Flock is losing feathers and gaining black spots

gingerbee94

Hatching
Dec 6, 2019
3
1
4
My entire flock (seven hens) bar one hen does not look like they are doing so well. They all have broken feathers, patches that are bare, and have lost weight. Once howls each morning (not the egg song, nothing seems wrong, no predators, food is accessible, water is clean and fresh, but still she goes on). A couple have black spots on their combs and faces.

The one not affected is huge, clean, with no black spots. If it were parasites or a virus they would all have it by now.

They are all brown shavers, who were rescued from battery farms (so would have had all vaccinations etc when younger). Half were rescued six months ago and the others were rescued about 18 months ago.

Up until a month ago, they were all super healthy, big fluffy things (once recovered from the battery farm). The one at the bottom of the pecking order was always a little smaller, and would often have some pecking around her vent, but it was never bleeding, just missing a few feathers, and using the anti-pecking spray didn't seem to do much. I seemed much more bothered about in than her, so I stopped about 7 months ago with the spray....and things improved for her when we went from three hens to seven.

I live in New Zealand, so over autumn and winter, the hens have the full garden. In spring and summer, when we have bbq's and sit out on the deck, the hens are in their pen- this also stops them eating my spring vege garden. Their pen is huge, and includes a large coop designed for 12 hens with a run, and then a large area (5 x 13 metres) with plants, chicken swing, ladders, chicken toys etc etc. About three months ago, they were confined to the pen. They do get let out occasionally, maybe once every couple of weeks for a day. They seemed quite content with this until about three weeks ago, when it began to get a lot hotter, but turning on their sprinklers helped fix this)

They have chicken pellets to eat, supplemented by kitchen scraps. We also give them a ham bone or two each month. They have grit, a fresh water station, and then one water dispenser with mite tonic and one with general chicken health tonic.

Two months ago, one seemed to have scaly mite foot. She had the remnants of it when she arrived from the battery farm, and I wasn't sure if it was the same or slightly worse. For caution's sake, I did a big clean and dusted everything with mite powder each week for three weeks. I also gave all the girls a bath and a gentle foot scrub and coated all the girls legs with oil a few times over the last two months. Two weeks ago, I changed the bedding again ( I do deep bedding that lasts 8 weeks or so, with me scooping out the mess every couple of weeks and topping it up) and red dusted with a new mite powder, that was stronger but safer. The hen's legs are just the same, so I think it is just the scales growing out?

I thought it might be bullying, and there were a couple of incidents, so I removed the top hen for five days and isolated her. There was an improvement, they fought a bit less, but they still look bedraggled with new bare patches only acquired after the bully hen was in isolation. So I don't think all the feather loss is caused by bullying.

Any suggestions or ideas?
 

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azygous

Crossing the Road
10 Years
Dec 11, 2009
17,836
20,829
912
Colorado Rockies
Indeed you have a mystery. To solve it, you need to do some serious spying on your flock, some undercover surveillance. Bring a comfy chair, (no snacks or the chickens will glue themselves to the spot at your feet) and watch the darlings in their natural interactions. Right now you have only a general issue to go on - broken feathers.

If they all look alike and you can't tell them apart, it would help a lot to mark each differently with nail polish or magic marker on their legs so later, you can identify any trouble makers.

What you end up doing will depend on what you see happening. There may be one major bully or two. There may be a few chronic victims. It may be happening at feeding time or roosting time. You'll need to find out, then take it from there. What you see will determine what you need to do.
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium member
8 Years
Apr 3, 2011
48,482
37,673
1,122
southern Ohio
They are all molting pretty much, and the black dots are probably peck marks. Sometimes fowl pox may look similar in late summer when mosquitoes are out. What is the protein amount in your feed? They could use some extra protein now, 20% is usually good. Any scraps you give may dilute the amount of protein. Egg, tuna, chopped meat or fish, and sunflower seeds are the best for extra protein. Also look at you coop and run to make sure they are not overcrowded or bored. Getting out to free range helps to cut down on boredom.
 

gingerbee94

Hatching
Dec 6, 2019
3
1
4
I am yet to have any hens molt, and the pictures on line looks like they lose most of their feathers. Would just a few patches on each hen by considered molting?
I have been getting more eggs, roughly one a day per hen...could it be a protein thing?
 

gingerbee94

Hatching
Dec 6, 2019
3
1
4
Thanks so much for this :) The entire household has been watching on and off for a while (which is why we removed the biggest bully) but I never thought of looking for a second!
Luckily we have a glass slider, so I shall curl up on the couch for some serious chicken time
 

sourland

Broody Magician
Premium member
10 Years
May 3, 2009
90,585
152,238
1,837
New Jersey
:welcome To me it looks as if they are being feather pecked/plucked, and the culprit is most likely the hen who appears to be in perfect condition. Do an on site search on 'Pin Less Peepers'. If it were me I would be affixing them to the 'pecker' as soon as possible.
 
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