Chicken Pulling and eating feathers

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Autumn Leaves, Mar 25, 2017.

  1. Autumn Leaves

    Autumn Leaves Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 31, 2014
    Cincinnati Ohio
    I need some advice.
    I am 99% certain my favorite hen, a barred rock, is eating feathers. She is the head hen.

    I noticed 2 of my girls were loosing feathers on the top part of the tail base. I inspected the areas and didn't see any sign of lice or mites. Decided to wait.

    Next I noticed most of my flock is becoming bare around the vent. Again, no signs of insects and the feathers gone. Skin is normal color.

    4 do not have this, one is a tiny D'anver so I doubt she is the culprit. Today I heard a screech and my mother said she saw Echo, the Barred rock, pull feathers from one of the D'anvers and eat it.

    One of the hens was plucked bad enough that she was bleeding. She is isolated and sprayed with vetricin.

    I also isolated the Barred rock.

    This morning I was inspecting one of my D'anver and my Black Star stole a feather off her and ate it too!

    Has anyone rehabbed a feather eater? The barred rock is my absolute favorite chicken. She is so sweet to me. I don't want to butcher her.

    Flock was pinned all winter in 300 sq foot run, 80 sq foot coop. 15 birds, 2 are Muscovy. They have perches and stumps and a dust bath. Eats commercial layer pellets with scratch or greens as treats. They do not free range due to hawks. No roosters.

    I ordered some spray to make feathers taste bad and proctect the area. It arrives tomorrow.

    Will a few weeks of isolation fix my girl Echo? I could send her to my sister-in-law flock which has 4 roosters for a stay? What can I do. I don't want to kill my girl!

    Please help.
  2. What all do you feed the Birds daily and what is the protein percentage in your feed?.....It sounds like a lack in protein..:(....She is a Duel purpose breed and requires nothing less than 17% protein..If feeding other stuff and free ranging they are not getting the proper amounts of protein to keep balanced....

    Vaseline works great to stop picking..;)..Chickens hate it...:)

  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Whilst a lack of animal protein could be a contributory factor, feather pecking is also a behavioural issue. Check out this link - I'd suggest critically looking at your set up against the possible causes.

    It's likely that it will take a suite of interventions to address the issue, and not just one. Once its become a learned behaviour, it can be difficult to remedy, so I have read.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Your feeding regime is likely at least part of the problem.

    What is the protein percentage on the layer?
    Read the fine print on the tag sewn into the bottom of the bag.

    How much scratch do you give them in ratio to how much layer ration they eat per day?

    How old are birds and did they molt over winter?

    My Feeding Notes: I like to feed a flock raiser/grower/finisher 20% protein crumble full time to all ages and genders, as non-layers(chicks, males and molting birds) do not need the extra calcium that is in layer feed and chicks and molters can use the extra protein. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat. I do grind up the crumbles (in the blender) for the chicks for the first week or so.

    The higher protein crumble also offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer. I adjust the amounts of other feeds to get the protein levels desired with varying situations.

    Calcium should be available at all times for the layers, I use oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.

    Animal protein (a freshly trapped mouse, mealworms, a little cheese - beware the salt content, meat scraps) is provided once in while and during molting and/or if I see any feather eating.
  5. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Hi. [​IMG]

    I'm gonna agree that part of it is probably your protein level. Feathers are 90% protein. And how it easily gets diminished by other treats has already been explained to you.

    How many roosters does your sister have? That sounds risky.

    I didn't catch how old your girls are?

    Heavier fowl like BR need more protein as dual purpose birds than say a leghorn.

    But ultimately it's all about balance. Most people feeding layer will never have an issue, even with their heavier breeds. So I won't say feeding layer (usually 16% protein) is all bad, because it was formulated to meet the needs of most chickens.

    I also have all genders and ages. So I feed a 20% flock raiser as well. Oyster shell and crushed egg shells fed out in another dish.

    I thought ducks needed more protein and one other nutrient (higher) than layer... how is your ducks doing?

    Do you keep a light on them? This can cause bullying.

    Behavior modification might be difficult as mentioned. [​IMG] Some people have been successful using a product called Peepers. It clips inside the nostril and blocks their direct line of sight for picking.

    If you need to get to her and she doesn't just come hang out in your lap, try at roost time. No chasing required!

    Also, when you checked for bugs... broad daylight? After dark with a flash light will reveal much more than realized. Laid on the back, feet towards the chest, flashlight pointed near the vent and start spreading feathers, see if anything is crawling away. Not saying I don't believe you. But even with girls that hang out on my lap and let me check them, I was shocked what I could see after dark. Thought my girls had nothing at all on them until processing cockerels and seeing just a glimpse of something.

    Maybe get some Blu Kote to cover the redness... and I would separate the offender, out of sight from the flock to bring her down a notch or two for a few days. She will have to work her way back into the pecking order. Separating the injured could make it harder for them when they come back.

    Good luck! [​IMG]
  6. Autumn Leaves

    Autumn Leaves Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 31, 2014
    Cincinnati Ohio
    On my phone so just wanted to say thank you for all the advise. I'll go find some feather fixer tomorrow and I ordered some peepers.
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Feather Fixer is essentially a gimmick, IMHO...

    It basically has 2% more protein than layer at 18% verses 16%. I would go all the way and get a flock raiser (20%) or un medicated starter (22%) for at least the first bag or until the issue is corrected. As long as you provide OS on the side, it will work for everybody in your flock. [​IMG]

    Maybe watch a video of peepers being applied. I've never done it but it always good to see examples, I would think... [​IMG]
  8. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    It may also be an idea to ensure that you do all you can to address the causes, not just the symptoms.
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Feather eating is a sure sign of a protein decency. Feather eating is normally confined to the saddle and neck hackle feathers.

    Feather loss around the vent with an overall ragged look is caused by a microscopic mite that lives in the feather shafts or follicles.

    Dusting will not control this mite.

    On the lighter side, report how bad your hens' feathers taste now that they've been treated with a spray to make them taste bad.

    If this spray works then it also should protect your flock from attacks by other chicken stealing vermin like red tailed hawks or foxes.

    My question is this, has any of you protected your flock from predators by using foul or is it fowl tasting chemicals?
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
  10. Autumn Leaves

    Autumn Leaves Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 31, 2014
    Cincinnati Ohio
    To answer the questions:

    The bird in question did go though a rough molt right before Christmas. She is 2 years old. I'm going to start giving her some extra wet cat food for the next couple of weeks (I had a bunch of cans that my cat won't eat - Blue buffalo expensive stuff).

    I think I will keep the whole flock on Nutrena Flock Raiser from now on. I am at the mercy of my poorly stocked Tractor Supply so I guess I need to start calling before driving out there to see what they have on the shelf.

    As to the pattern of the feather loss, I have seen her sneak up and pull feathers from the vent area of the other chickens, but I will keep looking for any sign of insects. I don't want to dust them if I don't have to. I prefer not exposing myself to pesticides.

    I do have oyster shell and grit avaiable at all times separate from the feed so I think switching to Flock Raiser is a great idea.

    Thanks again. I learn so much from this site.

    I hope the peepers will help break the habit and she won't go back to it after I get the protein issue fixed.

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