Eating each other's feathers

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by sandmonkey2, May 20, 2010.

  1. sandmonkey2

    sandmonkey2 Hatching

    2
    0
    7
    May 20, 2010
    I have a pen with 7 hens, all 1 year old. They keep eating each other feathers. Most of them are half bald. I had to remove one hen and put her in a different area because they created a sore on her back and they kept picking at it. I have had one die from a similar injury that i didn't catch in time. Now they are looking worse for wear. Some are loosing their neck feathers and loosing weight.
    I'm new to this whole raising chicken thing. Am I not feeding them enough? Are they needing a supplement? I have received different opinions about this. I need all the help I can get. I enjoy raising them but not having much luck. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. brendapa

    brendapa Songster

    482
    2
    119
    Feb 2, 2010
    Chester County, PA
    What kind of feed are you feeding them and what is the protein percentage?
     
  3. AndreaS

    AndreaS Songster

    485
    3
    123
    Mar 5, 2010
    Hurdle Mills, NC
    Also...how crowded are they? Do they free range or are they in a pen all day? I noticed 2 of my chicks eating feathers that had fallen off (they weren't pulling them out) I checked the protein % on the bag of new feed I had gotten them, and sure enough......it was lower than their old feed. I started giving them a scrambled egg a day and switched their feed. No more feather eating after that.

    But I think chickens will do this also if they are bored and enclosed in a smallish area. If they are in a run, try adding some interesting stuff for them. Branches to climb on, heads of cabbage cut in half to Peck at.

    Seperate the one who is close to being injured, or use blue kote on the affected areas. I've not used it, but have heard that it works well. If one of them ends up bloody the others may Peck her to death. They see red and just go for it!
    Good luck.

    Andrea
     
  4. nancy1zak

    nancy1zak Songster

    182
    7
    121
    May 27, 2008
    Morris County, NJ
    I have the same problem. Although it has gotten a little better since I added a larger run to the back of the coop. I also added three roost bars in the runs. One in the smaller run (the left wing as we call it), and two at different heights in the larger run. This has given the victim alternate places to get away from the bully. I took our americauna out for a week so she could get better and we try to keep her coated with Blu Kote, but she is a crazy bird and we have a hard time catching her. She stays away from the other birds. I then took the bully out for over a week. I don't see her pulling feathers anymore, but I see feathers in the run...so I think a few of them are doing it. I give them a handful of the black and white sunflower seeds everyday, and they loved scrambled eggs. I use an organic feed, but it has the same protein as the Purina Layena. I think the best thing to do is give them more room and more places to get away from the feather picker. I can't let them free range. We have too many predators, and my neighbors dog lurking around. You can see my EE on my webpage with her Blu Kote. She had a big bloody sore on her back, but it isn't so bad anymore. I hope her feathers grow back. I finally decided I couldn't get too stressed about it. I was out there staring at them all the time trying to police their behavior. It was becoming un-fun and more of a pain. I think I was stressing the chickens out too because I was always hovering around. I have relaxed about it now and we are all much happier.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  5. sandmonkey2

    sandmonkey2 Hatching

    2
    0
    7
    May 20, 2010
    The coop is about 15 x 15. No, we don't let them out anymore. They keep flying over the fence into the neighbor's yard. Not sure what the % of protein is in the feed. We get it from the local feed and supply store. I think it is the Purina Layena. It's for laying hens. Is there a certain percentage of protein they require? I also give them scratch, would that help? I've started leaving a big bucket of food out thinking they can eat whenever they want and as much as they want. They are so thin now I'm not concerned about gorging. Any other ideas?
     
  6. DTRM30

    DTRM30 Songster

    464
    4
    121
    May 25, 2009
    Definitely let the eat what they want. I never leave my feeder empty - if I do, they start picking feathers and eating eggs before I can collect them. Maybe they are just hungry if you've been giving them a pre-measured amount of food each day. They won't over eat like a dog.

    I have also heard that a lack of protein or boredom are also causes. To increase protein, you can give them scrambled eggs (shells and all for an extra calcium boost), and black oil sunflower seeds - some give kitty food, but many dont' recommend it because of some of the stuff in it - not good for chickens long term.

    Give them something to occupy them - hang a cabbage ...

    Could be just a bully hen as well who will just move onto the next in line if the lowest of the order is removed.
     
  7. offdagridsoon

    offdagridsoon In the Brooder

    73
    1
    39
    Feb 20, 2009
    Ontario
    Sounds like it at least started out as a feed issue. I've heard it recommended to put pine tar (antiseptic and tastes bad) on cuts, etc, on the birds. Maybe putting it on the injured ones would keep the others off it long enough for the feathers to grow back in/break the habit?
     
  8. Baymen Moe

    Baymen Moe Songster

    522
    20
    169
    Jan 17, 2009
    Pembroke, Ma.
    Offer feed free choice 24/7. Sounds like the coop is big enough, how much space do they have outside? If it's not a feed issue it's probably boredom. I had the same issue. If you can't free range more (which helps), try adding a flock block. 7 birds could pick at one of those for a week.
     
  9. brendapa

    brendapa Songster

    482
    2
    119
    Feb 2, 2010
    Chester County, PA
    Give them gamebird starter, as much as they want and since they are laying hens, offer them crushed oyster shell on the side. Mix the purina layena in with it to use it up, about 75% gamebird & 25% of the old purina.
    The gamebird starter will increase their protein intake immediatelyand is cheaper than scrambled eggs unless they are still laying. But it's still cheaper than eggs.
    If you are just giving them a "portion" every day, they may be starving.
    Brenda
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: