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How do you stop feather eating/ pecking?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by coopmama, Dec 10, 2015.

  1. coopmama

    coopmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 19, 2015
    SW, PA
    I rescued 3 chickens from a farmer who no longer wanted his animals. That was just before Easter, so mid April. I never had chickens prior to that. They came with their coop. It was pretty obvious that they were not used to people, and I was pretty sure they had never been out of the coop. I have no idea how old they are, but they were definitely not young. Also, were visibly not well cared for. After a couple of weeks, one died in the coop. Not sure how/why. We got chicks & eventually I started letting these 2 adults free range. They started to look healthier & while they still don't run to me like the "babies" do, they will take treats out of my hand. None of the 3 I adopted ever had feathers on their butts. I thought it was due to malnourishment or stress- like a prolonged molt. I added vitamins to their feed, give them treats on the weekends, supplemented their feed with feather fixer & game bird/ show bird feed, & they free range all day every day. About a month or so ago, the skinny one, Bertha, FINALLY grew butt & tail feathers! She looks beautiful. Percy, the fat one, has only just begun to grow feathers on her butt- but she picks at them sometimes. I figured they must be itchy. These chickens' coop has been cleaned & dusted for mites. I have never seen a bug on either of them. Yesterday morning I woke to find Percy's butt covered in fresh red blood. It was from a tail feather that had been ripped out. I saw Bertha peck at it several times before I could get Percy out of the coop, I washed it off & treated it with a tea tree oil spray and with a blue lotion (I think called peck no more?). I culled her overnight. She appeared to be fine & happy & free ranged alone all day. I let Bertha out with her briefly & they were fine. As soon as they went in the coop for the night, Bertha started pecking Percy's butt again. I am culling Percy again tonight. Now I'm wondering if Bertha has been pecking at Percy all of this time. If that is the case, will I ever be able to stop it? They both eat an excellent diet and have several acres to roam every day. I wouldn't imagine that it could be boredom at this point- only a habit. Like I said, I have no idea how old they are or how long this could've possibly been going on.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? Any ideas? I don't want to keep Bertha in the coop by herself all winter, but she bullies all of my other chickens, and I definitely don't want her to introduce this behavior to them as well.

    [​IMG]

    ^this was probably in June. You can see neither has many butt feathers^

    [​IMG]

    Percy is on the left in both pictures above.

    [​IMG]

    Berthas feathers starting to come in.

    [​IMG]

    Bertha has tail feathers. Percy still doesn't.

    [​IMG]

    Bloody butt.

    [​IMG]

    Purple butt.
     
  2. OrganicFarmWife

    OrganicFarmWife Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,873
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    Oct 21, 2015
    No where Nebraska
    I know you are feeding them well but maybe try to increase their protein. I feed mine beef liver over the winter. Otherwise I read a good tip to stop picking. Someone suggested you buy a couple baby shirts and cut holes in it for the birds wings.
    If you could get one long enough to cover the tail, it might help.
     
  3. coopmama

    coopmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 19, 2015
    SW, PA
    Considering that this is only affecting her butt, would it be okay to tie it or cover her vent? I wouldn't want to cause any more problems. The two supplements that I give them, the feather fixer and the game bird mix, both have higher amounts of protein- I think 18-22% or something. That is why I bought those. I really don't know. I am just thinking that at this point it may just be a habit, or even bullying, instead of nutrition related, and if that is the case, I really don't know what to do to fix it. To the best of my knowledge, they've always been together, so I feel bad separating them even for these two nights. I don't know what else to do though.
     
  4. OrganicFarmWife

    OrganicFarmWife Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,873
    328
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    Oct 21, 2015
    No where Nebraska
    I wouldn't cover her vent. That would be messy and may lead to complications. I was thinking of just trying to protect the tail, a shirt that remains open but just before her vent.
     
  5. coopmama

    coopmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 19, 2015
    SW, PA
    Okay, I'm sure it couldn't hurt to try. Thanks for the suggestion!
     
  6. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Try some hen peepers for the one picking feathers. They work really well.
     
  7. Nupe

    Nupe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2014
    Georgia
    For some reason, commercial feed companies would have everyone believe that chickens are vegetarians and can do just fine with no source of animal protein. There aren't many chicken feeds left that still include it. I think I actually looked at the feather fixer food at TSC and it had none. I know the Purina "quail starter" game bird feed still has it and it's 30% protein and non medicated (if they haven't changed it in the last month). I fed that to my flock during molt.
     
  8. coopmama

    coopmama Out Of The Brooder

    83
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    Jul 19, 2015
    SW, PA

    I never heard of hen peepers before! I looked them up, and I will definitely try that! Thank you so much for the suggestion!
     
  9. coopmama

    coopmama Out Of The Brooder

    83
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    Jul 19, 2015
    SW, PA

    I agree about animal protein. Sometimes they chase the cat out of his food, so I figured they were at least getting some animal protein. I was going to feed them hard boiled eggs, but for some reason my husband is strongly against it- I think he thinks it will cause them to eat their eggs. I don't think it will, but it wasn't worth the argument. I will definitely look into the quail starter. Thanks so much for the suggestion!
     
  10. Nupe

    Nupe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2014
    Georgia
    There's nothing wrong with feeding chickens cooked eggs. As long as it's all smashed up into something unrecognizable, they'll never make that connection. Cooked organ meats like the liver suggested earlier would also work well.
     

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