HELP - Pinless Peepers or Forage cake????????

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mcjessen, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. mcjessen

    mcjessen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2011
    Coeur d Alene ID
    I confirmed yesterday what I hope wasn't true. My Black Australorp has been plucking cushion feathers from one of the Barred Rocks. The BR first went bald about a month and a half ago. She grew a full set of feathers back and now they're all gone again. I actually heard and witnessed the plucking. I suspect, because we've had a long winter and the girls have spent lots of time in their run, the BA is getting bored. So, I did some research and two ideas came up. Pinless peepers and forage cakes (flock blocks).

    Has anyone used either one of these methods to cure plucking and keeping bored chickens busy?

    I will say that next weekend, the girls will be moved to a larger coop (24 sq ft) and run (120 sq ft). Their current set up is a 16sq ft coop and a 40 sq ft run for three birds. I've never seen any squabbles between them so I'm kind of at a loss as to why after two and a half months of being together, this is happening. Any insight or advice would be wonderful!

    Thank you.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well your set-up before was small, but not unreasonable for three birds, although more space is always better.
    The main problem with Flock Block is that it's only 10% protein I believe. Most layer feed is 16% or so, and Flock Raiser and Game Bird Feed 20% plus. Feather regrowthing and egg laying require plenty of protein. Besides boredom, protein deficiency is another reason birds eat feathers (is the BA eating them, or plucking/releasing?). So in that case, you would want to eliminate snacks and work on boosting protein. Meat scraps, meal worms, fish, fish meal maybe...and a high protein feed would best help solve that issue.
    If it's boredom, the new set-up will help. Add a stump or two, branches for roosts in the run maybe - anything for them to "play" on to keep them busy. Grass clipping piled in the run to dig through, etc.
    Thankfully, I've never had to use pinless peepers, although most folks say they work pretty well...
  3. mcjessen

    mcjessen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2011
    Coeur d Alene ID
    Teach1rus - thanks for the response. At first I was thinking it was a protein deficiency because I wasn't finding any feathers. So I started giving them about 2 TBS of tuna every morning. The BR's feathers grew back. Come to think of it, I missed a couple days of tuna and that's when the feathers disappeared again. Hmmm, that pretty much confirms protein issue. Last night after I actually witnessed the plucking, the feathers were on the ground in the yard. I gave them tuna this morning as well as their morning spinach. They get about two handfuls of corn scratch a day usually as a treat when they are let out of the run and again to get them back in if we need to lock them up early. I will discontinue the scratch and see if they'll go for black sunflower seeds as another article suggested. I'm out of meal worms but plan to get some soon. Do you recommend sunflower seeds?

    I can now really see it being a protein and boredom issue. Their run has been completely compacted and there isn't much for them to do. I do have some roosts in there and they have an area under the coop to dust bathe but that's pretty much it. In the new set up, I plan on providing some of the "toys" you suggested. I also plan to add planters with growing grass or spinach and will possibly throw a bale of hay in to give them something else to scratch around in.

    Thanks again.
  4. lokua

    lokua Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 25, 2011
    I fortunately haven't had any serious fighting but I did use flock blocks to stop winter boredom and bickering. I was worried about the low protein diluting the nutrition of their feed so I limited their intake of it. I cut the large block in 8 chunks and hung them from the ceiling with some string. This way it was a challenge to eat it. one chunk would last my 5 girls over a week so I knew they didn't eat too much. I also considered making my own high protein block by adding dried meal worms (50% protein). I just never finished my first flock block so I haven't had the need yet. I'd say give it a try and the pinless peepers are a solid backup plan.
  5. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    I have used pinless peepers before and I can tell you that they do work. I have a hen that is not only aggressive toward the other girls, but me as well. I do not keep a rooster and she has taken the place of one. She is also a very cranky bird and takes her aggressions out on the girls, ripping their combs. I got tired of being bitten, and finding blood all over the coop walls and feeders ect..Peepers WILL bring peace to a flock, IF this is what your bird needs. I recently spoke to a guy that uses them quite frequently just because the lower birds on the roost bars, pluck butt feathers from the upper birds. I don't use them on a continuous basis and find that a 2 months on, 2 months off adjusts my hens behavior for the most part...

  6. 24279102

    24279102 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2010
    Grand Bay, AL
    Hanging a cabbage or two in the run is always good for entertainment. My girls (I have 9) go through 2 of them every 2 or 3 days ! And cabbage is cheap right now.
  7. kjxoxo1

    kjxoxo1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2011
    Does anyone have a picture of their hanging cabbage? do you try to put a hole through the middle, etc. Thanks! I now only have Black Australorps and I think they are bored since the guineas are gone.
  8. 24279102

    24279102 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2010
    Grand Bay, AL
    I don't have a picture but we put a hole through the head at the hard end with a screwdriver and push rope through there and hang it on their fence. Then watch them play. They may be afraid of it at first but it only takes one curious one to get the ball rolling !
  9. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I use eye-screw hooks to hang cabbages. Just screw in the hook, it holds real well, and hang from a hook on a string or chain. I use eye hooks to hang apples and fat carrots, too. Good times!

    As for peepers, there are indeed some hens whose wiring in their brains are off, and they pick feathers due to a compulsion, not lack of protein. I have two such critters. Peepers have solved their picking problems.

    One is a repeat offender, having had her peepers removed after six months and resumed picking. The other is young, and I'm hopeful her brain can be re-programmed by wearing the peepers and i can remove them soon.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by