Chickens plucking chickens

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Shadow722, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. Shadow722

    Shadow722 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have some chickens that keep picking the feathers off each other. Half of them have a bald butt. I dusted them for chicken lice once because I did see some bugs on them and they no longer have the bugs. They pick feathers off the butt and neck then they eat the feather they pluck. They pick at my rooster enough his butt and neck are reddened. I sprayed some blu Kote http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/blue_kote_wound_dressing.html on his bald spots hoping it would distract them long enough for the redness to go away, but as soon as the blue starts going away they are back picking at him again. Any ideas what stops them from plucking each other?
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Protein deficiency and boredom are the two main causes of feather picking. If they're removing their own feathers, lice/mites are a potential cause, but removing other chickens' feathers is likely due to one of the two aforementioned causes. Since they're eating them, it's fairly safe to say in this case they are seeking the protein in them.

    They can kill themselves by getting blocked up with the feathers they're eating so giving them an additional source of oil and grit in the diet can help safeguard. I would suggest raw (cold pressed extra virgin) oil, olive oil probably, and oyster shell of a medium size.

    They don't do great on vegan diets even though just like dogs and some cats they can survive on them. If you are able to you should find them a source of meat or grow some mealworms or something like that.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Shadow722

    Shadow722 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been feeding them the Nutrena Layer Feed 16% protein and scratch grains, I pour them together in the feed container and mix them up where they get them both. I bake their egg shells and crush them up real small and feed that back to them. I also give them uncooked scrap fruits and vegetable from the kitchen. I let them range around the yard for a few hours 3 or 4 days a week. I guess I could try some oyster shell. I was looking at meal worms at the feed store but they were expensive primarily treats. I have been dumping some ash from the fireplace occasionally as well for them to dust bath in.
     
  4. aggiemae

    aggiemae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Try to avoid mixing scratch with food. It's just not enough protein. You can also increase their protein by giving them your meat, cheese, or egg scraps or by giving them cottage cheese or yogurt. Keep an eye out for reduced priced products close to expiration date (they are 50% off in our local stores.

    If you haven't already add some roosts at different heights and a few tree stumps, Also some logs or even cider blocks on the floor of your run. Move them around once in a while to change things up. Hanging a cabbage or a bundles of greens on a rope and attaching it to a hook in the run roof or a tree branch can keep hens amused for an entire day. See what you have around the yard, my hens love carrot tops. This past week I tossed the the remains of the marigold flowers and some chopped up rose hips from the front yard into the back yard.

    The other possible issue is crowding, especially in winter when the days are so short. How many hens do you have and how much outdoor floor space do they habituate?
     
  5. Shadow722

    Shadow722 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a 8'x8' pen and a 6'x12' chicken run both attached to the coop. I also have another coop with a 6'x6' pen attached to the coop and the chicken run. Both coops are 3'x6' and 4' tall inside and have 5 nest boxes each. I have 15 pullets that are now 6 months old and 13 hens and a rooster in the other. I let them out most days a couple hours before sunset so they can range around my yard which is nearly 2.5 acres. I just poured the scratch and laying feed together again. I guess next purchase I will keep them separate. I decided to try a 10 lbs bag of crumbles for the pullets because they seem to eat just the scratch and leave the pellets. If they will eat the crumbles I will change their feed. I got my first egg from them yesterday. They need to eat more of the laying feed.
     
  6. aggiemae

    aggiemae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My eight hens have a ~90 sq foot covered run. For safety reasons they about three hours out there between dawn when they get out of their coop and 9-10 Am when I let them out to range. On very rare occasions, when there is no one home to let them out, they are in there till mid afternoon. These are the only times that We have even had any pecking injuries so I am thinking that the space (over 10 sq ft per hen) is a bit tight for them.
     
  7. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: You should always have oyster shell or similar on hand unless you live in an area which has sharp rocks in the soil. Don't worry about crushing eggshells up small for them, they can break them into small enough pieces themselves before swallowing, and the stones and grit in their stomachs will grind the eggshells into powder anyway. A chick's first grits are generally pieces of its own eggshell, but adult birds need something more robust, able to keep macerating their intake of hard grains and fibrous vegetation for a prolonged period before dissolving or being eliminated.

    Another thing is that hatchery stock from intensive production/commercial lines are notorious for having inherited strong behavioral faults including cannibalism, excessive aggression, neurotic habits, etc. It can take several generations to breed it out. Sometimes there is nothing you can do that will stop them wanting to engage in destructive behavior.

    You can stop the behavior but they will breed it on, but if you prevent its expression for several generations, it should dissipate as it has then become a redundant "instinct" or environmental coping mechanism. In situations where they are mechanically fed and watered, and people only visit to remove corpses or vaccinate etc, cannibalism is often rife and in such an environment, cannibalism serves a purpose and is a survival instinct. But it is not an inherent instinct in all chickens. Many will starve to death rather than commit cannibalism. With others though it is their first reaction.

    In these cases the perfect environment won't stop them from harming one another because it's just their mental blueprint for social behavior they are following. Just like hatchery chicks committing cannibalism under a week old; it's a mental, instinctual aberration to view their own kind as food, but we bred that into them, and we can breed it out again. I bred it out of my flock quicker by not breeding the worst examples of it, and not purchasing intensively farmed poultry after the first two batches I brought. They were not worth it, except as an educational experience.

    I highly recommend you breed your own, or buy from breeders who keep their birds under more natural conditions and cull for antisocial behaviors. Best wishes.
     
  8. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    In addition to what others have said; wean them off the scratch and stop the regular layer feed and provide them gamebird feed which contains 22-26% protein. Put Vicks Vapor Rub on the areas of the birds where their feathers are being picked off. After a month, wean them off the gamebird feed and back to normal layer feed. Give scratch sparingly.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013

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