 "Buff Orpingtons" along with your other chickens. It's easy to get the names mixed up, dont worry about it. You did the right thing seperating the bloody hen. The others wouldve picked/pecked on her relentlessly. It sounds like there's plenty of room in their pen as not to be overcrowded. But what about inside their house? Chickens need their space and if it's overcrowded inside their house, you need to expand or they will continue picking/pecking at each other.
    Another problem could be their feed. If they are over 18-20 weeks old, you should be feeding them 16%-18% (protein) layer feed. Perhaps you need to increase their protein intake. You can feed them gamebird feed which contains about 22% protein, this should stop feather picking, if this is the case.
    Another issue could be that the bloody hen has an injury or perhaps lice/mites, and was being picked on for that reason....a "survival of the fittest" situation. In any case, I recommend that you visually inspect her for lice/mites, just to be sure she doesnt have them. Wash the area where the feathers were plucked with a 50/50 water-betadine solution, then apply neosporin or Blu-Kote. Blu-Kote can be purchased at a feed store and will disinfect and "hide" the injured area, helping to prevent further picking/pecking. Keep her seperated til she heals, then reintroduce her into their house late at night when the others are asleep. When they all go out the next morning, none will be the wiser. I also recommend that you add another feeder and waterer in the pen. Good luck.
  4. redhen689

    redhen689 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2010
    SE PA
    Clean her up a bit and put antibiotic ointment (neosporin) on the places she is/was bleeding.
    You will need to separate her for a bit. I have never used blue-kote, but you should be able to reintroduce her to the flock sooner if you use it.
    Blue-kote is a dye/alcohol mix, that will cover the blood, and reduce pecking by the other hens. It will also kill germs. It is available at feed stores.

    If possible it would be best to keep her separate from the other girls, but visable, like in a dog crate or a small fenced in area within their run. Otherwise they will be more likely to attack her when you reintroduce her.

    I would guess those hens you have would be called Buff Orpingtons.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'll disagree with Dawg on one point - if you're saying that their run is 16 x 4 ft (don't care how tall, since they really only use the ground space), then they need MORE space; that's only about half of the recommended outdoor space for LF chickens. With 12 birds, 120 sq. feet is the minimum recommend amount of outdoor space. Overcrowding is a key factor in bullying.
    Unless you freerange them for much of the day, find a way to double their run, and add roosts, stumps, anything that can distract and stimulate their interest.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  6. andie01

    andie01 New Egg

    Jul 17, 2011
    Thanks so much for all the help everyone! I really appreciate it! I was going off of memory with the size of their run and I did put the wrong size down. It is actually 16' long x 8' wide. We put some medication from the feed store on her quills and she seems to be happy. She was giving herself a dust bath in her shavings when I checked on her before going to the feed store. When I came back from the store, I noticed that another of the Americaunas was being pecked by the bigger Americauna. She was down to 2 tail feathers. We pulled her out, medicated her quills, and she is keeping the other separated chicken company in their own makeshift coop.

    Thanks for the suggestion of keeping them out during the other day where they can still see/interact with the other chickens to help with the reintroduction. I will definitely do that with them tomorrow. I added another waterer and a feeder in their pen.

    I stopped at our local co-op on my way home from the feed store and spoke with the "chicken expert" there. He had a possible theory....please let me know what you think. As I mentioned before, we got our chickens on April 4th and they were a maximum of 7 days old. We were giving them their start and grow feed that the co-op recommended. At the end of May we ran out and my husband went to the feed store in town. They told my husband that the chickens didn't need the start and grow food; that all they needed after a month was an all-purpose feed. So my husband switched them to that. When I was talking to the guy at the co-op about if it could be a protein issue, he said that it could be due to them not getting the proper feed for the last month and a half. He said that they need the start and grow until they start laying eggs. So, I pulled all of the all-purpose feed out of the pen and coop and replaced it with the starter feed.

    The coop that we have them in at night is 4' x 8'. It has 3 perches that stretch across the 4' length and it also has 5 nesting boxes. I've been told by some people that it's big enough, but now I'm doubting it. Any thoughts?

    Again, thank you so much for all the help and valuable information. I really do appreciate it!
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well, lack of protein can be a factor in feather picking. Can you find the label on the "all purpose" feed?? See if it lists the protein level. If it's 18% or better, then the feed probably wasn't the issue. I'd be very stingy with the scratch though, at least until things get ironed out and back on track. Maybe instead of scratch, use BOSS (black oil sunflower seed) as a treat - much higher protein.

    Your housing is def. on the small side. It probably won't be a big deal if you're in an area that doesn't get much in the way of winters. But if you're in an area that gets ice and snow, then see if there's a way you could cover/roof at least part of your run. And get creative with tarps as windbreaks...anything to make it so your birds have access to the outdoors all winter. Chickens do NOT like snow, and will generally avoid it, so they tend to stay indoors, or in sheltered places when it's around. In my area, because we get winters, I would never want less than 4 sq. ft of indoor space for my birds, because I know mine tend to spend a lot more time indoors during that time, and just like us humans, they tend to get cranky from being "cooped" up all winter. [​IMG] So if you can find a way to keep a clear area for them in winter time, that will help a lot.
    Also, your roost space is fine, about 12" per bird. You have more nest boxes than needed, but that's no big deal.
  8. andie01

    andie01 New Egg

    Jul 17, 2011
    The protein on the all purpose feed is listed as minimum 17%. I compared it with the scratch and grow that I put all of them back on. The scratch and grow lists it's protein level at minimum 18%. Thanks for the idea of the BOSS. I put some in their pen today and they absolutely LOVED it!! I made a temporary run for the two chickens that were getting pecked and need to heal. I have it up against the big pen so that they can still see the other chickens. The one chicken paces back and forth A LOT right up by the fencing that separates them.

    As far as our winters go, they're pretty mild. We sometimes get a little snow, but if we do, it's usually gone within the week. Our pen is in the back of our yard, kind of butting up against our tree line. The back third of it is protected by the trees, so if it rains, they can stay dry or go up into their coop. I've been discussing the issue of the coop being rather cramped with my husband and I think he's going to come up with a plan to either make ours larger, or start from scratch to build a new coop.

    Have you heard about putting a red bulb in the coop? Any thoughts on that? Also, what do you recommend putting in their pen to keep them entertained during the day? How many nesting boxes do you recommend for 12 chickens (although, I'm pretty sure one is a rooster, but shhh, we don't tell my husband that).

  9. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Quote:Ohhh...I'm pretty sure if one's a rooster, your DH will know pretty soon. [​IMG] Three or four nest boxes will be plenty, whichever you have space for. If your coop is tall enough, I'd suggest mounting them on the wall at least about 18" high so that they don't take away from floor space.
    The only time (other than my brooder) that I've used a red bulb in my coop has been for heat in winter, not for pecking issues or anything like that...[​IMG]

    Your birds may do fine in winter - it's always good to get one winter season under your belt so that you can actually see how your birds handle it; some flocks do fine restricted...with very few problems, while other flocks really struggle with behavioral issues such as feather picking and worse. So just watch them this winter, and let that dictate whether you guys need to expand or not.

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