bullied hen pecking own wounds (even with Blukote)!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by birdblue, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. birdblue

    birdblue Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 21, 2013
    Hi, I've been reading lots of threads but I can't find an answer to my particular pecking problem. Any help MUCH appreciated. I really don't know what else to do.... I'm literally so sad and fed-up with this pecking that I'm about to give up on backyard chickens. Which makes me super sad because our whole family and my kids especially really love having them.

    I have a small backyard flock of 7 (1-year-old) hens. They're all laying well. Their double-decker coop is nice and big and we let them out to free-range our small urban backyard whenever possible (see summer pic below). It's winter so we can't let them out everyday, and frankly, they destroy my flower beds (why do they love mulch so much?!) so I get fed up. Perhaps the inconsistency of free-range access is part of the problem?

    Anyway, in the past few months we've had on and off problems with pecking. It started with a couple hens having what looked like little cuts on their "ankles." I put on Blukote and let them out more. (Long-term separation is impossible at this point because we don't have a crate or good fencing situation). We checked for issues with the coop, mites, scaly mite and lice but no signs of any of that.

    I thought it was kind of a fluke but now in the past few weeks we've suddenly got a MAJOR pecking problem. We've had a spell of warm weather. The ankle cuts have been re-opened on the original hens and now those same hens (and others) have back wounds and/or missing feathers around their tails/vents. One bird, a sweet big Australorp, is a mess. She has a big open wound on her back to the side of her preening gland. I've been treating with Vetircyn and then Pik-No-More (Blu-Kote) but she pecks HER OWN WOUNDS to the point of making herself limp. My Welsummer is all the sudden missing feathers all around her tail and I checked today and now her vent area is raw and bleeding, too.

    Of the 7 hens, 3 seem unaffected: a beautiful Cream Legbar, a Black Copper Maran, and a Buff Orpington. I assume these are my bullies. I know they're at the top of the pecking order. They're my biggest hens. However, I have seen almost all the hens--even while happily free-ranging--walk by the wounded Australorp and suddenly take a peck at her poor wounded back (even slathered with Blu-Kote). It doesn't seem super aggressive, just random. Meanwhile, my Ameraucana, toward the bottom of the pecking order with a scabbed-over "ankle" cut but no other major problems, is looking thin and her comb is pale. Her feathers seem to be changing color, too--almost going gray and faded.

    I had been feeding 20% protein feed/scratch (3 to 1 ratio) for winter warmth but I read this could be a protein deficiency so today I cut all the scratch.
    I cleaned the whole coop and have been putting in "treats" of kale or sunflower seeds for them to have something to do.

    Here are my questions:
    1) Do we need to build a run rather than allow inconsistent "free-ranging"? My husband is not into this idea because he built the coop/run to be plenty big and we did NEVER had this problem with our first batch of hens (who we had for 3 years). Plus, when we fence off half our yard the cream legbar and maran immediately crowd to the edge of the fence and try to fly over it. It's like no matter how much more space we give them those two want more.
    2) Should I temporarily remove the 3 healthy hens (bullies)? Or may the cream legbar, who I think is my #1? If so, I have no idea where to put them.
    3) Should I take a few of these hens to a local free-range farmer who I know will take them? If so, which chickens? The wounded ones or the healthy ones?
    4) How do I stop my Australorp from aggressively pecking her own wounds? She is coated with Blu-Kote but she pecks through it then keeps pecking until she draws blood.

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  2. chickluvinfreak

    chickluvinfreak Chillin' With My Peeps

    How large is your coop run? It looks pretty small to me. You should have at least 70 SQ Ft for all your hens when not free ranging. I think more space might help with the pecking problem. As far as the hen pecking herself the only thing I can think of to help is to possibly make some type of head cone (like the kind you put on a dog when they're injured). But I'm not sure how you'd go about making one for a chicken...
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  3. birdblue

    birdblue Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 21, 2013
    Thanks, chickluvinfreak! The lower run is 36 sq ft and the upper level is just under that, so it's 70 sq. ft. total.
    Plus we do let them out into part of the yard several times a wk.

    I will look into a head cone!

    Thanks.
     

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