Hen Losing Feathers But Too Young To Molt?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ChickenChuckles, Jan 12, 2015.

  1. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    Hi there,

    I have a 7.5 month old barnevelder hen who started losing feathers a few weeks ago. At first we thought maybe she was being picked on, but now we're starting to wonder if it's something else. The missing feathers are on her chest, neck, and saddle. The neck and saddle could be from breeding, but the chest is particularly strange looking. She's got feathers sticking out all over the place, patches missing, and the start of new feathers coming in. Otherwise she's acting normal, and even sitting in the nesting boxes.

    Does this sound like molting? Is it possible for a hen to molt this young?

    For what it's worth, I've checked and found no signs of mites, lice, or other parasites.

    Here are a few photos of her. Thanks for your advice!

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  2. Outpost JWB

    Outpost JWB Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It looks like roosters are mating with her. What is your hen/rooster ratio? You may have to get the rooster(s) away from her. As for the feathers missing on the breast area, it could be from the roo pushing her to the ground or has she attempted to become broody? (Sit on eggs.) A broody hen will pluck out her own breast feathers to build up her nest.

    You did the right thing checking for mites, lice and other parasites. Good luck. Hope this helps.

    ETA: 7 1/2 months wouldn't be unheard of for the hen to get her 1st molt, so it could be that as well. I just think the pattern shows rooster aggression.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
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  3. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks, that does make sense. My instincts were telling me that the roosters might be the reason here, but I was concerned that being new to this I might be missing something more serious. She's not one I see them mating with, but I'm likely just not there at the right time.

    We do have the problem of too many roos to hens at the moment: 2 roos, 11 hens. We were expecting to have more hens over winter, and then upon the lower numbers, we considered harvesting one rooster for the soup pot, but each of them got injured (terribly frozen comb, injured leg muscle), so we kept both in case we lost one. The younger one appeared to be accepting a submissive place on the pecking order and had his one same-breed hen as his only harem member, but we heard him cock-a-doodle-doo yesterday. Maybe there's a coup taking place, and the hens are taking the brunt of it - the roos are over-mating?

    What would be the kindest way to give her a break from the roosters? (The other hens appear happy with the situation, moving their tails towards to dominant rooster and accepting his advances. They scoot away from the younger rooster if he tries to mate, and if he's successful they act very annoyed afterwards).

    The oddest part is there's no blood on our hen where her feathers are missing. It's in contrast to our dominant roo who's rumpless which attracts pecking from his hens. There's blood on his rump when it's pecked. It starts to grow in and then is pecked bare, in cycles.

    Regarding broodiness, I'll keep an eye on that too. She hasn't refused to move from the nesting boxes yet, but maybe she's prepping in advance.

    Much appreciated!
     
  4. Ol Grey Mare

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

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    A short-term fix while you sort out the long-term decisions regarding your gender ratio balance is to use a "hen saddle" for your girl who is showing the feather loss. It provides a protective barrier over the area of her back that takes the damage during the rooster's activities.
     
  5. Outpost JWB

    Outpost JWB Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have placed some of my breeding roosters in large dog crates to keep them off of the hens. It creates more work for you though....feed, water, cleaning out the crate, but it works at our farm. Hope that helps.
     

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