chicken pecking problems


5 Years
Jun 8, 2014
I have 10 young barred rock hens and one rooster that I hatched at the same time this spring (late April, I think). The hens are just starting to lay well (8-9 per day now), and one of the hens has started pecking the feathers off of one other hen and the rooster. This morning I saw her actually eat the feather. I have read through the threads and come to the conclusion that it could be lack of protein or simple boredom. I think they have plenty of room in the yard. The coop is a 10 by 10 barn, with 6 nesting boxes, even though they tend to use 2 most of the time. They are eating scratch and layena pellets, with an assortment of vegies and weeds that I throw in the yard. I'm new to this chicken-raising stuff, and I need advice on what to do. Thanks.
The cheapest fix is to cut back on the scratch and get a couple cans of mackerel. It's cheaper than tuna but still high in protein.
You could also switch back to a grower or starter feed for a while and provide oyster shell in a separate container but still cut back on the scratch.

Layena is about 16% protein which is the minimum that layers should have. If 20% of the diet is scratch, veggies and weeds, then the total intake is closer to 14% - way too low.

If you read the label of the Layena it says that it is a complete ration and no other supplements are needed.

If you feed other things like low protein scratch (about 10%) and veggies and weeds which are even lower, you need to augment that with a high protein animal source or tree nuts or legumes.
Animal protein is superior because, unlike vegetable sources, has a complete complement of essential amino acids.
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Thank you very much! I will tend to that today! I hadn't thought about more vegies/weeds reducing the total protein, I was just trying a variety of things to keep them interested. On my way to get animal protein..... Thanks again!
The veggies and weeds aren't a bad idea, one just needs to balance the protein content of things.

When you feed table scraps, include all the meat, fish, cheese, etc..

Feathers are 90% protein which is normally the reason they eat them.
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Worth considering, perhaps, starting your own insect farm. Some people depending on what species they keep (reptiles, pigeons, whatever) farm everything from flies, to mealworms, to crickets, etc. Definitely something I want to look into in future, personally.

You can also take nailclippers (for humans) to the feather eater's top beak and trim off the seethrough edge. It won't hurt her, and it will grow back, and she can continue to preen and eat and drink normally, but applying force to another chicken in pecking, and pinching to rip out feathers, will be harder and this can help her break the habit.

In many cases, there isn't any logical reason for what feather peckers are doing, it's often neurotic obsessive behavior. Some have reasons, some don't. I don't care either way, I'd personally cull them all, since it's quite heritable. But that's just me.

At the feed store the other day I watched a white leghorn hen just tearing obsessively into another chook's feathers, not eating them, it was her only entertainment. Can't stand that mentality. Easily leads to cannibalism, all it takes is one drop of blood to well up, and many chooks go into a feeding frenzy like feathered piranhas, lol. Luckily you can also cull out/breed out/select against the cannibal trait. Generally goes hand in hand with feather picking or the picking functions as a precursor to it. But I understand this may not be an option you would consider, culling a feather picker, so good luck with your chooks.

Best wishes.
Thank you both for your help. I withheld the scratch, vegies and weeds this morning, and fed just layena and some meat and cheese. I will also get some oyster shell in a day or two when I get to town. Thank you for all your help. It's nice to know I can find answers quickly. I'm so glad I discovered this site when I decided to hatch these guys!

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