Feather and poop eating

Panda Pants

In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 22, 2013
Northern California
My little sizzle hen has a gross habit of pulling out her own feathers and eating them. She will also eat her own poop. She normally only does this when she is broody and recovering from being broody (no successful hatches yet). I have read in other threads here that this is a sign of protein deficiency, but she is my pet house chicken and is spoiled rotten. She gets scrambled eggs every morning for breakfast, and i place a dish of scrambled eggs with shells and a big handful of chopped greens in the brooder for her while she is sitting on the nest. She also gets fermented grains. I can't imagine that it could be a deficiency since she gets plenty of protein and doesn't always finish her food.

What could the problem be?
Neurosis is a good possibility especially with the breed, since Silkies and their mixes and derivatives have a very high incidence of mental disorders compared to many other breeds, particularly nervous anxiety and neurotic behavior patterns.

Is she bored maybe? Does she get to interact daily with other poultry, free range, or at least have a decent sized cage if not?

One thing to consider is that just because you're feeding an animal something, does not mean it's actually receiving that nutrient; many chooks lack complete digestive capacity and fail to synthesize one or more vitamins in the quantity they require. This is a great contributor to neurotic behavior. The fact that she eats her own poop makes this a likely diagnosis, since if she isn't synthesizing her food correctly a large quantity of protein would remain undigested or partially digested, making her poop higher value as food than a healthier bird's poop. If flies pay extra attention to her poop as compared to another chicken's poop, you can probably assume she's not processing her feed properly, but even if they don't it's still a good bet.

Another issue is that most feeds marketed as 'complete' feed are in fact base-level survival rations, designed to keep a bird alive and producing for a maximum of two years before it's culled and replaced. Beyond this they die from malnutrition disorders, usually, if not culled; malnutrition can masquerade as health and can take many years to kill.

Meat has far more than just protein in it; she may be needing any one or several things of a whole spectrum of meat's constituents. She may need more essential oils/fats, or probiotics, or fibre, or gelatin, or salt, or any one of many other things. I would review her diet, since even if she is neurotic, many neuroses are due to damage or dietary deficiency and can be corrected thereby. She may still be protein deficient despite the eggs, but I think it's more likely she's needing something that's present in meat but is in lower quantity than she requires.

Just for a start, in order to eliminate as much as possible the possibility of nutritional deficiency, I would give her a pinch of powdered or granulated dried kelp daily with her food. This is a complete mineral and vitamin spectrum source and will assist everything from feather strength to moulting to laying to intelligence to her endocrine system.

Best wishes.
You don't mention any other chickens. Is she the only one you have? Chickens are flock animals, and without other birds of the same species to interact with, she'll "go nuts!" PP mentioned that she may not be getting all of her nutritional needs met. I'm not a chicken expert, but if she's not getting outdoors to scratch in the dirt, get some sunshine, eat some bugs and fresh grass/weeds, I doubt that her dietary needs are being met. She may also have a bacterial imbalance in her gut from living in a too sterile environment. Try giving her some access to soil, and some fermented feed. Try giving her some raw liver or beef heart.
My fella has often said that he thinks she does it out of boredom. As i said in the original post, she only exhibits this behavior when she is brooding and during the 2 weeks or so following brooding. She is never confined, she can come and go as she pleases. She tells me when she wants to go outside and she comes in or out when she wants to. She is the only bird that sleeps in the house, but she has buddies outside that she can spend time with if she feels like it. She's normally not off of the nest long enough to go out and be social though. I have put her outside for some forced social time when it was really hot and i wasn't concerned about her eggs cooling off too much.

She does have some neurotic tendencies, but mostly they are very endearing to me so i never really thought much of it.

I will try the kelp powder next time she is brooding to see if that will help. Thanks much for the advice!
I ferment all of my poultry feed with my own mix of grains. I change it up a bit throughout the year as the weather changes and they need more or less protein. She has friends to hang out with outside, but she doesn't always feel like it. She eats plenty of grass and bugs, but i sometimes have to make her go outside for a while.
Quote: In my experience eggs can be stone cold at later stages of development and still grow and hatch. They enter a sort of dormant phase while there is not enough heat to continue to develop. The only real danger is under freezing conditions or with sub-par health in the parents, or when the chick is beginning to hatch. That's when a steady temperature is vital.

From the sounds of it, she really could do with some babies. If all the eggs are failing to hatch, the reason for that would need investigating. But perhaps giving her some hatchlings would help.

All the best.

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