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Feather picking-are they bored? UPDATE 12/5

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ThePolishPrincess, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. We've dealt with feather picking in the past and have come to the conclusion that it started because the birds didn't have enough space and eventually it became a habit. We removed the peckers and all has been well so far, but now my Silkies (different flock) are throwing me a little bit.

    They have a beautiful new coop we just built this summer. There is 1 roo and 3 girlies. The coop is 48 sq feet, and we figured that they had enough room for all of them without giving free-range. I want to avoid it because one of them (the pecker, actually) is white and I'd rather not risk sun-bleaching. Also, we don't want to get in trouble with predators. But I can see how sitting in a coop doing nothing all day can be boring. The pecker is also the only one who can see well enough to pluck a feather.

    Also, they're just getting plain layer crumbles. They couldn't catch bugs, honestly, even if they wanted to. (Can't focus on such small things). So could they also need more protein? The pecker hasn't caused any damage yet, but I keep seeing her doing it. I'm afraid she's going to start going for the beards ([​IMG] )then I'll be in trouble. Ideas?
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010

  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Adding protein certainly couldn't HURT, so give it a try for a month. A little cat food, meat scraps, tuna, spinach, eggs, BOSS, whatever. See if it makes a difference. Or try adding a few roosts, stumps, or other things to add variety to their coop and relieve boredom...
  3. I can do that...would cheese be okay in small amounts (I know dairy like this must be limited in poultry). Cheese is a bit easier for me to get my hands on. BOSS wouldn't be hard to get either (making a TSC stop on Saturday), but cheese is what I have on me. What about (again, in very limited, SMALL amounts) flavored human-yogurt?

    I might be able to snag a potted plant or two around here. Would hanging treats around make things interesting? I guess I could let them out a few times a week also. We wanted to build a run for them but there's been alot going on lately.
  4. Lbrad7

    Lbrad7 Songster

    May 19, 2010
    Ringgold, GA
    Grass clippings also can help and you may want to consider putting in one of those treat blocks to help keep their minds occupied. I dont know if this will help but I bought a bunch of pumpkins (local produce stand put them on sale since halloween is over) and I cut one in half and give them to them one at a time and they work on them for hours.

    Good luck...hope this helps.
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Oh yes, I didn't realize that you had no run at all, so boredom probably IS a factor. Even if it's just chicken wire (which I typically don't recommend) and those ugly green T-posts so they can be outside when you're home, getting outside should help. I give my pieces of cheese, little pieces of lunch meat, canned tuna, and yogurt (although I don't know that cheese and yogurt have that high of a protein content???). I'd be putting a run on your priority list; just makes life so much easier [​IMG]
  6. I'm a junior in high-school, I honestly cannot build anything to save my life. [​IMG] My father and I decided back in the summer that the coop was the major priority at the time, just to have a shelter. But acctually, it just dawned on me that I can take a spare dog kennel without the tray and put in on the grass. They'll get some more fresh air that way. My father has been working alot lately. I can't ask him at the moment. If it takes a small sacrifice of coming home from school first thing and giving them a little time to run around, so be it.

    Would it sound silly if I said that I don't know if they really know that grass is okay to eat? In the past when I did bring them outside, they really do just stand there. Maybe a little scratching here and there, but that's it? I've never seen them eat grass...

    I thought that cheese and yogurt contained a decent amount of protein (this is the teenager talking) but I guess not? Goodness, that sounds stupid... [​IMG] That said, grass clippings I can do (before it starts to snow and everything goes away...). Is there anything else (that I don't manually have to attach to the coop structure itself) that I can throw in there to keep 'em busy? These birds aren't jumpers and have pretty big crests, even the pecker. I'm honestly surprised she's doing damage at all. I thought this was one thing I could avoid with Silkies...

    But thanks so much guys. If you have any more suggestions, I'll be happy to take them.
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I don't know what your money situation is, but here, on CL, you can find some pretty good deals on those paneled dog runs (you know...chain link sections, 6 ft. tall, on metal frames). You should really check that out if you don't feel comfortable building something. They're very easy to set up, and could be put up around your coop if it's a small one. I bought an 8 ft. x 12 foot one (not in the best shape, but very usable) for $75 for birds that I needed to segregate. Just a thought.

