General Advice!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by erinraeyurkinas, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. erinraeyurkinas

    erinraeyurkinas New Egg

    Sep 22, 2016
    Hello Everyone!

    I am almost into my first year of having hens!

    I have run into a few problems along my journey and am just seeking additional advice, I feel like I'm missing something, and I care about my girls so much!

    I'll start from the beginning of my chicken keeping. I have a 5x5 ft chicken coop, 5x18 foot covered run (with a dust bath area, roosting polls, and stumps to play on), and I leave the door open to their outdoor fenced area that it 30x30. These girls have plenty of room.

    I started with 5 hens.

    About 2 months into having the girls, I lost my first hen, Stevie my black star, our vet determined she had Mareks, I was down to four girls.

    In December I came home for my lunch break, went down to the girls to give them some greens and mealworms to snack on, to find my fence completely torn down and I was missing a chicken. A neighbors dog was loose and she came over, busted through my fence, and ate one of my hens. It was terrible!

    So here I am now down to 3 girls.

    I have 2 barred rocks, and one speckled sussex.

    The girls are on layer pellet feed, I mix in 20% protein of game bird feed (we have harsh winters here in Creede Colorado so I figured the girls need some additional goodness), they get scratch thrown out daily, black oil sunflower seeds, mealworms and black solider larve occasionally, greens, I tie up half a cabbage/lettuce head to keep them entertained, and they have a flock block. (choice of pellets and mash in the feeder, choice of oyster shell and grit and always fresh water)

    Now that we are down to 3, I have a major bully amongst the girls. She is the largest, one of my barred rocks and her name is Etta.

    She is so rude to the other girls. She is also my sweetest to humans. Etta will jump right onto your lap. And throughout this first winter she's such a good layer.

    Etta is currently in time out for the damage she's down to her poor sisters. She is feather pulling an INSANE amount of feathers. If one of the other girls is just in her way. She's is also eating them, I've read protein deficiency for eating feathers but how can that be with the food they are on!? I also should mention once a week I cook up eggs with ground elk meat for all of our animals (dogs/cats/chickens) so they get that additional protein too!

    I'm thinking about leaving her in isolation for 4 days. I know the possibility of getting rid of her is close. This is my last attempt to stop this behavior. The other girls have not taken the habit from her yet. They have been doctored with some blue kote spray while they get a break from getting pecked at.

    No worms, no lice I should mention too. Everyone gets looked at daily, and I do daily coop cleanings. I've done preventive deworming and DE and wood ash mixed in their dust bath area.

    Am I doing something wrong or have I missed a major step? I feel like I'm failing these girls but I'm not sure what else to do!

    Advice is greatly appreciated
    Thanks in advance!

    Here's a picture of Etta in her time out crate.

  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Some hens greatly desire and need a rooster to keep them in line. She could be frustrated. This time of year the increasing daylight fuels hormones in chickens and some can get a bit pushy.

    It doesn't help that you only have a few hens as there's only two for her to "correct" as top hen. I would continue to separate her as necessary and hopefully she eventually calms down a bit.

    She also could be getting too much protein which could give her too much energy, so maybe backing off on some of the higher protein extras. The sunflower seeds are high in fat so don't feed too many of them either.

    And finally some hens are just bullies and need to be removed from the flock if their behaviors don't improve.
  3. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2014
    Mississippi Gulf Coast
    With all the extras that you give them, it's really hard to tell just how much protein she is getting. Might be way too much. And just FYI, scratch is chicken junk food. It has really no nutritional value and should be offered only as an occasional treat, if at all. Rather than give her game bird feed, I'd probably go for a higher protein chicken feed -- like an 18-percent Feather Fixer or something similar. You could even go to chick feed as long as they have free-choice oyster shell available. If she isn't a year old yet, she might just be having teenage angst. I've had birds that were terrors in the 25-to-50-week-old range and they settled down once they matured. And like Oldhen said, with the longer days, she might be experiencing raging hormones, which any woman can tell you will drive us mad.
    1 person likes this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Whenever there's a possible nutrition issue,
    I suggest to go back to nothing but a balanced chicken ration and plain water.

