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Chick pulling out other chicks down feathers

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by mcliff3, Jul 12, 2016.

  1. mcliff3

    mcliff3 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 4, 2009
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    Good evening all!

    Our chicks are 3 weeks old now, and the smallest (runt?) of the bunch has developed a nasty habit of picking at the down feathers on the other chicks (the others are slowing getting feathers in, and other than some wing feathers - the small one still is mostly down feathers). I noticed that one of the other chicks has a small spot of blood where the little one must have pulled the down out. The little one is the only one who seems to be pulling the down to the point of making the the chickens issue a troubled chirp. The rest will groom each other - with no protest. The small chick will do that also, but at some point appears to pull at the down harshly causing some distress on the other chicks.

    Is this behavior normal? If not - what steps are recommended to break that chick of it's behavior?

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks
    Mike
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Nope, not normal.

    At this age, my first thought is how much space do they have? This is the common age when chicks start outgrowing their baby brooder. If they're cramped for space, it can manifest with behaviors like this.

    Besides space, what are you feeding them?
     
  3. mcliff3

    mcliff3 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 4, 2009
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    They are in a 5' x 3' brooder. 11 chicks total. The are eating Purina medicated Start and Grow (I think that is the name). The rest all seem content and this one chick is the only one engaging in that behavior.
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Last spring I had a chick like you have. He would nip at the other chicks' down, and I decided I wasn't going to let him get this picking habit and end up a problem feather picker. So I would watch his behavior and give him a poke with my finger on his back whenever he even so much as looked at another chick's down.

    It only took two days of this sporatic discipline and he quit the behavior. He is now a one-year old rooster and behaves perfectly.

    There are other things you can do to discourage this behavior, and I cover them all in an article I wrote on this subject for BYC. It's linked below this post. It may have some other ideas you can use.
     
  5. mcliff3

    mcliff3 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 4, 2009
    Massachusetts
    Thanks for the suggestion and the link! We tried the disciplinary peck, but because all the other girls started running around when we went to "peck" the culprit (think chicken stampede) it was difficult to discipline quickly enough to associate cause and effect.

    Trying a different idea - I built a divider from some scrap 1x4 and hardware cloth and used it to isolate a section of the brooder. We moved the aggressive chick into that section along with a separate food and water dish. Hopefully being able to see the other chicks (and vice versa) for a few days but not be able to peck at them might break the habit??? That's our hope anyways!
     
  6. MajestyDiamond

    MajestyDiamond Just Hatched

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    Jul 13, 2016
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    We had one r two of these who r basically trying to show they r the boss. Usually they r ok unless u have a weaker one which u should probably separate them then. Hope this helps at least a bit. [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  7. mcliff3

    mcliff3 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 4, 2009
    Massachusetts
    So we put Dorthy (the aggressive tiny chic) back on the main side of the brooder, and she seems intent on still picking at the down on the other chicks (most of them have a healthy amount of feathers instead of down - unlike Dorthy who other than some wing feathers is still mostly down). The majority of her picking at the down does not seem to bother the other girls, but occasionally it does. Is there some level of mutual grooming that is acceptable or is Dorthy's behavior one that still needs to be addressed? Is the fact that she is still mostly covered in down feathers a sign of protein difficency? She is getting the same Purina start and grow as the rest of them, same treats, etc; but the rest are growing and she isn't. Is that the reason for her behavior? Sorry to keep asking - just upsetting that we have one chick out of 11 who is doing this.

    Thanks
    Mike
     
  8. Choco Maran

    Choco Maran Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feather picking is a sign of lack of protein. They need more protein to grow feathers. At three weeks I do not think this would be a problem. But who knows. I would switch to a grower/Finisher this might help. I have read that feeding egg yolk could help with the protein thing. Might try that.
     

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