  8. A new update. Sadly, not a very optomistic one.

    Unfortunately, I don't have the free time of some of my peers, so I am unable to be home very much, especially lately. It's not an excuse, only an expanation. My typical day is: get up, shower, get ready for school, get on bus, school, track, then home. By the time I arrive back, it's almost completely dark out. Animals are sleeping, I just have to lock them inside and go in. This is 5 days of my week. That said, it is nearly impossible to provide my Silkies with any 'real' foraging time. As if that would help.

    I let them outside the day after I made this thread. They were just starting to take in their surroundings. Yesterday, Vet's day, I was able to let them out again. But the pecking issue seemed to have gotten much worse. I witnessed this hen not only peck her *favorite* hen, but go after my rooster too. Outside! Sure, she pecked at the ground a little bit and ate some grass, but she didn't seem to lose any taste for her *favorite* delicacy. And, the gentleman that my rooster is, he just stood there and took it. She also tried to go after my oldest hen, but she fought back right away and remined Ms. Pecker who the boss really is. Needless to say, I'm glad someone is willing to do this.

    The pecker is the smallest one of the flock! That really ticks me off that no one is prepared to put her in her place, aside from one flock member. I let them all out today, too, while I was getting some outside-chores done. No change in behavior. I sprayed some hot-pick on the blue hen, who seemed to be the reason why this all started (didn't fight back, what a surprise) and the mixture did nothing. 2 out of 3 of my birds just try to appease her. I try to throw some grass and leaves in the coop when I come back at night, and leave a flashlight there for them to see. They pick a little, then leave most of it over for the next morning. By the time I come back the next evening, the greens are gone, but so are a few feathers.

    Whatever the reason this started (boredem, I'm pretty sure), it has now festered to become a problem for me. These are showbirds. I wanted Silkies in the first place to help prevent this issue. We built them their own coop to prevent this issue. Heck, I went out of my way to get the most difficult, hard-to-keep birds I could have gotten my hands on, to prevent this issue. I don't mind diva-chickens, but this is getting me agitated. I cannot, nor will not, even consider pine-tar. Last time this issue occured with my chickens (different flock, but still) the tar didn't deter the issue, only stayed in the feathers until they moulted. Some of them STILL have tar in their heads. I did get the birds BOSS, and have been throwing a handfull in their dish at night so they could have it mixed with their food during the day. Even if I give these birds total free-range (an idea that makes me nervous, as we have predators about), it will do nothing. I already experienced this today.

    I don't want to take this bird away. I don't want to get rid of her. She's only 6 months old and it's going to get very cold soon. But I feel like every moment I waste is another feather I won't get back for 2-3 weeks.

    Any ideas or words of wisdom?

    P.S.-my father and I spoke about building a run. We'd rather not pick up a kennel but make it ourselves. But as I already said, and because of this new information that has been discovered (even outside, pecking will continue) it's doubtful a run will do anything. We decided, anyway, to make one this spring. If need be, we have the dog crates on hand, but I don't know why I'd bother. It's going to start snowing next month. If I can find out how to alleviate this issue until spring, It'll be better. But it's going to be a long winter.
  9. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Sorry it's still happening. I really don't know what else to advise other than to rehome her. I doubt anyone would take a silky to eat, so you could feel pretty secure that whoever took her would do so to have her as a "pet" addition to their flock. And being a newbie to someone else's flock, she would be at the bottom, or close to it. It's really not fair to your other birds to have to suffer, since they really have no place to escape to while contained as they are.
    I guess in my head I compare it to having several dogs contained in a room or in a dog run, with one dog that constantly bites the other dogs. Is it fair to leave that dog in there with them, knowing that they're being hurt by that dog?
    The only other thing I can think of are something called pinless peepers, kind of like horse blinders for chickens. You can do a search on them (or google) and find out more info.
    I sure hope you can work something out... plus track season should be winding down soon, shouldn't it??? So maybe having more time to interact with and monitor them will help???
  10. mommyofthreewithchicks

    mommyofthreewithchicks Songster

    Jun 25, 2010
    I would put her in isolation for a few days and then introduce her back into the flock (sometimes this can break a bad habit)- What I do is to put down scratch for them to eat during the day then they will look for grains in the straw throughout the day as there is always some they missed. I have the normal scratch with sunflower seeds and extra wheat (I found it for $5/50 lb)
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010

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