    I'd cut back to nothing but a 50/50 mix of the layer and game bird feed.
    That will give you 18% protein(assuming the layer is 16%).
    Have some oyster shells always available in a separate feeder/dish.

    Do this for a couple of weeks or so.
    Then you can figure out how much they are eating per day,
    and let them catch up on the vitamins/minerals/amino acids in the ration.

    Cut all other foods/treats down drastically....keep them at less than 10% of daily feed volume.
    The cabbage/lettuce is probably fine to free feed as it's mostly water.
    2 people like this.
  5. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I totally agree with aart. The amount of protein these chickens are getting seems excessive. Too much animal protein can cause its own issues over the long term, issues that are heart breaking.

    Just because it's all over the place that feather picking is caused by lack of adequate protein doesn't make it so. Sometimes it's easier to offer pat advice to a complex issue just to be seeming to help. In reality, feather picking has many causes and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    Your situation is unique. A combination of trauma from the run being destroyed and one of the chickens killed and the pecking order being rattled are major events in the life of a tiny flock. Your objective is to try to get your flock calmed down and back to normal as soon as possible.

    I'm afraid separating the bully in this instance is only adding to the trauma, making it appear one more has been victimized by unseen forces. A better solution would be to place the Barred Rock in a crate within the run during the day so the flock will remain intact while prevent the frenzy you've seen from this hen as she acts out her fear and uncertainty.

    Please consider aart's good advice and cut out all the extraneous treats and elaborate animal proteins that may be fueling the behavior. You might also consider pinless peepers for the Barred Rock to further mitigate her behavior.

    What have you done to fortify your coop and run against a future attack? A run should be sturdy enough that a dog can't tear it down. I live in a wild area with large, destructive predators and I've used heavy steel hog panels to fortify my run, making the poultry netting and hardware cloth much more resistant to being torn down. If you aren't able to keep predators such as this marauding dog out of your yard, consider a pulsing hot wire with a dab of peanut butter on it to protect your run. These are perfectly safe solutions and no one is going to get electrocuted since the system delivers an intermittent shock similar in intensity to a static charge.

    To sum up, reduce the extra treats and protein. Make life as calm and normal for your chickens as possible. Takes steps to protect your coop and run from further destruction and to insure the safety of your chickens.
  6. erinraeyurkinas

    erinraeyurkinas New Egg

    Sep 22, 2016
    Thanks everyone!

    I will eliminate all extras, and do the 18% protein mix with plenty of fresh H20, grit, and oyster shell out. I will put Etta back in with the girls ,in her crate, and test her behavior in a couple days.

    I must add with the additional snacks the girls get like a tablespoon each of whatever it is (that list is certainly not everyday, the extra they do get everyday is the handful of corn/grain scratch to let them shuffle around in the run). I had read it helps with the cold and general boredom and we are finally out of our single and negative digits!

    They get more if it's the lettuce or greens that I throw out, in that case it's like half a head of lettuce tied to some twine.

    Just wanted to get more specific about those amounts and when they actually get those extras.

    My coop and run are totally secure, it was the fence that this dog busted down. I left the run door open that morning so they'd have access to the yard.

    This dog is an exception to what I thought was a secure fence. I have a heavy duty coated welded wire fence with stakes in the ground every 5feet, it's about 5inches into the ground. The dog is a treeing coon hound that tracks cougers and once she sets her mind on something...anyway her owner has taken extra steps so she doesn't get loose again.

    My fence has been fixed since then with just additional reinforcement, but come spring/summer once our ground is thawed we will be getting a completely different fencing set up. Hog wire with a heavy wood framing.

    Thanks again, so much. I know it was long to read and I appreciate your time!

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