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Hen pecking, bedding and Laying

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ehorner, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. ehorner

    ehorner New Egg

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    Jan 23, 2013
    I have 26 Buff Orpington hens and one rooster. They just started laying the first week in January. We turned an old corn crib on our property into the coop. It measures 30x8 and we sided the whole thing with some left over siding we found in the garage and old windows and a storm door on one end for light. The top of the coop has a tin roof and open wire for about a 2 feet at the top. When it began to snow here we put 2 heat lamps in and they are on all the time. The more I read about heat lamps, the less I am sure that this was a good thing to do. Any input on the heat lamps would be greatly appreciated.
    About a month ago we had a lot of rain. Because it was so windy the rain blew right into the the coop and drenched the poor girls and all of the bedding. We quickly got a tarp put up at the top so they were no longer getting wet, but the bedding was soggy. It froze very shortly after and we are unable to turn it over. Now it is just one solid piece of wood chip, poopy dirt mess. I'm thinking that I should just put more shavings over it, but wanted to ask if there is anything else I should do.
    Now, after all that, the girls started laying and don't use their nesting boxes. They are giving us about 8-10 eggs per day. They were all very healthy and seemed to be doing very well until this last week. We noticed that around 7-8 of the birds had feathers that had been plucked off their backs. Broken off and some were bleeding. We thought maybe our one rooster may be doing it, but today he had the same. We have been checking for lice or mites but haven't seen any. I'm wondering if it could be a protien deficiency, even if we are giving them a high protien feed. It has been very, very cold here the last few weeks. Or could it be boredom? They have an old ladder, lots of 1x2 perches that rest between blocks and some boxes in the coop. I don't know what else I could do to stop the behavior.
    Again, any advise would be great.
     
  2. ChicksandWeeds

    ChicksandWeeds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 15, 2012
    Northern California
    if you are feeding layer or starter with oyster shell, i don't think you have a protein deficiency. since they are having their feathers pecked out (my guess) but in any case needing to replace feathers, some hard boiled egg or meat scraps if available would be a good protein boost.

    but if they are cooped up and the floor is a frozen mess ...where are they gonna scratch in - do all day?? they are getting stressed is what i think. once it thaws, wet floor/betting/poop is really bad and breeds disease - that is just a matter of time till they get sick. cold is nothing compared to wet. yes, i would take out as far as it is wet (nvm this work) and replace with dry - if you still have some dry leaves ...put those in too on top - for scratch diversion. get a basket, or better 2 or 3 or something else and put cabbage or chard in for them to peck. i think they might are crazy bored in there.

    heat lamp - if you have cold hardy birds and depending just how cold it does get ...are not necessary. ...unless you have an injured or ill bird and want to keep the temp a little warmer than way sub freezing. ...or they are still very young - but since they are laying, that would not be that case.

    molting usually starts at the head and is not bloody ...so i don't think that is it.

    anyway, that is my 2 cents

    i freaked out when the area by my coop door get all rained on ...no more and i did throw out the wet part - which was about 1/2 of the litter depth.

    they scratch a lot in the coop (deep litter method) - but i let them out all day too. i think the would go nuts if they didn't get out after a day or 2....and i dear if we have another several day long heavy rain period. i made several shelters from found materials just so they can be outside in the day if the rain is not too bad.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. ehorner

    ehorner New Egg

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    Jan 23, 2013
    Thank you so much for your response. We spent the whole next day digging out the frozen yuk mess and gave the flock all new bedding and nesting boxes. We let them play outside all day and they were excited when they came into the new coop. They even gave us 13 eggs the next morning! You were right! They were bored and the behavior stopped. They were like new birds. We have the most gentle and beautiful birds. Our rooster is great too. I'm so happy that this solved the problem and there was nothing serious going on with them. [​IMG]
     
    2 people like this.
  4. ChicksandWeeds

    ChicksandWeeds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 15, 2012
    Northern California
    good to hear
     
  5. aggiemae

    aggiemae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 18, 2012
    Salem Oregon
    Hens can get really mean when they are bored. This is our first free ranged flock and while the hens still have a "boss lady" and a "low hen" it's the fist time we have not had any pecking at all. Our (rarely used) run floor is dried leaves and straw but we have also stumps and cinder blocks and perches for them to hop around on. And we hide sunflower seeds and whole grains for them to scratch through.

    As for as your coop floor have you considers covering it with crushed gravel or sand? It doesn't freeze as long as its dry and very easy to clan with a cat litter scoop attached to a long pole. Our coop (7x5) takes a few minutes a day to clean but I have friends that have 30-40 chickens and it takes them 5-10 minutes a day to clean up their (huge) walk in coop. We use "stall dry" (volcanic sand) but I think any sand would work. So far I have used about 2/3 of a large bag since late July because there isn't much waste.

    Yes, some people say that this is too much effort for livestock but my thinking is that they are feeding my family so in exchange I owe them a "happy" endowment as possible.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013

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