Feather Loss - Help Please!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Chickakahn, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. Chickakahn

    Chickakahn New Egg

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    I have ten Dominicker pullets and one Dominicker cockeral that are eight months old. About four months ago, they started losing their feathers. It appears to be mostly on their backs right around their tail feathers, with some loss around their vents. I have checked for mites and came up with nothing. It's very odd because I have some Easter Eggs that I bought as chicks in June and they have all of their feathers. They are all in the same run together. I thought it was just the Dom Roo's fault until he started losing his. I have some pictures, but don't know how to upload them to this. Any ideas? I live in the south, but it does get pretty cold here sometimes in the winter. I just don't want to lose them!!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  2. ChickenPeep

    ChickenPeep Faith & Feathers

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    They might be molting. How many roosters do you have?
     
  3. SteveBaz

    SteveBaz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] Good luck.
     
  4. egglicious

    egglicious Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How long does a molt last? She said this has been going on for four months. Also, does a molt start at the backside and vent area? I thought it started around the neck..
     
  5. aubreynoramarie

    aubreynoramarie designated lawn flamingo

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    Quote:I think the hens are rooster damaged and the rooster is moulting
     
  6. PeeperKeeper

    PeeperKeeper Chillin' With My Peeps

    We had same symptoms years ago. It was a possom getting in the coop at night trying to pull the young pullets of he roost to eat them. Possible rat?
     
  7. Eggs-quisite Eggs-cursion

    Eggs-quisite Eggs-cursion Out Of The Brooder

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    Some thoughts. Maybe the feather loss started as damage from the rooster on the lower backs and then progressed to overly aggressive preening of themselves. I've had chickens do that and just pluck out their own feathers. Some will say that it's a lack of protein, where they will eat their own feathers to satisfy their lack of protein. I put a saddle/apron on them and call it good because that seems to take care of the problem. What I don't like is that they won't grow back the feathers until next fall, at least ours didn't. There still may be time to get the feathers to grow back if they're not done molting, if it is a molting issue.

    The vent feathers are a mystery. I've heard it said that making sure that the parallel roosts are far enough apart that hens on the lower level of the roosts can't reach the hens on the upper level of roosts because the lower level gals will peck the upper level girls if given a chance. They say that the upper level hens won't move to avoid being pecked on. So, I just make my roosts far enough apart to avoid this problem. But who knows if that's even an issue in your case.

    Mites are really, really small. I can't see them on the chickens. But chickens can see them and will try to eat them. Do your hens have a good place to dust bathe? You know, one with fresh dirt? Are they allowed out of the coop and run during daylight hours? If not, they need a box for dustbathing. Even if outside, they need a place, usually under trees or bushes, to dust bathe in.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  8. Chickakahn

    Chickakahn New Egg

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    Thanks for your helpful advice, everyone.

    Eggs-quisite Eggs-cursion - You make some really good points. I have two roosters and 13 hens. They all sleep on the same roost at night. Do you think that they might be biting the feathers off of each other at night? I'm not sure what could be done about that? They have two roosts, but all choose to get up on the same one.

    The roost is pretty full, so I don't think that it is a rat, and there is no way that a possum or other large pest could get into the coop at night.

    They dust bathe in the dirt, but I may need to give them another option. I can't let them free range right now because of my dogs. (Not bit fans of the chickens) I do agree that the feather loss probably started out due to the rooster. I have three chickens that have the loss about half-way up their backs and it is bright red.

    About the protein...I feed them two cups of scratch grains each morning and a big scoop of Purina Layer brand feed. Should I be giving them something else?

    I have some diatomaceous earth that I have been putting in the coop. I will try putting it on the hens as well. I also used Seven dust the last time that I cleaned the coop.

    Could these chickens freeze to death if their feathers don't come back during the winter??? That freaks me out. I've put so much time into these stinkers!

    Let me repeat my questions:
    Do you think that they might be biting the feathers off of each other at night?
    Should I be giving them something else to eat other than Purina Layer and Layena Scratch Grain?
    Could these chickens freeze to death if their feathers don't come back during the winter???

    I'll try to post some photos on my Chickakahn page this evening after work so you can see what I mean.

    Thanks!!!
     
  9. Eggs-quisite Eggs-cursion

    Eggs-quisite Eggs-cursion Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:I have no clue about the vent picking since you say they are all on the same roost. They can't possibly be doing that at night if they're all on that same roost. I think vent picking is the proper term, but I'm not sure. You could do a search on that or a post a question on that topic to get more focussed answers.


    Since you have picking on both the backs and the vents, then mites could be a possibility. The chickens can see them during the day and will sometimes pick at them because they can also feel them. Mites are a possibility, but not necessarily the culprit.

    I have a tendency to think the feed isn't the issue. But if you give scratch in the morning and feed at night, then their protein intake is closer to the average of the two feeds' protein level, which usually isn't the recommended layer amount. How to figure out protein level. Take protein percentage of Scratch=X. Take protein level of Purina Layer=Y. Add X + Y together. Then divide by two to get the average. My guess is that X is around 10 and Y is around 17 with the average being around 13.5%, 15% tops which might not be enough especially if they're cooped up with no chance of getting any bugs to boost their protein levels. But that's what the experts indicate. Me, I have no idea if feather picking is caused by a lack of protein. I don't think it's the only cause of feathering picking.

    The chances of your birds freezing to death in the South are minimal. A winter without feathers on their back will cause them to consume more feed to stay warm. I put a saddle on the one hen I have that has a bare back. The feathers didn't grow back until the next fall on my hens the last time this happened. Poor things. No matter how much protein and mackeral they got, they didn't grow back their feathers until fall. I'm under the impression that they don't grow back feathers until their usual molting time, but I could be wrong.

    I think the bigger risk is the chance of mites because they actually take their own nourishment from the hens. We've only had mites once ever and it was during spring brooding, so I'm really no help there as the population of mites went down when I put in food grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkled it on the hens who were brooding. But as soon as they were done brooding, the hens were back on the pasture and under the bushes dust bathing.

    There are discussions out there of making dustbathing boxes for chickens who are confined in case you're wondering about that.

    Anyway, that's about the best I can do. Hopefully, you'll figure out a good solution for your birds. Best wishes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2011
  10. egglicious

    egglicious Chillin' With My Peeps

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