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Feather picking

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Farmington, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. Farmington

    Farmington Songster

    Jun 2, 2009
    Northeast Ohio
    I'm having a problem since my birds have been spending so much time cooped up this winter. It's mainly my one rooster. He has been pulling the feathers out of the head, and neck area of almost all of the other birds, hens and roosters. After he pulls them out, I've seen him eat the feathers. What's up with that? My birds are starting to look pretty ragged. Should I get rid of him? Is he missing something in his diet? or is he just a jerk?

  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Sounds like boredom. You could approach the problem in several ways. Make sure they have things to keep them busy - some folks hang heads of cabbage for the birds to eat and play with, other foods too. Although I don't like them myself, folks use pinless peepers on the offending bird. Or, you could let them out on all but the worst of days.
  3. Farmington

    Farmington Songster

    Jun 2, 2009
    Northeast Ohio
    I'm thinking it's more boredom myself. I give them scratch in the litter to dig for, and it keeps them busy only so long. I have a treat ball in there that we stuff with cabbage, but it's small. They have plenty of space. There's 16 birds in the coop. 11 standards, and 5 bantams. The living area in the coop is 8'x12', and they have 2 parallel 7' roosts that they can sit on, or walk under. I'd like to start leaving the door open to the run during the day, but it's been pretty blustery and snowy here lately. Any boredom buster suggestions?
  4. litl red hen

    litl red hen In the Brooder

    Apr 25, 2008
    Quote:I am having a problem also. I have 11 standards, in a coop that had a renovation in the summer for a total of 48 sq feet. I have 4 3year olds and 7 that were a day old May 3. Of the newbys, 3 are Buckeyes. One of the Buckeyes is pulling/plucking feathers of the other two Buckeyes. I find it odd she is only choosing the two like herself--unless the other birds fight back better.

    I have given heads of lettuce, chuncks of suet, and apples cut in half for easier pecking. I have been random with this--guess I need to keep them busier. I saw the other post mention toys--should we hang bells and ropes--like for parrots-- as distractions? I know there is no food value, but could just be distractions. I welcome all suggetions.

    Thanks--in CT.
  5. chickerdoodle

    chickerdoodle Songster

    Aug 21, 2009
    Eating feathers is often caused if they need more protein or have too much artificial lighting at night. I would try alfalfa hay to pick through, BOSS and/or add some meat scarps from your table. [​IMG] Too many carbs can create a protein deficient diet because if they are bored they will eat more of it. The hanging veggies is very helpful to relieve some boredom as is adding multi level perches for them to play on (NOT for roosting at night, they should be 1 level to avoid pecking).
  6. TNBarnQueen

    TNBarnQueen Songster

    Oct 28, 2010
    East Tennessee
    This is off the subject but I just wanted to tell Chickerdoodle her pic is adorable!!![​IMG]
  7. chickerdoodle

    chickerdoodle Songster

    Aug 21, 2009
    Quote:Aww, thanks TNBarnQueen [​IMG]

  8. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Quote:There's really no reason to lock them in the coop, except possibly during a storm. Lots of people shovel the snow out of their runs so the chickens will be more likely to go out. You can do things like lay pallets on the ground to give them something they find more comfortable to walk on. A tarp or board cover might help keep the run clearer. Bales of hay on the upwind sign may help. By far the best cure for boredom is space, IMO.

    Feathers are high protein and eating them may also mean their diet needs more protein. A lot of people up the corn or scratch in winter, thinking they will be warmer, but unfortunately all this really does is decrease the protein in their diet. Best solution is meat, any kind. A pack of chicken or turkey necks or backs is not expensive. Canned mackerel , found near the tuna, is an inexpensive way to add protein and they love it; I feed one can over 3 or 4 days. BOSS is somewhere around 20% protein, not much higher than feed, but better than corn at 8% or so. Game bird feed as a treat or snack is also an option. Cheese, cat or dog food all add too much sodium to use more than once in a great while.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 17, 2011
  9. alaskachick

    alaskachick Songster

    Jun 13, 2010
    Wasilla, Alaska
    Go to the pet store and buy some Rooster Booster Pick-N-More. Its a lotion that you put on the hens that are being picked and the pecker stops because of the smell and taste. They may have a similar product by another name if not this exact brand, but it worked for my chickens. Their backs were bare and as soon as I put that stuff on, only one time mind you, the feathers were all most grown back in a couple of weeks time. I have never had a problem since.
  10. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Songster

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    I'm climbing aboard. I've been fighting this problem for a while with not much luck. I've upped the protein, used rooster booster, blue kote, hot pick, & they all wear peepers. I noticed yesterday that their still pecking feathers. Does anyone really no how to stop this behaviour? I'm all ears. I've bee[​IMG]n fighting this for months. If you look at the forth chicken you will see whats going on. Look at the vent area covered with purple.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2011

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