Empty feeders = Missing feathers?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by NHMountainMan, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

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    We were away at our son's wedding for the past 4 days. I left what I thought was plenty of food, and left the 8 pullets in the coop (48 sqft) and run (192 sqft), with an automated pop door for access between the two. I have multiple feed and water stations, and hiding spots.

    When I got to check them and let them out to range, I found that 2 of the 8 had some missing feathers. 1 on the back, right next to the tail, and the other on her neck, just beneath her waddles. There was no blood or open wounds, just bald spots, which I covered with Blue Kote.

    I came back surprised to see they were out of food. I don't know when they ran out. I guess I underestimated how much of the diet is coming from their ranging, and without that freedom, they ate a lot more pellets.

    I'm assuming the missing feathers was probably due to either lack of feed or guarding the feeders. Also - there was a lot of rain while we were away - and only 1/3 of the run is covered with roofing - so rain can hit the other 2/3.

    Should I be concerned about the feathers, or is this nothing to worry about, as we have no other trips planned?

    Thanks for the advice
     
    Acre4Me likes this.
  2. DobieLover

    DobieLover Easily distracted by chickens

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    I wouldn't be too concerned. It does not sound like anyone was injured. But it does sound like someone was guarding what was left of the food and the pecking order went into overdrive.
    You obviously now know it's not a good idea to leave chickens to their own devices. It is better to hire someone or ask a friend to check on them at least once daily in your absence.
    I think it's best to make arrangements with a reliable person months in advance if possible so they can learn what needs to be done and be well prepared.
    It's good that your birds didn't suffer too much. I hope they still had water left when you got back.
     
  3. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

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    Thank you @DobieLover. I had someone that came for the indoor pets, but thought the chickens would be no problem for a few days, so of course, I tried to save a little money... newbie lesson learned.
    It's rare that I'm not home - and it took my boy's wedding to get me off our mountain. So worth it ... proud papa moment.
     

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  4. DobieLover

    DobieLover Easily distracted by chickens

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    Beautiful, happy looking couple! :love Congratulations to them and to you and your wife.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    It shouldn't cost you any more to have them check and top off the feeder and waterer, if they are easy to access.

    Congrats!
     
  6. imnukensc

    imnukensc Crowing

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    My birds eat much less of the pellets when free ranged and vice versa.
     
    Chris-n-Kate and NHMountainMan like this.
  7. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

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    Thank you!
     
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  8. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

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    I'm going to need to find a new sitter - but it'll be a while before I need someone. I've become a bit of a hermit in my retirement!
     
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  9. Acre4Me

    Acre4Me Crowing

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    Congratulations to your son and his new wife!!

    If interested, there have been threads on BYC by those that have successfully set up their coops to be “maintenance free” for up to 1 week. Some are chicken keepers that have jobs with long shifts (say 4 days in a row of 12 hour shifts), or those that like to go away for 3-4 day trips bc they are retired. You could search for these threads or someone may be able to point you to one they know about.

    generally, the first part of the success of this is making sure predators cannot access. Then make sure any small rodents can’t access the feed. Large, reliable waterers, feeders that stay dry and hold plenty, and dry areas of the run. Alternatively, some just lock them into a well ventilated and roomy coop that has water and food...but would work best for a small flock in a big coop! So, when you travel next time...maybe to help them move into a new home or welcome a little babe, your girls can be self-sufficient for a few days.
     
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  10. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

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    Thanks for the advice. I will look at the threads (if I can find them with the search function!) I feel really confident that the run and coop are pretty safe from predators. 1/2" hardware cloth everywhere, surrounded by electric poultry netting. I am going to search for a new petsitter. I've read that sometimes 4H kids are willing to manage the chickens- so we'll see. Our 2 daughters are getting married in the next 14 months - though those are local! Wedding expenses mean no vacation for us in the near future - so hopefully we'll be able to sleep in our own beds and manage our critters.
    thanks again
     
    Acre4Me likes this.

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