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Broody Hen with 5 week old chicks now feather picking everyone

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kharmon320, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. kharmon320

    kharmon320 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My BLRW incubated and hatched 7 chicks 5 weeks ago. She's been a fantastic mother for all 5 weeks. Not the most aggressive at protecting the babies, but no other issues. We've had issues integrating back into the flock, but now there is a new behavior.

    I noticed this morning that Rosemary is suddenly picking at the chicks pin feathers/downy feathers. Is that normal? When she'd get the casing off the feather, she'd eat it or show it to the chicks who would eat it. She seems obsessed. Then, she's picking on one of the other hens. Olive is very submissive with her and just lets her pick at her feathers. This just started this morning that I can tell. She lost quite a few feathers over the last few weeks, so I realize she is trying to grow new feathers, but is that a common occurrence with broody hens?

    All of them are eating starter feed with free choice oyster shell. The starter is 20% protein. I also feed fermented starter along with other treats. They had boiled eggs yesterday for the first time. Maybe provide more protein. When she was much younger she would eat feathers, but I never noticed her picking any out of other birds.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    It sounds like the diet is adequate, but a bit of hard boiled or scrambled eggs never hurt anyone, eating any available source of protein is what a chicken will do, but feather picking isn't normal. I think it sounds more behavioral. Do your birds have plenty of room? My broody and her chicks spend the day digging and foraging. Otherwise I'm unsure why she would be doing it unless it an expression of nervousness.
     
  3. kharmon320

    kharmon320 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the info. They do not free-range, but the run is 11x11 with a 3x4ish coop. They have been foraging and digging, etc. for weeks. It started today that I could tell. She's also started squatting again in the past few days and checking out the nest boxes, so it seems like it's approaching the time for her to abandon them. She's still calling them to food every once in a while, but I think her hormones are all over the place.

    However, I went out there a few minutes ago and my mature Olive Egger has one side of her "cheeks" that is missing. No blood, just the feathers missing. Rosemary has been messing with her feathers today as well. Babies or not, I will have to deal with this feather picking.

    I realize there are too many birds in there at the moment (3 mature hens and 7 chicks (5 weeks)), but that gives each bird at least 10 sq/ft in the run. The babies have a safe zone to run and hide from the biggies, but they still like hanging out with the momma. I don't think I'll let her go broody again. Her raising the babies was easy, but the integration issues and now this are tedious. I spend more time worrying about those babies than I do my own children. We plan to enclose the grass next to the run soon and plan to build a bigger coop to attach to the outside of the run (5x8 or 6x8). My goal was to raise the babies, keep 3-4 pullets and have a total of 6-7 hens. If I end up with 2 pullets, that will okay.

    I noticed bloody pin feathers on the back of two babies a bit ago. I think she's eating them. If she doesn't stop, the babies will be sequestered completely and I will buy peepers for all three hens. That may help deter the other hens from chasing the babies. I'm sure their nerves are shot because mine sure are. I don't have extra space at the moment, but any other suggestions?
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    It does sound like you do have some issues. Hopefully things calm down, but I would certainly keep an eye on the mom and potentially pull her out if she keeps feather picking which can quickly become cannibalism. Broodies always bring drama to a flock.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    When you say integration issues...where did she hatch and brood the chicks, separated from the flock?
    A timeline and locations of setting/hatching/separation/integration might help.

    ....and she's been a feather eater before?
    I'm thinking crowding stress could be part of it.
     
  6. kharmon320

    kharmon320 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here was my thread I started a few weeks ago when I began trying to integrate:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1103819/need-help-integrating-broody-raised-chicks

    I was letting momma and chicks sleep in brooder pen at night, but let Rosemary out each morning. The chicks would follow her out, but could escape into the brooder pen as it was raised on 3 sides. About one week ago, Ginger was really picking at Rosemary and the chicks. She was sneaking up behind Rosemary and pulling her feathers near her vent. Ginger and Olive were also still chasing the chicks. Not pecking if they got too close, but chasing them.

    So...I put Ginger and Olive in Chicken Jail in the broody pen. Momma and babies had free range in the run. They were still in Chicken Jail this morning when Rosemary started picking feathers from the babies. I let everyone out together today (with the broody pen raised back up) and same ole crap (except the picking feathers is new). I was expecting her to abandon the babies soon, but she still wants to be near them. But, when one gets near her she starts eyeing in on the feathers. One (that's been slower to feather) has a bloody pin feather on his back because she kept picking. She's pulling them out and eating them.

    So, the babies are in the broody pen by themselves. If she's going to hurt them then that's the only way I have to protect them. The issue between her, Olive, and Ginger may be solved with pinless peepers for all 3.

    I think I need to go ahead and rehome a few of the chicks. I can't keep roosters, but it's going to be super hard to get rid of the suspected cockerels. There are 3 or 4 potential pullets, so I was thinking of trying to rehome all the little cockerels to give everyone a little more space.
     
  7. Donna R Raybon

    Donna R Raybon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What are you feeding? Lack of adequate protein can lead to picking. So can having one that looks different. Like a Polish or feather footed in with clean legged and non tufted. Your birds free range, so boredom, crowding, overheating should not be issue.
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Oh, I remember that one.
    I would string up a wall and separate the chicks from the hens for now, let the chicks grow up a bit...see what happens with your feather eater.
    and/or maybe put some stuff in the run to distract them..roosts, logs, stumps, pallet leaned up against the wall or up on concrete blocks.
    Might also consider getting rid of the hens and keeping the chicks.
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Read the whole thread and the links to their other threads, lots of info.
     

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