Hen pulling out her own feathers.

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ChickadeeBlondy, Dec 13, 2014.

  1. ChickadeeBlondy

    ChickadeeBlondy Hatching

    Nov 21, 2014
    Hi everyone.
    I have a young hen (one of five) who was recently sitting on eggs but sadly they were not fertile. When I finally got her off the nest she was ostracized by the other hens and Ive had to be careful when I feed out so she gets enough. She was quite boney on the breast and now she is pulling out her own feathers. How can I get her to stop and is it likely that she will be welcomed back by the other hens once they get used to her presence again?
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    For the time being, keep at least 2 places for both food and water.
    Try to get her some additional protein. Perhaps a piece of canned mackerel every day. That may be the reason for the feather picking.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I could be wrong but it sounds like you isolated her on the eggs instead of letting her try to hatch with the flock. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways but that is one of the disadvantages of isolating a broody away from the flock, you often have to handle an integration. So if you did isolate her you need to think integration. If she was on a nest in the coop with the others, I’m not sure what is going on. I’ve never had that kind of a problem.

    Is she really pulling out her own feathers? I have had hens molt while broody. Is she just undergoing a molt? When a chicken molts and lose all those feathers they can look a whole lot smaller than normal. They really haven’t lost any weight, just a lot of fluffy feathers. I have a molting hen that looks like that right now.

    I’d check her for mites and lice. That can cause them to lose feathers. Check after dark in case it is roost mites. They hide during the day and attack after dark. They will run from light but you should see them scurrying away when you check. They normally like the vent area because of the moisture. Use a flashlight in the dark to check.

    It doesn’t happen all the time but a broody hen will sometimes pull out some breast feathers, maybe to line the nest or maybe to get her skin closer to the eggs. I’m not exactly sure which and most of my broody hens don’t do that at all. Is that what you are seeing, the residual of that breast feather plucking?

    How long was she broody? Before she even starts to lay, a hen builds up a fat reserve. It’s mostly in the pelvic area and is called a fat pad, but the fat builds up some all over the body. That fat is mostly what a hen lives off of when she goes broody. A broody hen can lose a fair amount of weight while on the nest but it’s just fat stored for that purpose. A hen that lost that fat and molts can really look skinny. It will take a while for her to regrow those feathers and rebuild that fat pad so she looks normal.

    All this is nothing to worry about, except the possibility of mites or lice and you can treat those. How is she acting? I she running around and active like a normal chicken? If so I would not worry. But watch her and if she starts acting lethargic or just stands around fluffed up, she could be sick. Behavior like that is what would cause me to worry, not the other stuff.
  4. ChickadeeBlondy

    ChickadeeBlondy Hatching

    Nov 21, 2014
    Thanks, I will get the extra protein to her. They all free range during the day, with multiple sources of water, food and shelter from the heat.
  5. ChickadeeBlondy

    ChickadeeBlondy Hatching

    Nov 21, 2014
    Thank you and yes, I had to isolate her when a predator got one of the eggs under her. They were peacock eggs that proved to be infertile.
    This particular hen had been trying to sit for a long time, maybe months, I just kept taking her off the nest. She was very determined but there was no rooster.
    At first i saw a bunch of feathers blown into a corner and thought a fox/feral cat had gotten one of them but a head count found all 5 alive.
    The broody one was still splaying her tail feathers a bit and clucking but I noticed instead of orange all over, white bits were showing.
    One day I caught her with a fluffy feather in her mouth it reminded me of a broken hearted budgie I once had. (another story)
    I havent check for mites but I will.
    They choose to sit on a tractor tire in their yard overnight. Its so warm I cant blame them.
    When I lead them back to their pen in the afternoon with food tempters, the other hens attack her when she tries to eat, so now I put them in first and feed her on the outside of the enclosure but I will look into getting the mackerel. I bought a bag of chick starter. Can I feed that to them?
    Apart from being at the bottom of the pecking order, she is active and appears to be healthy.
    Thanks for you detailed reply.
  6. brandon2232

    brandon2232 In the Brooder

    Jul 26, 2018
    I have a hen that hatched 5 chicks 8 days ago she and chicks are doing fabulous. I noticed a few feathers from her yesterday but today there's TONS what is going on?????
  7. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Crossing the Road

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    She might be starting her yearly molt. Usually mine lose their tail feathers, and then may lose patches of feathers around the neck and may have new pin feathers growing in somewhere else. Hopefully, it is just molt.

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