Hen pulling out other hen's feathers

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by earlydreamer, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. earlydreamer

    earlydreamer New Egg

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    Nov 17, 2015
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    I only have 4 hens at this time - trying to keep life simple - but the hens are not cooperating. One, or maybe 3, are pulling out the feathers of a hen. Her neck is almost bare and her tail is half gone. Why? What do I do? She does not appear injured or sick. Just bullied.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Feather eating is usually from a lack of protein in the diet, adding extra protein and switching rations to higher protein type like an all flock or a non medicated grower will help, as well as cutting out extra things unless they are higher in protein will help.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    It won't hurt to add protein to the ration and see if it improves the situation, but feather picking can be much more complicated, especially if it becomes habit.

    I recommend you also set up time to observe your little flock to see what dynamics are in play and identify the culprit(s).

    There are a couple of approaches you can try, once you identify the perpetrators, but it may be just one causing the problem. First of all, you need to protect the victim. I've had good results covering the victim with a saddle apron so the feathers can regrow. Or you can separate the victim by giving her her own compartment in the run where she can be safe yet still commune with the others.

    Another approach is to install pinless peepers on the main picker. This helps by restricting her vision so she can still see to eat and drink but she can't see straight ahead to focus on her target.

    Be warned, though, if the picking has gone on for a while and become a habit, it can be very hard to break, chickens being especially fond of habits as they usually are. And the act of feather picking can be passed on to others, also. It's can be a very difficult problem to deal with. I wish I could tell you there is a sure-fire cure for it, but I had a gonzo thread titled just that https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/697052/i-think-i-found-a-miracle-cure-for-feather-picking, and it turned out there is no cure and no lasting solution for it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I guess I'll play odd man out here and ask if you've actually seen the feather picking. It could just be molting. It's not at all unusual for that to start at the neck and tail.
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I don't like to think of the obvious at first, work my way there eventually, that is a good question.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    First lets find out......
    How old are the birds?
    How big is coop and run(feet by feet)?
    What are you feeding?
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    While you're at it, examine the bald patches on the "victim". If you see lots of bristly pin feathers, as opposed to an en-even mess of broken feathers and completely bald skin, that would point to molt, and not feather picking.
     
  8. missgail73

    missgail73 New Egg

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    My birds are 2years old and are free range , I have 8 and 2 of them are being bullied what to do
     
  9. lavenderblue

    lavenderblue New Egg

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    I noticed the original post was for 2015, but this current post might help future "Hen pulling feather" owners. Last summer I noticed that one smaller hen had her feathers plucked out and she always looked frighten and was avoiding the other chickens. And she would always be off by herself. I wanted to get down to the bottom of who was doing the plucking. It turned out that the bigger hens two of which were huge feather foots, were doing the plucking and then the others would join in. So I assumed after reading articles online that it was a pecking order. But still I couldn't stand seeing this poor hen being picked on. So every chance I get I would stick around the coop and watch. Every time I see this poor hen being plucked at, I would go into the coop and pull the feather behind the head of the culprint to let her know that she was not the boss in the coop, but that I was. The plucking didn't stop right away, I had to keep doing this to remind them who was boss. The plucking stopped. Then around the winter time I noticed another hen the back of her neck had some bare spots, so again I stayed and watched. Caught one doing it and again I went in and pull the feather behind her neck. Here it is March and no hens have any bare spots and once in awhile one would pluck but once I go in and do my own plucking they stopped.
     

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