I got a feather Stealing Wench!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JP33, Dec 7, 2009.

  1. JP33

    JP33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Man, just yesterday I was thinking how Hazel is becoming my favorite. Last week it was Cindy, a few days after that Goldy, and Goldy is still my favorite, especially after what I saw from Ms Priss, Hazel this evening. She would peck on the tail end of the others, saw her do this with two of them, one in particular, Ms Purdy.

    Hazel, in fact, pecked and stole a tail feather from Ms Purdy. Do I have a feather plucker, Mother Clucker?

    Now as I am writing this, one of the hens did show me her tail feathers fluffed out to reveal what I thought at first sight appeared to be a tick, but she showed me the spot again (she groomed it herself, that's how I saw it) and it appeared to be a little bump or raised skin perhaps slightly chafed, it definitely was not a tick. I think it may have been Hazel, which I suppose could explain this feather peckin'/stealin' behavior. She was also still somewhat witchy on the roost too this evening before conking out to sleep.

    What do you think, keep an eye on her? She's feeling her oats? Or that's just what they do?


    ...JP
     
  2. chickcritty

    chickcritty Out Of The Brooder

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    My bossy chicken pecks at the others to keep them in their place but she has never actually plucked out feathers (unless the bird is molting and the feathers are already loose). I don't know what is causing Hazel to do this but I've heard of chickens doing this if they're overcrowded, bored or in need of extra protein. I've seen my chickens grooming themselves and they rub their beaks on an oil gland on their tails - could this be the bump you're seeing?
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    It is good that you've noticed this and can get right on it -- pecking can snowball pretty fast, sometimes, and once it really gets going isn't always fixable short of the stewpot.

    How much room do they have? Is it possible to give them more room (indoors and/or out) and/or more to DO with themselves, for instance perhaps a pile of composting leaves to sort through or scatter a handful of scratch grains in the coop litter? Crowding (from the chickens' perspective, not necessarily from the perspective of what the chickenkeeper read somewhere) is a pretty common cause of pecking.

    Adding protein to their diet sometimes helps, e.g. some of their own eggs cooked (scrambled) and fed back to them, or some people use a handful of dry catfood or some cooked freezerburned meat or something like that.

    The bump you saw sounds like it was probably either a feather follicle, from one of the feathers that was pulled out perhaps, or maybe the preen gland (oil gland) that is just in front of the base of the tail on the lower back. Either way it is normal. Do keep a very close eye for any blood being drawn, though, as once there is blood things can escalate in unhappy ways, so that if you see blood you would probably want to at least apply a no-pick salve of some sort and/or isolate the victim til she heals.

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  4. JP33

    JP33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I haven't had chickens long enough to know that they even have an oil gland, but now, thanks to both of you...

    I think it could have been but I don't know what the oil gland looks like. Does anyone have a pic of the oil gland?

    They free range every day and the coop could actually house another couple of chickens (already hinted to my wife, lol!)

    I feed them laying hen mash and as a treat (ok, more than just a treat, yes they're spoiled, I admit it!) scratch and a little extra cracked corn, here and there, and all the bugs they can catch! Also have oyster shell available to them if they need it.


    ...JP
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Part the feathers just in front of the base of the tail, in the 'small of the back' as it were, maybe a finger's width or so in front of where the big tailfeathers arise... the oil gland is a sort of 'different looking' patch of skin with a small nipple type structure protruding. If you poke around at it with your finger you will most likely notice a little oily stuff getting onto your fingertip. When birds preen (chickens or any other birds), they reach back to the oil gland and get some of it on their beaks and then work it through their body and wing feathers.

    Pat
     
  6. highcountrychickens

    highcountrychickens Head Rooster Jouster

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    A coupla things going on - the feather plucking... woo do what you can to nip that one in the bud now (look at the post on my byc page - you'll lunderstand) As for the bump you saw - it's an oil gland they use when they're preening... all birds have them. It secretes an oil that they use to coat their feathers with to keep them clean and waterproof... one of the reasons you don't eat the "popes nose" when you eat a chicken - lots of oil and fat, right... voila, mystery solved

    btw - I had a Hazel too - hazel was a mutherclucker feather plucker too. she has gone elsewhere... where she is a one hen show - I heard she tried to defeather a cat, and that pretty much fixed her wagon

    Out of curiosity, what breed do you have?
     
  7. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    Quote:Perhaps you are overdoing the treats and diluting their protein. Layer feed tends to be just the average requirement for protein anyway (about 16%). Many people prefer to feed more, especially to larger birds. Adding scratch, and corn reduce the overall protein level of their feed --- Although they can often make it up by finding those wonderful high-protein bugs, might be that this time of year there are less bugs to find, or something like that causing a deficiency.

    If you think you're getting feather picking started I would cut out any low protein treats and see if it helps. I don't feed scratch or corn, ever. Corn has about 9% protein I read.
    Instead I give them about 1/2 cup of black oil sunflower seeds every day. BOSS are high protein (16% I read) so they won't dilute your total protein amounts while you still get the pleasure of feeding treats. [​IMG]

    Edited to say I feed approx .5 cup to 5 birds. The amount you feed would obviously vary according to how big your flock is.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
  8. JP33

    JP33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Alright, after reading the feedback y'all have given, I agree that what I saw was her oil gland.

    I have to confess that the first thing that went through my mind when Hazel was aggrivating the others was that she may wind up as soup! [​IMG]

    I have two Buff Orpingtons (Cindy & Goldy) and four EE's (Hazel, Jezebel, Bertha, and Ms Purdy) but I'm thinking of getting two more! [​IMG]


    ...JP
     
  9. MandyH

    MandyH You'll shoot your eye out!

    Quote:Oh my, that made me LOL!!!!! I'm laughing with you, not at you because I have SEVERAL of those muther pluckers too. I have done everything humanly possible and impossible to rectify the situation all to no avail. The only reason I didn't snatch them up and whack their heads across the fence post is because of the rarity of the breed. I finally resorted to ordering Pinless Peepers and can't say enough good things about them (the Peepers, not the cluckers). Whew, at least I've had my laugh for the day, thanks!!
     
  10. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Forks, Virginia
    Quote:It sounds like your description is of the oil gland located at the tail feathers. This is how they preen and spread their oil to keep their feathers water proof. Don't mess with it.


    Pecking is one way of keeping other chickens in line. The lower ont he pecking order the more pecks you get.

    Normal chicken behavior.

    Feather picking can also be from boredom. If they are eating the feathers it is a sign of a lack of protein. Boost their diet with meat scraps and BOSS.
     

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