Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Aw-Ee Chicken, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. Aw-Ee Chicken

    Aw-Ee Chicken Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 17, 2015
    Crivitz, Wisconsin
    I have a few hens that pick feathers, and want to clip their beaks. I just don't know how to properly do it. Would anyone have any advice to help me?
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I'd suggest looking at the issue from another angle. Usually feather pecking is caused by factors including stress, overcrowding, nutrient deficiencies to name but a few. Possibly considering the possible causes of feather pecking and taking remedial action (where relevant) would be more appropriate. Beak clipping is not something I would ever advocate personally.

    1 person likes this.
  3. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I don't recommend beak trimming, since it's a lot like trimming toe nails, easy to go too far, and beaks bleed like a banshee, and it's hard to stop it.

    If you must trim, get someone to hold the bird, then grasp its head firmly and just clip the very tip, the pointy sharp part.

    Beaks grow back quickly and even longer, so it has mixed success. It really doesn't do much to stop the bad behavior, though.

    The risks far outweigh the benefits.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You say you want to be a vet. Would you treat symptoms or treat the disease? Here is your chance to practice.

    Beak trimming is used in some commercial flocks to keep crowded chickens from eating each other. I’m not going to outright condemn the practice for commercial operations, there are some things in animal husbandry that appear more brutal to the outside observer than they really are, but it is not something I would recommend to a backyard flock owner. At least you are asking the right question, how to do it. I don’t do it so can’t help with that, but maybe you could talk to your county extension office and ask for expert instructions. Or if you are considering a certain vet school, call them and ask for help. There is a technique to do this, as far as I know it involves a hot blade to not only cut but cauterize. You need expert advice.

    Could you describe the feather picking? Are they just eating loose feathers floating around or are they picking each other bare? What areas are they picking? Could you show photos of the damage? Sometimes it’s more that they are grooming each other but sometimes they do peck an area bare which can lead to cannibalism. True feather-picking can be quite serious.

    It is not a problem at all if they are just eating feathers floating around. Feathers are mostly protein so it’s a good nutrient source that causes no problems. You’ll see this a lot, especially when they are molting and feathers are everywhere.

    If they are actually picking feathers off of each other, you need to get to the underlying issue. Very often they are overcrowded and bored. Have you checked for mites and lice, that might be an underlying cause. How and what are you feeding them? It can be a lack of protein. As CT said, there could be other causes.
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 25, 2012
    To be effective 1/2 of the upper beak is usually clipped with a machine that cauterizes the bill with a red hot wire in the same opperation. This is done to day old chicks. If a chicken only has to scoop up food from a metal trough there is no problem with the hen eating.

    When a hen plucks her own feathers you have a serious mite problem.

    To help prevent hens from pecking each other either pinned or pin-less peepers (blinders) are employed. These work because chickens see different parts of their world out of each eye. One eye is used for close objects and the other eye is used to view distant objects. I suspect (but I don't really know) that peepers result in chickens seeing double so they don't know who, what, when, or where to peck.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
  7. Aw-Ee Chicken

    Aw-Ee Chicken Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 17, 2015
    Crivitz, Wisconsin
    One feather-picked area is on the rear. When my hens eat, a few certain chickens go under them and jump to get a good bite of the plumage. In order to eat, a hen has to jump up a foot and half onto a board. Another area is the chest. When a couple of my hens sit by each other, one will study the other's chest and pull on her feathers there. The last area is the back, right above her tail. When they mingle around, the bullies will run after a calm hen and peck her back.
    I have a large run outside. We give them stuff to pick at and stuff. They have a lot of room and are not overcrowded.
    My neighbor had mites in his coop, and it's definitely not that in my case.
    The feed is in crumble form. It has 16% protein in it, and other essential nutrients/vitamins. Should I feed them more protein? I have a feeling it's the feed, or lack of supplements. Could I get anything in a block at the store, or something to put in their water?
    The peepers sound okay. But what if they run into a wall, or fly up and hit something and get injured? I don't know about them.
    They do eat feathers lying around, and I suspected that was harmless. But they just pounce on each other, and start hammering!
    This picture is one hen who is really mellow and gets picked on the most. She grew her feathers back during molting, so her wings and upper back aren't bald. But the areas I described are bald. Others look like her current condition.

    [​IMG] Now I won't do the beak trimming. Thanks for all advice and feedback. Very much appreciated!!!
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Layer feed is minimal on protein.......especially if they are molting and/or if you are offering other foods.

    I like to feed a 'flock raiser' 20% protein crumble to all ages and genders, as non-layers(chicks, males and molting birds) do not need the extra calcium that is in layer feed and chicks and molters can use the extra protein. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat.

    The higher protein crumble also offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer. I adjust the amounts of other feeds to get the protein levels desired with varying situations.

    Calcium should be available at all times for the layers, I use oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.

    Animal protein (mealworms, a little cheese - beware the salt content, meat scraps) is provided during molting and if I see any feather eating.
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Sounds like you need a few more feeders, and a higher protein feed.
    Exactly how big is 'a large run'? And how many birds live in it?
  10. Hholly

    Hholly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 3, 2015
    Amo, IN
    I have 4 different feeders for my 15 birds to keep the peace. It definitely helps to have more. Good luck.

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