Feather pulling

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Htownhens12, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. Htownhens12

    Htownhens12 New Egg

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    Nov 24, 2012
    I have 3 production reds, and the youngest (and largest) one has been pulling the other hens feathers and eating them. I read that she probably needs more protein, but I already have them on a 20% diet. What else can I do? Thanks.
     
  2. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Pulling and eating feathers is usually a sign or either lack of protein or boredom. Are they cooped up or do they free range?
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    If you've supplied the extra protein, don't waste any more time isolating the feather-shaver. A lot of time, the problem is caused by a fixation. It's in the brain. You need to do things to short-circuit the impulse.

    Pinless peepers can be tried. They inhibit the forward vision, and this works about half the time. Serious pickers adjust to the peepers and learn to see in spite of them.

    If you are able to place the picker in a separate area, where she can still interact but not have access to feathers, this can re-educate the picker. I have one such picker. I've noticed her activity is most prevalent in late afternoon. That's when she gets penned up in chicken jail until bedtime.

    This method takes weeks, maybe months to achieve a change in behavior. But it's worth it to protect the others, and can save you from having to re-home or cull a favorite.
     
  4. Htownhens12

    Htownhens12 New Egg

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    Nov 24, 2012
    Thanks for the advice. They're in a coop with a run most of the day, but I let them out for at least a few hours a day. Should I try giving additional protein to the picker?
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    If you've already tried the extra protein with the picker, I'd just feed her regular fare.

    That way, if the isolation works, you'll know the problem was behavioral, not dietary. But make sure she can still see and talk to the others. You don't want to risk upsetting the pecking order any more than is necessary. If you do, then you'll have fights.

    I usually place the picker in chicken jail, a smaller enclosure within the pen, during the afternoon, then let her out to roost at night with the others. Sometimes I put a buddy, who she isn't molesting, in with her for company. The main thing is to keep the picker and her victim separate.
     
  6. Mattemma

    Mattemma Overrun With Chickens

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    I had a picker too.He name was pluckers. I just culled her yesterday due to illness.Anyway she never stopped. I had issue with the others and after adding more BOSS and outdoor time they were good.The winters were the worst since they spent all day in a 6x8 metal shed. I added straw bales and wood beans to give them more roaming options inside the coop.

    Dog crates are a good investment for when you need to isolate a chicken.
     
  7. Htownhens12

    Htownhens12 New Egg

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    Nov 24, 2012
    I've also begun to notice that she eats small twigs.... It's like she has to be eating nonstop. Does that sound like a mental thing?
     
  8. Smoochie

    Smoochie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I HAD a feather eating Sebright. I actually ended up giving her to my parents older large fowl flock and her behaviour stopped. It started when we remove a batch of production hens and it stressed her out. Chickens often do not handle change well. I would try to spray them all with blue kote and sprinkle high quality cat food on the ground for salt and extra protein. Try to let them free range as much as possible... It is also a learned behaviour so it is best to nip it in the bud ASAP.
     
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I have one problem feather picker. Flo is a two-year old EE. She was precocious as a tiny chick, full of energy, always trying something new, pushing the envelope. By the time she was four-months old, she was racing around the pen at top speed, yanking feathers from backs, and butts and necks. She had so many victims, at one time I had saddles on half the flock to try to protect them from Flo shaving them bald.

    Over all this time, I have learned a lot about feather-picking. I'm convinced that it's more stress-related than anything. However, I do believe much of Flo's problem was originally nutritional. She was under-sized until she was eighteen months old. I began feeding her a supplement and she went through an astonishing growth spurt, stopped plucking feathers, and calmed down.

    However, she has had several relapses and remissions. The common denominator to all her relapses, has been stress. She was doing well, but relapsed a couple months ago when I began remodeling the pen. This threw the whole flock into stress. About the time the pen was completed, the flock all went into molt, including Flo, and she relapsed again.

    Currently, Flo has gone back into remission again since she's completed molt, and everyone is enjoying the wonderful new pen.

    So, feather-picking is all of that - it's a mental fixation, it's dietary, it's stress-related. And it's the most aggravating problems there is that we who love chickens have.
     

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