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flocking pecking! Even with lots of space and entertainment

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by laurabates, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. laurabates

    laurabates New Egg

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    I have a flock of 23 hens, a mix of breeds. They are 8 months old, laying around 16 eggs per day. They have a 100 square foot chicken coop, 30 feet of roosting, 10 nesting boxes, two large feeders, two large waters, 300 square foot run with additional roosting, water, dust baths, toys, trees, hay, etc... Over the past 3 weeks, they have all begun pecking each others' feathers off. Most of the flock has large bald spots surrounding their tail feathers or on their heads. When they pluck, they pull the larger fuller feathers and let them drop to the ground, but the small downy ones they eat. I've sat and watched to see if it's a few particular birds that are bullies, but most of all of them are participating in the pecking. They do it all day long (laying in the nesting boxes, eating, walking around, dust bath, drinking, sitting on the roosts, hiding under the trees). They are fed Dumor Layer crumble (constant supply) they are given treats and scratch everyday (by my kids). We go out and visit them around 3-4 times per day.
    Everything I have read says they are bored or don't have enough space. But they are being interacting with regularly and they have tons of toys and fun things for them to play with. They have plenty of space (based upon 4 square feet per bird). I'm at loss..... they are looking so nasty and mangled.
    Ideas???? Help????!!!
     
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    What is the protein content of the Dumor feed you are using? What sort of and amounts of treats are you giving? If I recall correctly, Dumor layer has a fairly low protein content - the addition of scratch and/or veggie based scrap treats would further lower that overall protein content of the diet. Do you offer any animal protein based supplements/treats?
     
  3. laurabates

    laurabates New Egg

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    Jul 22, 2016
    The Dumor Layer feed is 16%
    The scratch is just 5 Grain Dumor Scratch (can't find the protein)
    Then they also get fed just kitchen scraps

    If I combined chick feed (20%) into their layer feed, would that give them appropriate amounts of protein? Or do I need to do like yogurt or dairy items?
    Thanks!!!!!!
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes, the Dumor Layer I see at Tractor Supply is 16% protein. I normally feed mine the 15% Dumor Grower/Finisher with oyster shell on the side and don’t have feather picking issues. I have a lot more than 10 square feet per chicken in the run, and more than 4 in the coop. Mine forage in an area inside electric netting. I’m not sure how much that foraging helps.

    I see yours are an all female flock and they are the same age, still pullets but laying eggs. Those things generally mean they can handle being kept in a smaller area. I’d expect that to be enough room to keep them from eating each other.

    I’d suggest you cut back on the scratch and treats too. That’s in case it is a nutrient issue. It may not be a protein issue but maybe a mineral issue. You can mix in Chick Starter if you wish, but offer oyster shell on the side so they get enough calcium for the egg shells. I did not see a calcium supplement in your list.

    Have you checked them for mites and lice? That could be the problem.

    Other than that I really don’t have any suggestions. Good luck!
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    I think OGM nailed it. Not enough protein. Further suggestions for you:

    Increase their protein to 18 - 20 %. Be sure that you supervise all treats. Kids love to see birds eat the treats they give. If I allowed my grand kids free access to the scratch bin, they'd empty it in short order. Less than 10% of their ration should be treats, and in your case, I think I'd eliminate it for a few weeks, unless it's animal based.

    Switch to fermented feed. Check out the how to and FAQ in the bottom link at my signature.

    in addition to increasing their protein, look at their run. I assume you are not able to let them out to free range? If that is the case, I'm guessing their run is bare of vegetation? If that is the case, I strongly urge you to turn that run into a deep litter run. Add as much compostable material as you can get your hands on: hay, straw, old bedding when you clean out the coop, dry leaves, garden debris, grass clippings, wood chips (whole trees including leaves and bark that have been chipped by a landscaping or tree service company) After you get a nice deep 6' layer of material in their run, you can then look at making them some fodder frames: Make some frames out of 2 x 4's, filled with soil, and covered over with hardware cloth. You can plant a variety of seeds in the frames. The birds can continually harvest greens from the frames without disturbing the roots and soil. consider planting wheat, barley, a mixture of brassica plants, white or red clover.

    Does the coop and run have multi height and out of sight areas for them to be? Hay bales stacked with a tunnel between the lower bales (make it safe by laying a piece of plywood across the open area before putting on the top bale. Or you can simply place a pallet over 2 bales, creating an open shady spot underneath. Extra perches in the run, hay bales in the coop.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    You don't give them any other protein source.....or any other food or 'treats'??
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    The get whatever they can catch and any mice I trap. That’s not a lot much of the year. They forage some and get kitchen scraps and garden wastes. When I butcher they get an immediate but short-lived high boost in protein as I keep a bucket handy for certain “parts” I feed back to the flock. When I have baby chicks in a brooder I fed the chicks 20% protein Starter for a month or so, but then drop back to a 15% protein feed for them. When the chicks are getting 20% the adults usually get some of that. But no regular steady protein boost.

    I have a climate and enough space in electric netting so mine can go outside practically every day of the year. They are out foraging today in that dead grass and such. In winter I cut back on flock size a lot so they are definitely not crowded. I think the room available has a lot to do with it. Also, when I have a behavioral challenged chicken, I permanently remove them from the flock and they sure don’t get to breed. To be honest I’ve never had a problem with feather-picking so that has not been a cause for removal, but I have removed aggressive chickens, not just roosters but also hens.

    I understand how weird I am. My goal is not to have a hen lay a double extra huge egg practically every day. My goal is to have a hen lay a lot of eggs, usually practically every day, that are a size her body was made to lay. My goal is not to have a supersized chicken that would make a sumo wrestler proud and is so big that it hurts its legs when it jumps down from the roost. I raise them for meat but since there are only two of us with a little creative cooking I can get two meals out of a relatively small hen. I consider mine have reached their genetic potential when they lay a lot of reasonable (to me) size eggs and have the bodies that allow them to do things that chickens do without injuring themselves.

    I don’t worry about the roosts being high. I don’t build ramps for them to get to roosts or nests, they can fly up and down and have enough room to do that. I don’t worry about protein levels. I’m much more relaxed about all these things than a lot of people. But my goals are met and I think the chickens ae healthy and happy. Different people have different goals and different set-ups. I try to take that into account when responding to questions on here.
     
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  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Pretty much. I select for decent sized eggs not the smaller ones. I select for larger chickens but don’t go out of my way to feed them to grow bigger. They grow big enough for me. I also breed for the hens to go broody, egg shell color, and feather color/pattern. A lot of this depends on your goals.

    Something I forgot to mention above. Some people do have problems if they don’t feed a high level of protein. Show chickens and people raising chickens for meat, especially if they believe bigger is better for meat, do need a higher protein diet. If your chickens have always had a high protein diet they probably need one. You may run into issues if you try to lower the protein content below what they are used to eating. Mine are trained to live on a lower protein diet and in my opinion do quite well on it.
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Thanks.
     

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