Bald/Missing feathers...!? Behavior or ...? Fed UP!!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lynn, Dec 7, 2008.

  1. Lynn

    Lynn Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2008
    Hi,

    I am really getting fed up! I have 15 nearly-four-month-old Ameraucana pullets who are in a very large coop with attached outdoor pen. They share this space with a bantam rooster (who refuses to go outside and free-range with the other boys). This rooster is pretty laid back for the most part. When the pullets are old enough, they will be able to free range with the rest.

    Anyway, there is one pullet who has had a bald spot on her back at the base of her tail for some weeks now. I never see any signs of injury, mites, scabs...anything. I have been mystified. She is otherwise the picture of health. Well, now, she has bloody missing tail feathers--as if they have been broken off!! I am getting very upset. None of the others has shown signs of anything similar.

    I have spent hours in there watching and observing, and have NEVER seen anything untoward! I also watch sometimes from the glass door, so I'm not inside with them. No one behaves badly toward her when I am around. WHAT GIVES? What can I do?? Should I isolate her and hope that when she returns they'll stop being mean? If it's the rooster doing this--why only her?? They are all the same age.

    Other than this, she seems very healthy. She is bright, alert, greedy little eater. No one seems to peck her or bother her... I am desperate, though, to figure out what is going on, why, and what to do!

    Thanks for any and all advice!

    Lynn
     
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    I have an older blue Ameraucana hen who was bare in the same spot. It started out as rooster damage, but even when the rooster was sold, it didn't cover up again. Just now, after feeding them one bag of 22% protein feed (with good animal protein), she is full of quills and the spot is finally filling in. It's been months and months of her being bare, then she lost her beard, etc. And some of those quills will break due to mating, etc, and bleed badly. I bet she just needs some good protein. What are you feeding her and the others?
     
  3. Lynn

    Lynn Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2008
    It's interesting you should say that! I have been wondering if they're getting enough protein (I feed layer pellets and scratch, supplemented with greens and whatever "treats" I have on hand, anything from pumpkins to fruits, etc.). But I don't really give them extra meat-type stuff. The free-rangers get plenty of bugs, etc., but I just started wondering about the girls--being in the coop and the outdoor pen, especially this time of year, they're not likely getting much. I gave them some hamburger the other day, and occasionally I've tossed in some dog or cat food (dry) just for the heck of it, but nothing much!

    Do you think the bloody tail feathers then is from the rooster? And she needs the protein to grow them back? Why are none of the others being damaged this way I wonder? I just can't fathom!

    Thanks, though. Makes me think it isn't too isolated... I'll try the increased meat for regrowth... but I really want to stop the cause!! [​IMG]

    Lynn
     
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    The feed I buy still contains animal protein and that's one reason I like it. My Charlotte was so bare for so long and now, those feathers are popping out all over. The feed I was buying was the same company, just a regular 16% layer pellet, but the 22% protein is called "Super Layer" and for good reason, I think. After one whole bag, she's finally getting some feather coverage.
    I would cut out most of the treats that would effectively lower the protein levels and give them cooked hamburger (unsalted) and maybe tuna, just some plain proteins in addition to their feed. Go easy on the cat food due to salt content, but throwing a handful of kitty kibble once a week isn't terrible. It usually has about 30% protein. When molting, they really need that protein.
    The bloody tail feathers could just be broken when the rooster grabs her. I've seen that on many a hen around here when they are in molt.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  5. Lynn

    Lynn Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2008
    Thank you Speckled Hen... it is reassuring to know that this is not abnormal, nor possibly even cause for alarm. I can't stand it that they are getting bloodied though! Well, I should say, "she" not "they"... still not sure why she is the only one getting it.

    Just so I'm clear... you definitely think this is the rooster's doing then? ... I guess he thinks she's the most attractive of the bunch and that's why none of the others are showing signs? (lol). ...So this is normal mating behavior, and bloody, missing/broken tail feathers is part of it?

    And if it is the rooster, is she too young? Is this harmful to her? She's not quite 4 months old. I will boot him out of there if it is harmful! I've let him stay because he had a close encounter with a predator and got scared/mildly injured and the other larger roosters (he's the only bantam), started picking on him. Ever since, he has had no desire to go outside, going on a month now.

    Meanwhile, I'll be sure to increase the protein. I'll try the fish and more hamburger! And I'll look for the higher protein feed, too. She's gonna need those feathers for the winter!

    Thanks for the advice!

    Lynn
     
  6. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    My Coop
    I agree it may be the Roo. Someone on BYC makes and sells saddles.
     
  7. Lynn

    Lynn Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2008
    Sort of like a "chastity belt?" lol! Good heavens. I'll have to look that up! Maybe just long enough to let her feathers grow in... but I certainly wouldn't want to have to get 15 of them!

    Lynn
     
  8. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    It could be the rooster, though I cant say 100%. Those quills can break off and with his weight, it does happen during the molting time. She isn't old enough for the really big molt, but juveniles do several mini-molts as they grow their adult plumage out.
    The higher protein feed is what I feed during times of stress, like the molt. When they are all over that, I'll go back to the 16%. I do have saddles for some of my girls. I'll get a picture for you in a minute.

    Adding pic... Here are Lexie and Ginger in saddles. Lexie was trying to get hers off, LOL.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  9. I use duct tape, I just cut a soft piece of material and put it on the bare back, then really duct tape it down, works great, keeps my roo off and she dust baths giving time for the new feathers to come in then the duct tape just falls off, I have had to pull one piece off it was just hanging down. marrie
     
  10. Lynn

    Lynn Out Of The Brooder

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    Very resourceful, Sundance! I may just try that, since those are materials I already have on hand.

    Thanks for the photos, Speckled! They look quite fashionable in their wraps, strutting their stuff! I am guessing that the rooster can still mate the hen, but it helps keep their feathers from being damaged?

    By the way, you have mentioned the molt a couple of times... does this mean that damage from the rooster is more likely to occur during the molt--meaning they are more likely to show damage from a rooster during the molt than when they are not molting?

    Or is it that molting could be what is responsible for her bare spot/broken quills, INSTEAD of the rooster?

    I'm sorry to be so tedious and dimwitted... I'm fairly new to the whole chicken thing. Our first batch turned out to be ALL roosters, and we are finally getting some hens, after finding homes for most of the roosters. LOL, my husband bemoans the fact that after spending $$ building a coop, equipment, supplies, medications etc... and now 9 months raising birds... and still not a SINGLE EGG! lol... insanity.

    Lynn
     

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