Feather Picking, Broodiness, and Reintroducing the Girls

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tcbosco1, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 In the Brooder

    I have 5 hens: 1 RIR, 2 Dominiques, 1 Barred Plymouth Rock, and 1 Silkie Bantam. They have all been together from day one (last May) and were the best of friends until this long cold and snowy winter bore down upon us.

    The Silkie has gone broody twice, and all of them, except for the Barred Rock have no butt fluff at all.

    The Silkie seems to have suffered the most feather picking damage (no butt fluff, and missing lots of tail feathers), and after hiding out in the nest box (broody) for a while, the others became quite aggressive toward her.

    I brought her in the house (in a converted dog kennel cage) for her wounds to heal and for some feathers to grow back.

    In the meantime, I tried blu-kote, Rooster Booster Pick-no-more, and Black Salve on the others' behinds, to no avail. Their feathers start to grow, and then dissappear. I have never seen them pick on each other (only on the silkie). Again , the Barred Rock has all her feathers in tact.

    I suspected that the Barred Rock was the bully, as she has all her feathers, but I have never seen her peck at anyone except the Silkie. BTW, I have see ALL of them peck at the Silkie, and the RIR is by far the most aggressive.

    The Silkie's wounds healed up just fine, and she had quite a bit of feather re-growth. She started laying eggs again (in the house), so I determined it was time to reintroduce her to her "friends".

    I have been letting her free-range with them for about an hour each day for a week. I thought they were making progress, as yesteday they allowed her to take a dust bath with them. Last night I let her sleep with them, but this morning her tail had been pecked bloody again.

    Having said all that (kind of long, sorry), here are my questions:

    1. Is there a better way to reintroduce her to the others?

    2. Is it possible that hens will pick out their own butt fluff? (I did notice that after I applied the blu-kote, they all had blue beaks - even the Barred Rock, although I didn't see any pecking)

    3. Is there a chance that this dilemma will resolve itself come warmer weather and more free-range time?

    4. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions that could help in any way???!!!

    Please Help!!!! I don't think I can live with a live chicken in my kitchen for much longer!!!!
  2. eggchel

    eggchel Crowing

    Dec 26, 2006
    Both Coasts
    Have you checked them for lice/mites?
    Sometimes pests will cause them to feather pick.

    Sometimes feather picking indicates that they need more protein. Give them a handful of dry cat food everyday.

    Do you have a light on in the coop at night?
    If so, try turning it off.

    You can reintroduce a hen by putting her in a cage within the coop for a few days. That is also a good way to separate a hen without taking her away from the others completely.
  3. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 In the Brooder

    I have checked them for mites and have found none. I also don't suspect mites because one hen has all her feathers. As they all live together, I would think that if 4 had mites, then all 5 would. I am fairly new to this biz, so I could be wrong. If anyone has more experience, I would love to hear your advice!

    I feed them layer pellets that consist of 16% crude protein. Other than occasional scratch, treats such as strawberries, cabbage, etc., and their daily free range time, that's the only food they get.

    I happen to have a dog, do you think dry dog food (as opposed to cat food) would boost their protein levels?

    There is no light in the coop at all, so that's not the problem.

    There is insufficient room for a cage within the coop as they live in a chicken tractor arrangement. Please note, there is sufficient room for the hens.

    I suspect the feather picking is due to boredom from being, well, "cooped" up these last couple of months. I'm mostly concerned with getting the Silkie back outside with her friends.

    Tonight I'll try the black salve on her before I put her to bed with the others. Hopefully that will minimize the overnight pecking and maybe encourage them to play nice.

    Thanks for taking the time to offer some suggestions.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2009
  4. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    I've posted quite a bit recently about the "pinless peepers" that clip into the nostrils and make it much more difficult to pick at each other. The thinking is that once the bad habit is broken and everyone's feathers have grown back, you can take the peepers off. My peepers have been on for about 3 weeks now, and everyone's looking much nicer. I think I'll leave them on for about 2 more weeks, then take them off and see.

    You can search for pinless peepers on the forums and get several threads.

    Good luck! You want to stop this right now. It can lead to cannibalism.


    edited because complete sentences are nice.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  5. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 In the Brooder

    Pinless peepers, huh?

    Do these hurt the chickens?

    Do they make breathing difficult?

    Are you able to put them on the chicken without special tools?

    Do you need to "change" them, or just remove them when the pecking stops?

    I am intrigued!
  6. tcbosco1

    tcbosco1 In the Brooder


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