deliberately feeding feathers

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by cluckberry, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. cluckberry

    cluckberry New Egg

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    Jan 2, 2011
    Hi all

    I've been lurking for the last 9 months and have learned so much, but finally thought up a question I couldn't already find answered! [​IMG]

    Here's my problem: My chickens love feathers. I've seen every one of them eating feathers. But of course there is one that is the worst plucker.

    I'm feeding high quality, organic 18% protein food free choice 24/7, plus freely available BOSS 24/7. But they're still picking each others feathers out. All the hens but one have bare bottoms, and one is pretty much nude below the wings. Poor things! and it's been below freezing for about a month.

    A couple of the hens have feathers on their backs also nipped short, including the hen who is the worst pecker (she's the one that still has feathers on her bum)

    I've tried extra protein (can of tuna fish daily, shared amongst the 8 hens). I've tried hanging up a cabbage for them to hop up and pick at (they love it) as well as other greens. I rarely give them mixed corn any more as I'm afraid it dilutes the protein percentage. They often get yogurt in their food as well. I've tried a dried seaweed supplement, and Chicken Spice (but not Avia Charge, which I can't get because I'm in England...although next trip to the USA I will buy some!). I also tried the pinless peepers, but they still plucked with gleeful abandon. And as a last resort I even tried trimming back the worst offender's beak, but found I can't bear to do it far enough back to make a difference.

    So...I thought if I can't beat it, perhaps I could leave feathers laying around, and they could eat them as they wish. Might this stop them plucking?

    Does anyone do that?

    And...how could I get feathers? I've never seen any for sale, but maybe there are people who have loads laying around after processing?

    Thanks in advance for any advice! My husband's been after me for months, to ask the forum what to do about this problem, but I thought I'd try all the posted suggestions first.

    [​IMG] Jen

    PS I've got 8 hybrid hens. Aged about 7 months to 1 year old. They live in a coop (shed) which is 30 feet sq and leads out into a 90 square foot dirt run. They occasionally get to free-roam in the garden.
     
  2. Poulets De Cajun

    Poulets De Cajun Overrun With Chickens

    Have you tried an anti-pick topical to discourage the picking?

    You have a pretty serious problem on your hands.
     
  3. WhoopiePie

    WhoopiePie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    do you think maybe they have mites? it doesn't seem like they are lacking protein in their diet.... sorry i couldn't be more helpful, good luck [​IMG]
     
  4. snowflake

    snowflake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Belding Michigan
    try the emergencies and diseases tab there may be more help there
     
  5. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    Well your coop is a little short of the recommended 4 sq feet per bird, but your run is a little over the recommended 10 sq feet per bird, so I don't think it could be a space problem. I agree with WhoopiePie...check them well for mites. I might also add some animal protein to their diet, like cat food, and see if that helps. Maybe a flock block or a hanging head of cabbage or something to occupy their time while in the run? [​IMG] Ooops sorry, just read that you tried the catfood, the cabbage and greens...now I really don't know...
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2011
  6. MissJenny

    MissJenny Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 11, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hello, hello... sorry we can't be more helpful. I've had the occasional feather-picker, but nothing quite so severe as what you describe. And it seems you've tried nearly everything.

    First I want to be first to wish you welcome [​IMG]

    With such a serious problem, I would suggest a serious solution. It may sound silly, but I would try an overlarge saddle -- like an apron, to make it more difficult for them strip one another.

    In addition to the swinging cabbage, are there roosts in your run for them to hop onto? Or bales of straw? I have a few bales stacked in my run and they play hide-n-seek. Something else to play with might be boxes with holes cut in so they can run through... How about flower pots or raised beds in which you are growing grass or lettuce or something they can decimate daily? Or simply the dirt to dig in? What I am trying to think of is not just one thing for them to do but several. think of them as unruly pre-schoolers left to their own devices too long.

    Let us know what you do -- there will eventually be someone who seeks this answer too.

