Can one dominant hen pick on all the rest of the flock?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by NHAlison, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. NHAlison

    NHAlison Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 11, 2015
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    All of my hens (8), except one, are being feather-picked terribly. They are missing feather on their backs and on the corner of their wings ("shoulders"). The one who isn't picked is still pristine and healthy looking. Is she the culprit? They get plenty of protein. (high-protein feed, peas, occasional eggs and meat scraps, etc.) and they free range more than half of the day.
    Their coop/run has ample room. I have not noticed any sign of parasites. They did have mites last year, but I successfully treated that with DE and ash dusting baths for them
    If she is the suspected culprit, should I remove her from the flock?
    I have also noticed that our rooster is losing his neck feathers as well. My once gorgeous rooster is looking very scrappy now.
    This is very concerning also because we are in New England with a harsh winter right around the corner. HELP!
     
  2. nchls school

    nchls school Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes. It is possible, but...check your flock for parasites again as I think parasites are more likely the culprit. Good luck!
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Some years back I started a thread on this topic. it turned out lots of chicken folk participated and we thoroughly explored the subject and all sorts of possible cures for it. https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/697052/i-think-i-found-a-miracle-cure-for-feather-picking

    You might want to browse through it. I had a hen like yours. She was a very sweet EE named Flo. She began her career of serial feather picking around age three months, if memory serves me. She was high strung, and she would zoom around the run, snatching feathers from every single flock member. She was absolutely frantic in her predations.

    I tried everything. I was really getting desperate. She got high protein treats such as tuna and cat food. I tried pinless peepers, but she re-wired her brain to continue her picking in spite of them. I tried another device called the Bumpa Bit, but she learned to pick with that in her beak, too.

    I finally had to segregate her to her own pen within the run. That's the only way I was able to finally solve the problem with this particular hen.

    Most people will automatically respond with, "You probably have a protein problem. Feed more protein." But I and many of the respondents to my thread came to the conclusion that many cases of feather picking are hard wired into the brain of the feather picker. It's a case of chicken OCD. No matter what you do, the hen, and I've never heard of a rooster being a feather picker, is driven to shave feathers off her mates.

    You might try pinless peepers. They work in many cases, and after a few months, you can remove them, and many times the picker won't resume the bad behavior, at least not for a while.

    Another thing we noticed was this behavior is more pronounced in spring and early summer.
    I knew to be watchful for picking to start up again after the winter lull, and I now install the peepers on my pickers before they have a chance to destroy too many feathers.

    Bottom line - there is no cure for feather picking. All you can hope for are temporary fixes. I wish you luck.
     
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  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think it sounds like your birds are molting.

    How old are they? If they're from 2015, I'm betting that's the case.

    Have you seen her pecking feathers? You say "suspected" in your post, so are you just thinking it's her because she still looks nice? She's likely just the last to start molting, and perfectly innocent.

    It would be highly unusual for a single bird to peck feathers from the entire flock, including the rooster. And feather pecking usually doesn't happen on the neck and wings, that's molting areas.

    Can you post pics of your birds?

    Adding--I see you mentioned "last year", which says the birds are not this spring's hatch. So, I'm going with molting. She'll look just as scruffy as the rest eventually, and they'll look nice and pretty again.
     
  5. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    If your Birds are 18 months and not 6 months..Could be moulting but I do not think so..Feather pecking is hard to break...You say a high protein diet....? Your Birds will need a layer pellet, oyster shell and granite grit..I also add grower crumble to my feed to prevent any feather pecking..Cut out all treats...5% of daily ration is all they should get daily..Meaning a Tablespoon a day...My Chickens only get treats once or twice a week...Most things that go wrong with our Chickens is nutritional and can be prevented with proper nutrition...I would first see if a diet change will help the pecker before you get rid of her...

    Best of luck..

    Cheers!
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    This^^^^

    ...and what does "Their coop/run has ample room" mean in feet by feet?
     
  7. NHAlison

    NHAlison Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 11, 2015
    New Hampshire
    I will post photos this afternoon. Yes, they were hatched spring 2015. What's odd is that the "shoulders" on two of the birds have completely bare, quarter-size spots, as if they'd been plucked clean.
    Yes, the suspected culprit is suspected because she's absolutely pristine and I've seen her peck at one of the other hens, but only one time. She does seem pretty dominant.
    The coop is about 6'x8', with 5 nesting boxes. Their run is about 8'x8', not including the area under the raised coop, and they do free range from about 11am until they go to roost.
    I will post photos later. Thank you all for your input.
    Oh, also, if they are molting, will they get new feathers before it starts getting too cold? It gets brutally cold here Dec-Feb.

    I edited the measurements. I was off, according to my husband. He built it after all. lol
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016
  8. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    Up the protein in the Diet...Grower Crumble works great...Feathers are protein and will be needed to regrow feathers...

    Cheers!
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Sounds like molting to me. I don't have tons of pics of molting birds, but here's one....

    [​IMG]


    Bare spots on neck and wings is classic molting. They molt out those flight feathers--spread the wings out and take a look. How's egg production? The pretty girl may be your only layer at the moment.

    Molting usually takes about a month, but that can vary widely depending on the bird. In the pic above, the water was frozen over, so it was nice and chilly. The bird did just fine. They're designed to molt in the fall, so they have nice new insulation for the really cold weather of late fall and early spring.
     
  10. NHAlison

    NHAlison Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 11, 2015
    New Hampshire
    [​IMG]

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    Here are a few photos.
    I have another hen whose back is almost completely bare.
     

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