Dominant hen stopped laying, moulting hen eating feathers - 2 quick questions!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ticketism, Mar 10, 2018.

  1. ticketism

    ticketism Songster

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    Hi all,

    I'm just wondering - Is it normal for the top hen to just stop laying? I'm a little unsure what she's doing, but my Light Sussex (2yrs old) has been the Boss for over a year, and for the majority of that time (and I guess, since she first started) she was a very good layer, laying most days and always good eggs, sometimes double yolkers, and just recently (within the last 3 months) she's started getting a whole lot more dominant, acting like a roo, and has been totally off the lay. The last eggs from her were fine and normal, but without any change in the flock, coop, yard, or any other circumstances she just had a behaviour shift and went very 'manly' as well as completely stopping laying. Is that normal? Is there anything I should be looking out for (aside from the usual stuff? And is there anything I can do to get her to out of this 'I wanna be a boy' phase and back laying again?

    Second question - It's coming into Autumn and my White Orpington went off the lay and into a hard moult. There was a freak heatwave for a couple of weeks so she started laying again for a bit, but now it's getting seasonally dreary again so she's back off the lay and well and truly moulting. I mean, it looks like a chookie crime scene or a feathery blizzard when she has a good dustbathe, haha. Weirdly, the LS doesn't seem to be moulting at all, but maybe she'll catch up. Anyway, as an Orpington she's super fluffy, and she keeps getting some of the softer fluffy feathers stuck in her beak whilst preening. It's actually hilarious to watch, but they obviously annoy her because she shakes her head around, wiping her beak, scratching at it with her foot, and she just can't get the damn feathers out of her mouth so it's like she's going 'ah well, bugger it, I'll just eat the bloody thing then' and starts gobbling it up I know sometimes feather eating can mean a lot of things, and sometimes they do it whilst moulting for various reasons, but it really looks like she doesn't want to eat them, just does because she can't get them out of her beak =/ Is it bad if she eats a lot of feathers? Will the thicker ones hurt her in some way? Is she maybe doing it for some other reason and I should take action? Or if not, should I do something to help her on the moult so she doesn't need to eat them so much? I'm a little bit confused because she's about 2.5yrs and has never had this problem before in previous moults nor has she ever displayed feather eating tendencies.

    So I've got one girl who thinks she's cock of the walk and won't lay, and one who is all grumpy and sensitive looking like a plucked chook with feathers stuck to her face half the time, and neither have ever done either of these things before, hahaha. I did UTFSE and read several other posts about dominant behaviour and moulting/feather eating, but I couldn't find anything particularly relevant that helped out, so I figured I'd just start a new post and ask specifically, heh.

    Cheers!
     
  2. ChickNanny13

    ChickNanny13 Crossing the Road

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    I've read somewhere, that when there's no Roo around sometimes the dominate Hen will take on the characteristic of a male but I have no clue what to do about it...Sorry. I had a hen that crowed! That was the first for me, rehomed her and at her new home there were Roos, she stopped crowing ... Go figure.

    I've read that during molting, increase their protein intake to help them through it. Feather = protein I had a feather eater, fed her scrambled eggs and she stopped. There's a feed Feather Fixer, never used it, think it's a Nutrena product. I feed Flock Raiser (20%) with Oyster Shells in a separate container regularly. Make sure she's got grit available to help her digest the feathers she's eating.

    Hope someone with more experience will peep in soon....
     
    ticketism likes this.
  3. ticketism

    ticketism Songster

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    Thanks for your input! :) I have definitely heard of hens taking the place of a rooster, it's just odd that she would randomly do that after so long of having no roo around (vast majority of her life in fact, and even then it was only shortly and the boys were only youngens themselves), withoutany catalyst like a change in the flock or living circumstances or anything... Or is that not strange? Haha, it's the first time I've seen it happen in my flock so I don't know what's normalthere, lol. She won't even squat for me unless I really make her, as in, pick her up purposefully then put her on the ground facing a corner and apply a good amount of pressure (not enough to hurt at all, just a consistent pressure without letting her squirm away), and even then she doesn't drop all the way nor lift her tail right up, so I know it's very reluctant and I don't want to do it because... Well, I feel bad? Like a chicken sexual predator if she doesn't want to respond like that to a tail touch..? =/ I'd very much like for her to go back to being a sweet natured hen who loves affection and lays regularly though... Not to mention isn't nearly as noisy and attention seeking! Haha. She's even been more aggressive towards my orpington who has started to squat when she comes strolling over like she owns the place, haha.

    As for the feather eating, her diet is definitely sound and she gets plenty of calcium and protein, it honestly seems like she doesn't want to eat them but only does so because she can't manage to unstick from her beak! Hahaha. Yes it's funny to watch, but I wanted to make sure the feathers wouldn't hurt her or cause undesirable habits or put her off her real food because she's full of feathers, haha. And also wondering if maybe there's some reason her feathers would be catching in her beak like that causing her to have no choice but to eat them, as it's never happened before. Are her feathers not as robust as usual making them so fluffy, and maybe that's indicative of a health or diet issue..? Or is it normal and I'm just an overly concerned chicken daddy? Haha. I'll try offering some additional protein and calcium anyway just to see if she takes to it and it helps. I'm just hoping she's not getting stressed out by the LS suddenly becoming so dominant and possibly giving her a bit of a hard time!

    Thanks again, and thanks in advance for any additional thoughts and responses too :)
     
  4. RWise

    RWise Songster

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    sounds like she may be ready to molt, they do this at 18-22 months old, normally.
    Feather eating, well I feed the feathers of butchered birds back to the flock. My rooster will pick up a smaller one and tell the girls "eat this" and they do. They keep all the smaller feathers picked up and eaten. Never had any issue with this. Maybe he just like a clean yard,,,
     
  5. ticketism

    ticketism Songster

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    Well the LS is about 26 months old, I'm fairly sure she's had a moult before but I don't know if it was a proper hard moult tbh - I wasn't around that time of year last year due to illness and emergency surgery. So they might stop laying and start acting more aggressive and dominant for up to 3 months before a moult? Even while the others carry on behaving and laying as normal? That's a whole season away from moulting time =/ WO only stopped laying about a week before I noticed she was definitely moulting (but I knew it was coming up and had probably started, just not totally noticeably yet), and she even started laying again for ~a week (then briefly tried to go broody, haha, she's a regular broody that one, babies on the brain all the time) due to a heatwave that tricked her into a false Spring. She's all grumpy and sensitive, but not acting agressive or dominant like LS, so I don't know if LS's behaviour is linked to moulting at all.

    Okay, I'll let WO do what she wants with the feathers then, and maybe just laugh inwardly when it looks too silly xD I usually clean up most feathers I can... And collect all the really big, pretty feathers (like from their wings, backs, and tails) that I find clean, dry, and in good condition - I end up making things with them, or doing crafts, haha. So if she wants to eat the other ones, well, less cleanup for me lol. Still hoping to find a way to get LS off her power trip - I'm the rooster here 'scuse you, you're getting too big for your boots Ms Floofbutt! Hahaha.
     
    ChickNanny13 likes this.

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