Feather plucking?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by GypsyChick89, Dec 14, 2014.

  1. GypsyChick89

    GypsyChick89 Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 13, 2014
    I have a few hens that seem to be missing tail feathers and have bald spots right above their tails on their backs... Is this do to someone having a feather plucking issue or is it an aggression issue? Their coop has been expanded and there is plenty of room for the girls to not have any trouble and I have been leaving the run open due to this strange warm MN winter. They have food and water and two different spots for roosting so there is room for all and everyone is laying eggs like little champs. I dont know what to do about this issue. I have also noticed the its only my 5 Silver Lacers and my 5 Gold lacers and are having the bare patches and funky tail feathers, none of the BR's have bare spots except for I guess one is missing all of her tall tail feathers.
     
  2. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi there

    There are many causes for missing feathers and you will have to ascertain if it truly is a feather-picker causing the damage, or if there is an alternative cause such as a lice or mite infestation. Some solid observation of your flock is a good idea, and investigation of your coop when it's dark will help you identify a mite infestation if that is the cause. (To check for mites, take a flashlight into your coop and do a visible inspection, and also wipe a damp, white paper towel on the underside of your roosts. You will see smeared, red blood if there are mites under there.)

    If it's mites, you will need to treat the roosts, the coop, the nest boxes and the birds with an appropriate product.

    If it's feather picking, your girls may be either lacking in protein or just plain bored. I would recommend increasing protein rations (more meat, meal worms, scrambled eggs) and installing some activities for them - hang a head of cabbage just out of reach so they have to jump for it, put in some tree braches and logs to climb in and hide under, provide some fruit frozen into ice blocks etc.

    If worst comes to worst, you could isolate the pecking bird for a few days in the hope of knocking her down a peg or two in the pecking order. Also, keep an eye on the injured birds. If blood is drawn the others will continue to pick at the wound and cause severe damage. In that case, the injured bird will need to be separated.

    Finally, do you have a rooster? Is there any chance it could be damage from treading during mating? If so, a Hen Apron ('Saddle') might be of some assistance.

    Good luck!

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2014
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  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    How old are these chickens with missing feathers? This is typically the time of year that chickens molt in the top half of the world. The one you mentioned with no tail feathers, especially, sounds like molt, since molt usually follows a pattern where feathers go missing in specific areas.

    While feather picking has many causes, a lot of it is simply a bad habit some chickens can't seem to kick. However, this sort of feather picking usually tapers off and almost completely disappears around this time of year, especially during molt. It will typically resume again sometime around early spring.

    The best way to figure out what kind of feather loss is occurring in your flock would be to sit in the run and quietly observe their behavior. That way you can isolate the perpetrator if that's what's going on. If it's mites, you may want to examine the birds closely, and inspect the coop for creepy crawlies.
     
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  4. GypsyChick89

    GypsyChick89 Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok thanks for the help! Looks like I'll be hanging with my ladies this evening. All the girls are 6 months, I got them as chicks in June and they started to lay end of September.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    They wouldn't be molting yet at their age. Find the pullet with the most perfect plumage, and watch how she interacts with the others. Chances are she is your culprit.
     
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  6. GypsyChick89

    GypsyChick89 Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok thank you! If it's her what shall I do with her? Is she being aggressive or is she plucking feathers?
     
  7. AZMamaHen66

    AZMamaHen66 Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm having the exact same issue! My one that was the biggest culprit for plucking feathers now has a bald spot on her tail base. It seems like she is missing the soft underfeathers, like they never turned into nice plumage. Gonna check for mites tonight.
     
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  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    There are options. Pinless peepers. Isolating her. Putting saddle aprons on the victims. All these things I've tried at various times, with limited, but never lasting success.

    One thing I'm having some luck with is aversion training. When I'm in the run and I see a hen picking feathers, I holler "No!" at the top of my lungs. She usually pauses, looks up, and then goes back to picking. I yell again, "No!" She may stop again, and if she goes off to do something else, that's the end of the matter. Mission accomplished. If she persists, I then get up real close and holler right into her little head, "NO!" That usually does the trick.

    You don't have to camp out in the run, but try to visit as often as you can and repeat this holler therapy whenever you see feather picking. I swear it's been working with my flock, and I've tried everything else.
     
  9. GypsyChick89

    GypsyChick89 Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 2 that have bald spots on the tail bases and the rest look like someone has been working work it and there little fluffy under feathers are all mussed up and oddly shaped. Dang birds always keep you guessing. I wish they could just tell you lol
     
  10. mdelhomme

    mdelhomme Out Of The Brooder

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    I just got a new "baby" yesterday. There was quite a bit of commotion getting her out of the brooder and into a box for transport and she was really freaking out so I didn't have the chance to examine her well yesterday. When I got her home and lifted her wings I noticed that her back is completely bare with what looks like broken off feather stubs from her shoulder blades to her tail. She also acts very timid, but I expect it's the new environment, she's alone in a brooder now, before she was in with about 50 other chicks. She's about 10 weeks old, is very calm today when I hold her and she actually fell asleep on my lap.
    So‚Ķhas she been pecked bare? What do I do? I'm afraid she'll get sunburn if I let her outside, I'm going to make her a little T-shirt to cover her back, but will her feathers grow back or do I have to wait for a molt? I have 3 other chickens, now a year old who have never gone through a molt. Please advise.[​IMG]
     

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