Cold chickens plucking own feathers??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Xtina, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Hi everyone,
    This morning was the first time in a week I've actually been able to look at my chickens, since I wake up before light and come home after dark. It was also the first freezing night of the year, so I gave my chickens a good look-over to see how they did. Well, it didn't take much looking to notice that two of my hens, the two that never moulted this fall, are nearly naked on the chest. Especially my barred rock. Both she and the rhode island red are pretty sorry looking right now. I didn't expect this out of them and I'm not sure what I should do. It's supposed to get down to 30 tonight. I'm about to put a heat lamp in their coop, but when I did that last year, they hated it and they refused to go anywhere near it. I noticed this afternoon that they are plucking their own chests and legs, as if they are determined to get naked before they go to sleep for the night. Does anyone have any experience with this? Why are they doing it and what should I do?

    In case it's helpful to know, I feed them normal chicken feed from the feed store and they free-range all day in the backyard. Egg production is down as far as I can tell, but that might not be true since they sometimes start hidden nesting spots over in the garden area because they are too lazy to go all the way over to their proper nesting boxes during the day. My buff orpington moulted in September and she looks great. Also, she's the only hen that will deign to sleep in the sheltered part of the coop. My coop has two roosts, one on the inside and one on the outside run section. Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

  2. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Update: As far as what to do goes, I just decided to put all the ladies in a dog crate in the garage. They seem satisfied with that solution. I'll do this for a few days, I suppose, while we're in freezing temperatures. But why did my ladies pluck themselves bare? My neighbor suggested I check them for mites, so I'll do that in the morning, but it doesn't seem likely because it's only two hens with the problem and it's the same two hens that didn't moult.
  3. Spore

    Spore Songster

    Dec 5, 2009
    Sounds like they are molting. If they prefer to roost outside then they are clearly warm enough.
  4. HorseFeatherz NV

    HorseFeatherz NV Eggink Chickens

    I would also check for lice and/or mites. You want to check at night (with flashlight) and look around their vent area, under wings, between wattles. This icky critters are small but deadly - they can and will suck the life blood right out of your hens. Lice you can sometimes see the egg clusters on feather shafts (close to the body), look like small white clumps.
  5. chookchick

    chookchick Songster

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Are you sure they aren't just molting? If they are preening, it may look like they are pulling feathers out, when it is just the old ones coming off. The location sounds like broody, but I can't imagine that could be it this time of year...Our temps on the westside of PNW are not that bad, I would just leave them in the coop, try not to worry about them. If they go from very cold to warmish (garage) back to very cold, it could be hard on them. If it is molting, should be obvious in a few days when the new feathers start growing in.

  6. Xtina

    Xtina Songster

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Ok, I just checked them for mites and didn't see any evidence. Just a bit of dandruff rubbed off on my coat. I think they are just moulting, but why on earth now? The one hen did that back in September and she looks great right now. The Barred Rock looks just awful, almost totally naked on her belly right now. And they all hung out in their coop for most of the day, in the sheltered part. I'm bringing them back in for the cold weather tonight and giving them some oatmeal or something, even though they weren't too thrilled with it yesterday. They need some warming up.
  7. mountainroost

    mountainroost In the Brooder

    Apr 21, 2009
    Ashland, OR
    Its interesting because some of my chickens just started getting bald patches right as it started getting cold. I was putting a heat lamp on in the coop for the cold so i thought it was the light at night, even though it was red. Its so hard to see that bare plucked skin exposed in the cold so i am still using the heat lamp. I think we are colder down here in ashland than you are. I just posted in injuries/diseases so you might check there to see if anyone has any ideas for me.
  8. lemurchaser

    lemurchaser Songster

    Apr 11, 2008
    Corvallis, OR
    I just brought my one girl thats mid-moult inside for the night. All the others are done, but she went late (she's blind, so she missed the cue, I think). Anyway, she's only got about half her feathers, so I didn't think she'd be able to stay warm enough.
  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    The stress of getting cold often can throw them into a moult as illogical as it sounds. I had a near naked pin feather covered hen last year when it was in the teens... it was one of the few who went inside to sleep. I didn't add heat or anything and she's just fine.

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