feather loss

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Amfrolia, Jun 30, 2016.

  1. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 17, 2015
    I have a flock of five hens - no roosters - my first flock. I first noticed the feather loss on one of my Black Austrolorps belly. Almost all of her feathers were gone. Then I noticed my other Austrolorp was missing feathers on her belly also. Then I started seeing feathers from the Rhode Island Reds around the run and coop (a little loss on their bellies but not nearly as much). I thought it must be mies or molting.

    I inspected the birds I could catch - but couldn't find and signs of mites or lice on them. I did as some had suggested and went into the coop at night and rubbed a paper towel under the roost bars to see if any blood like smears appeared (a sign of red mites), but nothing. Just in case I removed all the old bedding out of their run and coop, sprayed everything down with mite spray and parasite spray (natural versions - not real strong), put DE everywhere and all new bedding. I did not treat the birds bodies directly.

    They still keep losing feathers - all over now. Around the legs, head, neck, vent - but only one looked like her skin was slightly irritated. Many friends who have chickens thought they might be molting - but it is now over 4 weeks and I have seen no new feathers.

    I read about depluming mites - which needs a skin scarping to see them under a microscope. So I took the worst off to the vet. She didn't find any evidence of mites, didn't think it was molting and thinks it is some allergic type reaction to the wood chips I am using (pine - no cedar). I don't think so though since they have had the same type and brand of bedding since I got them and the feather loss started before I changed out the most recent batch of bedding (so probably not a change in the pine chips).

    They are 18 -19 months old now - so it is around the time they would molt the first time - but no new feathers yet has me doubting.

    Frankly I am at a loss.

    I did change their food from crumbles to pellets around the time they started losing feathers. Maybe they are not eating as much? The crumbles were 18% protein and the pellets are 16%. Just in case it is diet related my next step is I am going to give them some game bird feed mixed with their layer feed - to increase protein in case that is it. Also should help them when (fingers crossed) they start to regrow their feathers.

    They are all basically laying as usual - although one started eating eggs about a week ago (related to feather loss?). They may have slowed down laying a little - but it has also been really hot.

    Any suggestions are much appreciated!
     
  2. Gresh

    Gresh Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 9, 2011
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    Sounds like you have the situation well in hand so far!

    I have had a couple of my hens randomly lose feathers on their abdomens and crop regions. At first I was somewhat concerned, but after awhile (around a month or so), the feathers began growing back. I still do not know exactly what happened.

    If your vet thinks it's an allergic reaction, I would suggest looking for things that are new to their coop environment that may be causing the reaction. There is also a small possibility that your chickens really are allergic to the pine shavings...sometimes allergies take awhile to develop in humans, and I reckon similar things happen in animals, so that at first they seem to be fine and then all of a sudden they have allergies. Try using wheat or pine straw for bedding for awhile and see if there's any improvement.

    Your new feeding strategy is a good idea and similar to what I would suggest. However, I would suggest giving them nothing but gamebird ration for a couple weeks and see if there is any improvement. If they haven't improved in two weeks, then I would switch them back to normal rations.

    I wish I could give you an idea of what you're up against...I hope your birds start feathering out soon!

    ~Gresh~
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 17, 2015
    Thanks so much Gresh! I really appreciate your in depth answer!

    Nothing new in the coop that I can think of. The first I noticed the feather loss was just before I was going to do a big spring cleaning - so I had just been doing basic maintenance. Not adding anything or doing any real fancy changes until after the big spring cleaning. I do keep wondering about the pine chip allergy thing as I have also heard these things can develop over time.

    It just seems odd that all five hens (the araucana the least) - so three breeds total - would develop allergies around the same time. If it had happened after I did the bedding change I would suspect something was wrong with the new batch of pine chips possibly. I have scattered some hay in the meantime to give them a light layer on top of the pine chips.

    Frankly I am still suspicious that mites or some other parasite might be responsible. I might give the coop a dusting with a stronger poultry dust (it says safe for veggies) - Prozap Garden and Poultry dust.

    Will they grow feathers back at any time - or do they wait for the next molt?

    The game bird food I got is 28% protein. Do you think that is OK to give the girls for two weeks? I was thinking of mixing in the layer feed for that reason.

    Thanks Again!
     
  4. Gresh

    Gresh Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 9, 2011
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    No problem, glad to help.

    One thing I wanted to ask in my last post but forgot: how long have you been using the DE? Did you start using it before or after the feather loss? I have heard mixed opinions on DE...some praise it like it's fairy dust, then I've also heard others claim it can harm poultry. I've never used it myself so I can't really give an opinion. [​IMG]

    As far as the rations, now that you mention it, it might be good to have a 75% gamebird, 25% normal ration. I have fed my chickens straight game ration before with no problems, but the sudden influx of protein may upset your birds' stomachs, which will stress them and not help feather growth.

    Chickens can regrow feathers anytime of the year, whether they're molting or not. I've had hens that have lost feathers to over-zealous roosters during breeding, and then grown them all back long before molting season.

    I wish I could give a more sure diagnosis and treatment. I too think it's strange that hens of different breeds should all develop an allergy. If the vet didn't find mites or lice, than I reckon they can be ruled out...it's a strange occurrence, to be sure! Keep me posted!

    ~Gresh~
     
  5. Amfrolia

    Amfrolia Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 17, 2015
    Hi Gresh,

    I would love to pick your brain some more if you don't mind.
    I have been giving my girls a blend of game bird feed and layer feed now for about 2 + weeks now. I haven't noticed any new feather growth yet although I am not finding as many feathers scattered around the coop and run.

    However, now I am having egg problems. The last week or so my two black austrolorps are having problems especially. Either very thin shells, a couple of times - no shell, and today a little fairy egg. I'm assuming it is a calcium issue - but why all of a sudden?

    Could it be due to feeding them the game bird feed? I always have oyster shell available for them to nibble (two kinds) and even put out an additional calcium supplement.

    I give them a yogurt treat once per week - but got them some kefir to give a couple additional days also.

    Also I ordered a feed vitamin supplement and also a vitamin and probiotic that I can add to their water. it hasn't arrived yet.

    It has been pretty hot here these last couple of weeks.

    Any other ideas?
     

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