Chickens pulling our feathers

Aliyah

In the Brooder
Dec 9, 2020
8
19
15
I hope this is the right spot for this question. I have a small flock, 12 pullets and a cockrel. They seem to be pulling each others feathers (sometimes they eat them) all the time. They are 3 months old and continue this behavior daily. I thought it might be a protein issue (they are still on chick feed 20%) so I started giving them freeze dried worms/beetles. Didn't help. They have 3 roost but fight over 1 1/2 of them so they have plenty of room there, the coop is 4x8' and a large fenced run. They also get to free range part of the time. None of my intervention have helped.

Any thoughts?
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Jul 26, 2008
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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They have 3 roost but fight over 1 1/2 of them so they have plenty of room there, the coop is 4x8'
That coop is big enough for 8 chickens.

Is the fighting due to 1 perch being way better than the other 2? For chickens better usually equals higher. If you can get the perches all at the same height, that might help.

Until you can build them a bigger coop, you can try to distract them.... give them a flake of hay... a pile of leaves... and toss scratch into the pile or hay or leaves a couple of times a day.
 

Aliyah

In the Brooder
Dec 9, 2020
8
19
15
That coop is big enough for 8 chickens.

Is the fighting due to 1 perch being way better than the other 2? For chickens better usually equals higher. If you can get the perches all at the same height, that might help.

Until you can build them a bigger coop, you can try to distract them.... give them a flake of hay... a pile of leaves... and toss scratch into the pile or hay or leaves a couple of times a day.

No, all the roost are the same. We have 3 - 4' 2X4's for roost so they are nice and flat. All on the same level because I didn't them to fight over them. LOL!! I think the coop is fine for the number I have honestly; they only sleep in it. They have a run and they are able to free range most days. If they were "cooped up ", then I would agree but they aren't. Actually that is why I bought this number of chickens because that is the size coop that people with this many chicken had. I have 3 roost because I read that they needed about 9 inches per bird to roost so we can roost 15. They did not read the article cause that is not what they are doing. 8-9 are on one roost and 4-5 are on the second. Maybe I will move them tonight and see what happens. I also have 4 nesting boxes that are attached and accessible from the outside. That is not included in the 4x8' coop. I also go out at sun up so they don't spend excessive time in the coop. The coop poop is really only on 1/2 the coop so they are using all of what they have.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,078
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Southeast Louisiana
That is a lot more protein than I feed mine and I don't have feather pulling issues. I really don't think it is a protein issue.

Can you describe that feather pulling? What are you seeing? When does it happen? Where does it happen? Is it just one or two pulling feathers or all of them? Are all having feathers pulled or just a few of them? Is the cockerel involved? Are they pulling feathers from a specific part of the body? Are any developing bare spots from this? If so, where on their bodies? Do they pluck them and eat them or drop them? Have you actually seen feathers being pulled or do you assume that is what is happening since you see feathers flying around?

The more you can tell us the more likely we can help. It could be something serious, it may be no problem. I can't tell from what you've told us.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Jul 26, 2008
34,454
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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Recommended coop space is 4 square feet per bird, and 10 square feet of run per bird.

So for 13 chickens that would, at minimum (but bigger is better), be a coop of 8x6.5 and a run 13 x10.

Your current coop gives 2.46 square feet per chicken.

Tight living space often results in bad behavior. :idunno
 

Aliyah

In the Brooder
Dec 9, 2020
8
19
15
That is a lot more protein than I feed mine and I don't have feather pulling issues. I really don't think it is a protein issue.

Can you describe that feather pulling? What are you seeing? When does it happen? Where does it happen? Is it just one or two pulling feathers or all of them? Are all having feathers pulled or just a few of them? Is the cockerel involved? Are they pulling feathers from a specific part of the body? Are any developing bare spots from this? If so, where on their bodies? Do they pluck them and eat them or drop them? Have you actually seen feathers being pulled or do you assume that is what is happening since you see feathers flying around?

The more you can tell us the more likely we can help. It could be something serious, it may be no problem. I can't tell from what you've told us.

