Hens stopped laying after seeing a traumatic incident and is it molting or pecking?

Levinechicks

In the Brooder
hi all,

I’m a long time lurker and first time poster. I have a few questions- up until Monday we’ve been pretty consistently getting 8-11 eggs a day from my 12 girls. They started laying back in August, and are all March babies. I have a mixed lot. For the last few weeks i’ve noticed some fluffy butts and called the local farm supply and they suggested molting and to switch the food to a higher protein source.

On Monday, our dogs (3 big loud ones), killed my cat right in front of the chicken coop/run. It seemed to be a fight that turned into the cat being shaken and dying. Since that happened on Monday afternoon we’re only getting 1-3 eggs a day, and I’m assuming they’re all affected by what they saw.

I’ve been switching to extra treats, freshness and love and just curious as to how long I should expect to see the behavior and also want to make sure i’m not overlooking something else.

In addition to this - I’m wondering if they’re actually molting or if I have a pecking bully in my midst. I’ve read differening accounts about whether pullets molt or not. I live in Central California, have 12 hens, been together since 5 weeks old or so. I have a coop of about 30sqft (not including nesting box space), an enclosed run of close to 100 sqft. Thank you all so much!!
 

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oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
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Do you have a rooster? If not than I would guess pecking. What do they have to do all day? Are they just in the run? It looks pretty bare. You may need to add stuff for them to do. Definitely feed a higher protein feed to prevent deficiencies. I recommend 18%.

The halt in laying was probably from the stress of the incident. They should resume within a week or two. You may have times during the winter when they lay less. Production will pick up in March generally.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
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Jul 23, 2018
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My Coop
My Coop
30 sq ft in the coop and 100 in the run for 12 pullets is a bit cramped. That can lead to feather picking. I'm sure they are also stressed by seeing the cat attacked and killed. That will take a little time to get over.
Any chance of expanding their living quarters to give everyone a little more personal space? Or at least add some enrichment?
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
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Jul 16, 2015
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No rooster- I give them scratch/treats/fresh fruits and veggies about 3-4x per day to try and keep them busy, anything specific that anyone can recommend to help? Thanks!
You may be diluting your overall daily protein which should be 16% at a minimum. You may want to try some more protein based treats likes cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, and canned fish and limit the mostly empty calories of vegetables. Feeding a higher protein ration is important if you do feed extras so it can all be offset in the end.

Adding organic matter to your run would help. Fallen leaves are good this time of year. Mulch can work too, as well as garden waste and pulled weeds with the dirt attached. They need stuff to dig through and to encourage bugs.

You can also add stuff to get up on and under. You could also dig a few holes to give them places to dig and dust bath. Bored chickens will often start to peck at each other.

More space is always better. Perhaps a movable run or electric poultry netting to give them fresh forage.
 

Levinechicks

In the Brooder
Thank you! The treats are composted of mealworms and crickets as well as black sunflower seeds. I definitely toss in weeds / grass clippings / leaves etc. daily as well, but will look at other options. We have a ton of wildlife and I had to fence the bottom of the run as we have weasels trying to dig in (after I already concreted around the entire outside perimeter of the run, but will see what I can do to increase it further. The coop itself is open for them daily as well, but i’ll add some roosts in the run area as well to see if giving them another area helps
 

micstrachan

Enabler
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Apr 10, 2016
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Yes, I think they are stressed from the dog/cat incident. I'm so sorry for your loss of your cat. :(

You definitely have a feather picker. That could be stress, space, boredom, or protein related. I have a feather picker, too, but she only picks the back of the top hen, if you can believe that!

On another note, you know weasels can easily fit through that wire in the photos, right? The hens may also be stressed about the weasel if they know it has been trying to dig in.

Good luck with your flock! They're a cute bunch!
 

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