    Jenny
     
  7. MissJenny

    MissJenny Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 11, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
  8. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been dealing with this same problem.It started out with my roo picking the girls feathers around their vent & feeding them back to the girls. Then the girls caught on & were doing the same. I put blu/kote on their picked areas because they were raw & I thought it would taste bad etc. I also tried rooster booster anti pecking ointment .Then one evening I put more blue kote next am I noticed the roo had purple beak. I put the roo in a seperate coop. I started feeding them manna pro 22% poultry conditioner & tons of protein . After all this I ordered pinless peepers but haven't received them yet. Anyway, a week went by & I put the roo back with the girls & so far so good. I hope its ended if not I will put the peepers on & continue with the protein diet. Guess the girls need alot of protein to make all those eggs & to deal with the colder weather. Good Luck.My girls were gorgeous until this behaviour started. I wouldn't add feathers to their diet. Just more protein.
     
  9. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Quote:I don't agree with the above conclusion about space. The 4/10 sq ft is a minimum amount of space which USUALLY prevents serious problems. It is far from an ideal setup. In your situation, since they occasionally get to free range in the garden, then at the very least I'd let them in there every day, all day. Even if it means a possible loss to a predator. This situation is, IMO, on its way to losses from a much uglier source, each other. Nothing wrong with hanging a cabbage, mind you, but I feel that when we resort to such things to keep them from attacking each other, we are not addressing the underlying problem.

    I was lucky, we had a bunch of material available, so my coop gives mine about 13 sq ft per bird. I let them free range, anyway, and they forage over 3 or 4 acres. Chickens do not naturally confine themselves to a couple of hundred sq ft or so. I also have a fenced lot where I can confine them if needed; it's about 50' x 70'. They have cleaned all the grasses out of it.

    I'm not trying to be unpleasant here, only frank. And I'm far from alone in my thoughts. Two examples come to mind. Ridgerunner has a post in this thread along these lines, but he goes into a lot more detail:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=430880

    Patandchickens has also written similar thoughts in numerous posts. Both of them are much more experienced chicken keepers than I.
     
  10. cluckberry

    cluckberry New Egg

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    Jan 2, 2011
    Hi again

    First, thanks to everyone for the suggestions and the welcome. [​IMG]

    I haven't tried the antipeck spray yet...what I'd read on the board indicated it wasn't very effective and 10 quid seemed a lot to spend on another bottle of chicken stuff that probably wouldn't work...but it's not out of the running completely yet, and I'd love to hear if people do think it's effective!

    I don't think they have mites. I dealt with lice on them this summer, and with so much skin showing now I think I'd be able to much more easily spot mites if they had them. (I've checked them over both during the day and at night-with a flashlight). I try to give each one a good looking-over on a weekly basis.

    I love the entertainment ideas...heck, it's entertaining for me to watch them entertaining themselves! I'll work on those suggestions.

    Just to clarify: the girls can be in the coop, or the run, or both, so they really have just about 14 sq feet per chicken during the daylight. I have raised everything in the coop, and mounted exterior nest boxes, so the square footage is 100% usable by them. I installed one of those light-sensitive pop doors so they have access to the run as soon as it's light, and they tuck themselves in at night before the door closes. They do occasionally get to free roam in the garden if I'm gardening, but we have foxes in the neighborhood so they must stay in the run if I'm not right there with them.

    I've got plans to make a new enclosed run for them, as I can certainly see they'd be happier if they had more room to hunt and scratch...but I have to first relocate plants and compost bins filled with their poo...which, alas, is not exactly the most delightful task on my new year's list.

    I just found a new gizmo that might help...it's called a beak bit. here is the link Has anyone ever used one of these?

    ...and back to my original idea: is there any reason not to provide free-choice feathers, if I could find a source? Maybe they'd get tired of eating them if they are constantly available. It works for me with ice cream!

    Thanks again! [​IMG] Jen
     

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