I think it is all of them. Yes, they usually eat them. It is so weird. I have raised chickens before and have never had this. Usually I have crappy chicken coops, now I have an awesome one that is easy to care for and a great run that is very secure and the chickens are doing this. I moved the roost around tonight. The cockrel is usually involved or in the area when the feather pulling happens. I only have one so there is not competition for him. I know there is a good bit of feather pullling when they are sparring for a spot on the roost. I don't think it is a protein issue either because really they should be on layer mash by now. The are 13 weeks old. I have had sex links start laying at 14 weeks before. I know someone suggested that the coop is too small but I don't think that is it. I went out and measure the run and even if they are in it all day it is almost 200 sq ft. They sleep in the 4x8' coop. I let them out between 6:30-7:00 am. It is barely light some morning. I also give them greens from my garden. I left them free range if I am going to be around but I am concerned about predator's. Honestly, they should not be doing this behavior. I am beginning to think that are congress chicken.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
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I don't think it is a protein issue either because really they should be on layer mash by now.
Best to wait until they are laying.
Many here never feed layer feed, but keep the higher protein feed going and provide oyster shell in a separate feeder for the active layers.

I know someone suggested that the coop is too small but I don't think that is it. I went out and measure the run and even if they are in it all day it is almost 200 sq ft.
Crowded coop can create bad behaviors that will continue even once they get outside. 200sqft run is good, unless it is bare and 'boring'.

Pics of your coop and run would help here.

Oh, and.... Welcome to BYC! @Aliyah
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, and then it's always there!
1607604728775.png
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,078
22,812
907
Southeast Louisiana
I think it is all of them.

All of them being plucked or all of them plucking feathers? When I have a problem I try to determine if it is an individual problem or a flockwide problem. I treat those differently.

I know there is a good bit of feather pullling when they are sparring for a spot on the roost.

So you are saying it happens in the run during the day too?

I moved the roost around tonight.

Good. Did it have an effect? It may take a few days for them to resort things out.

The cockrel is usually involved or in the area when the feather pulling happens.

You might try isolating him and see how they do without him.

I don't think it is a protein issue either because really they should be on layer mash by now. The are 13 weeks old.

I also suggest waiting until you see an egg to switch. Too much calcium can harm growing chicks and there is concern about non-laying chickens. If you can, I'd offer oyster shell separately so if any need it for egg shells they can get it. They seem to know what they need.

I know someone suggested that the coop is too small but I don't think that is it.

Lack of space is a common cause of many behavioral problems. Or them being crowded can make behavioral problems worse. Yours are only 13 weeks old, they have a lot of growing to do. Some chickens take confinement better than others. If sunrise now is 6:30 to 7:00 in six months it should be 5:00 to 5:30 (depending on Daylight Savings Time). Even if crowding isn't an issue here it may become one. Something to watch for. I have kept them more crowded than that at that age without issues but each flock is different.

Your pullets probably have not have hit puberty yet, but maybe some changes are starting. The cockerel may have but maybe not. Behaviors change during puberty. I failed to ask how long this has been going on. When did it start?

At this age and from what you describe I would not think this is a raw square feet per chicken issue. I don't much believe in square feet per chicken anyway, if you follow the link in my signature below you'll see why. It could be an overall space issue, each flock has its own dynamics. It could be a roosting space issue. It may not be a length of roost space per chicken that is important but maybe the quality of the roost space. Can one get away from a bully if it wants too? If it is mainly happening when they are going to roost changes there may be beneficial.

I once had a hen that was plucking the neck feathers of the dominant rooster while they were lazing around during the middle of the day, he just stood there as she picked a bare spot. I isolated him for a day an that behavior stopped.

I hoped they were going through a juvenile molt and they were just eating feathers floating around. Doesn't sound like that is it. Have you checked for mites or lice? Sometimes they can cause issues like this. Too much light can cause behavioral issues. How bright is it in the coop or do you leave a light on all night? I'm trying to think of things that might cause behavioral issues.

You are correct they should not be plucking feathers (especially large numbers of feathers or leaving bare spots). Something is happening to cause that. I don't know if that is because of how you are housing or managing them or if you just have one or more chickens that don't deserve to be in a flock. I think this can be a learned behavior so maybe one has already taught the others to do this.

Good luck, this type of thing can be challenging.
 

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