chicks pecking/eating feathers (4 weeks old)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Hope119, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. Hope119

    Hope119 Songster

    Apr 23, 2009
    Our chicks are almost 4 weeks old (hatched around 25th of March). Just now I saw them pecking each others' feathers and eating them. They might be bored - true - our first hatch last year was already out for most of the time at this age, but it is cold now (spring is late and chicks are 1 month earlier this year). Can they have not enough protein too? They are just on chick starter (plus gave them couple apples recently and wheat grass before). The brooder is not very big, but I did not plan to have them there for long - I would like to get them out to the coop in a week or two. I separated two worst peckers just now - they can hear others, but not see. No heat lamp for them, as I only have one - so that separation can't last, I guess. One other chick even has a bloody spot [​IMG]. I hope they'll stop, as I can't separate them one by one. I might get them outside, but it is 54F and wind.
    Any advice? Buy them a cabbage head? First non-organic thing they would get.

  2. BetterHensandGardens

    BetterHensandGardens Songster

    Feb 28, 2010
    Clinton, OH
  3. Bo Garrett

    Bo Garrett Songster

    Feb 19, 2009
    Quote:Black the pen out with black plastic or something else light cannot penetrate and then place a red light bulb in the pen to use as the only source of light until you can get them moved out. The problem is overcrowding and the picking is stress related due to the crowding and possible slow feathering of cockrerels which leaves new feather shafts exposed and easily picked. The red light will make it hard for them to see the blood filled feather shafts and reduce if not eliminate your picking problem. If they are allowed to continue you will lose chicks due to cannibalism.

  4. Hope119

    Hope119 Songster

    Apr 23, 2009
    They have been under red lamp since birth - never had any other lamps.
    I don't know what kind they are. I am not good with breeds and probably most (if not all) of them are not pure breeds. They are black with white, white, white with some black, different shades of brown, etc.
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    54F... if you can block the wind, I'd put them outside with the lamp.

    Day highs are in the 50's like that when I take away heat from 6 weekers. They do have cozy shelter to go to though if they don't want to be outside.
  6. Red&Yellow

    Red&Yellow Songster

    Sep 30, 2009
    Frederick County, MD
    Also, do they have enough space? One pullet in a hatch last year developed this horrible habit, but her whole hatch had fairly cramped quarters for a bit.
  7. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I'd like to see this thread get a few more replies since I, too, have a problem feather picker/eater in my flock.

    The minute I observed little Flora, an EE pullet, picking feathers from her flock mates at the age of four months, I began to feed her canned tuna individually. I fed her an ounce every other day, and it appeared to help some and I eventually stopped the extra feedings.

    But the feather picking/eating has continued in the intervening eight months, and I don't know how to deal with it. It seems to have gotten worse, if anything. No one is immune to having Flora ambush them and make off with one or two of their feathers. Even the roosters lose feathers if they are standing too close to the fence. I've watched her manically race around the pen, hitting and running in her pecking frenzy, then eating the purloined feathers. It almost seems she's hyperactive, and I wonder if this is more a nervous system aberration than a nutritional deficiency as I'd originally assumed.

    One thing that leads me to believe that is when Flora is in this manic feather-stealing mood, she isn't interested in lap cuddling, which normally is her favorite thing. She's always been the most demanding of lap time of all thirteen girls, but when I pick her up to try to interrupt her feather snatching, she struggles to get out of my arms to race off and continue her mad pursuit.

    Today, I was holding Flora when one of the elder Brahmas walked up and plucked two of Flora's feathers out and swallowed them, then wandered off, almost as if to deliver a bit of pay-back.

    Space is not the problem - the pen is quite spacious and they also free-range for a while each day. The whole flock gets dried cat food in their daily scratch ration, and they get the higher protein flock raiser mixed in with their layer feed. I'm at a loss as to what to do about this.

  8. Hope119

    Hope119 Songster

    Apr 23, 2009
    Quote:Great to know! I am thinking of moving them to the main coop soon. I just have to think of how to make a cozy place in there... just a lower roost or a cardboard box or something... not sure yet... plus who knows how 5+1 big chickens would react. Right now in the main coop we have 5 hens and 1 roo, plus one of the hens has 3 babies who are almost 1 week old.

    The main group of (33) chicks in brooder probably does not have enough room - their first floor is not much bigger then a refrigerator box and that is attached to a rabbit cage that is higher and adds probably about 1/4 more space - that is where I locked the 3 chicks that were pecking others. They spent the night there and this morning I put cable ties on their feet to mark them (so I can keep an eye on their behavior) and let them in with everyone. I did not see pecking, but I did not have much time to watch and I did see that some backs although don't have blood, but do have broken feathers (well, just the thick part of the shaft, just quill in some places).
  9. Hope119

    Hope119 Songster

    Apr 23, 2009
    Quote:So I put some pics online. The big chickens there are parents to some of the chicks, but not most. I think the main reason for our roo not to grow feathers back is because hens are/were pecking him. They lost feathers in winter and still did not grow all of them back [​IMG]. Now 4 weeks old chicks are with bare backs too [​IMG] - don't have pics of it yet. Not all of them are with bare backs, but some are.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2011

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