Feathers Missing - What could be the cause?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by sebloc, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. sebloc

    sebloc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 7, 2016
    Connecticut
    Hello everyone :D

    Recently (within the last 2 weeks) we have noticed all our chickens loosing feathers. Some are worse than others, but we are unsure of the cause. Molting? Mites? Other? Here are some pictures:

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    We have 2 barred rocks, 2 buff orpingtons and 1 Rhode Island red.

    To answer some questions:
    -We do not have a rooster, we did at one point but recently removed him (in the fall).
    -All are laying eggs normally. We get about 5 a day.
    -We give them crushed up egg shells every day.
    -We give them layer pellets
    -There is nothing added to their water, straight up from the faucet.
    -We give them romaine, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables once a day/every other day.
    -There is a tarp over their run, but they get a lot of morning/afternoon sun.
    -We never free range them due to hawks, fox, and a variety of other predators.
    -We sometimes see them pick at each other, but not often.

    Thanks for any help you may provide! I will answer all questions. I hope I'm not doing anything wrong!
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2017
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Front bird in second pic is rather extreme.
    Combo of layer pellets(what is protein percentage?) and lots of lettuce might be part of the problem.
    You say you 'sometimes' see them pecking but I wonder if they are pecking feather more than you are aware.
    How big is their enclosure(in feet by feet)? Crowding can cause behavioral issues, of which feather picking is one of them.
    Also wonder if the rats are part of the problem...rodents have been known to get into coop and chew feathers at night.
    Just some thoughts.

    Checking for bugs is always a good idea.

    Bugs check
    Have you checked them over real well for mites and/or lice?
    Best done well after dark with a strong flashlight/headlight, easier to 'catch' bird and also to check for the mites that live in structure and only come out at night to feed off roosting birds.
    Wipe a white paper towel along the underside of roost to look for red smears(smashed well fed mites).
    Part the feathers right down to the skin around vent, head/neck and under wings.
    Google images of lice/mites and their eggs before the inspection so you'll know what you're looking for.

    If you do find some...check out this thread:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1134783/permethrin-spray
     
  3. sebloc

    sebloc Chillin' With My Peeps

    246
    14
    61
    May 7, 2016
    Connecticut
    Checked under the roost they usually sleep on.. nothing. (Paper towel wipe)

    Looked the best a could at each chicken, didn't find anything.

    All layer pellets, 16% protein I believe. (Looked online at ingredients)

    Run is 6x12. They have lots of room to roam around.

    We have 2 cameras set up; one inside the coop and one in the run. We have never noticed any rats attempt to get in, or actually be in the coop/run.

    Some of the chickens have parts of feathers missing; potentially pecking.

    Thanks :D
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    36,684
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    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    How big is coop itself?

    There's absolutely no way rats could be getting in?
    They're small and can squeeze thru tiny holes.

    Run is pretty good space for 5 birds confined 24/7, but wouldn't call it 'lots'.

    I'd guess probably picking...give them some animal protein(mealworms, scrambled eggs, meat scraps, etc).
    Might help stop it, but could be habit by now.
    Feathers won't grow back until molt.
     
  5. sebloc

    sebloc Chillin' With My Peeps

    246
    14
    61
    May 7, 2016
    Connecticut
    We have a layer of 2 inch thick slate under the run, followed by a layer of hardware cloth. All around that is a wall of cemented in concrete blocks. The rest is entirely enclosed with hardware cloth, as well as every opening and hole. We have seen no evidence of rats inside the coop, no holes that show them, nothing. The coop is practically impossible to get into and out of without having a hand to open the latch to the doors.

    The coop is about half that side in length, 7x6 (going by drawings that we wrote). The height from bottom to top is about 4 feet. One side is solid roosting area, the other is egg boxes (not incorporated in size, 3 egg boxes), with access to food in the middle. (I can add pictures)

    We do give them scrambled eggs frequently but not as much, and we have never given them meal worms.

    They don't often pick at each other, but they have started more frequently. Thanks.
     

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