Is there a "typical" moult?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Susan49, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. Susan49

    Susan49 Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 13, 2013
    We've only had our flock since last June so we haven't yet had a moult. In the last few days I noticed a couple of my hy-lines are missing some feathers around their neck. Here's a picture of one taken today.

    [​IMG]

    She's also missing a few on her right leg as you can see. Is this the beginning of a moult, or might I have a feather picking problem? The weather has been super rainy and windy the last few days and the girls haven't been outside much, that's why I ask.

    Also one of my Barred Rock girls has a bit of a bare spot on her bum, and the skin underneath looks a bit reddish. Could this be a moult too? I don't know if there's a typical pattern a moult follows as far as which feathers come out first?

    All my girls are about a year old now, been laying since late June/early July pretty solid as we've had light in the coop all winter. Egg production in the last couple of weeks has slowed just a bit on some days, but overall is still pretty good. For example, with 47 layers (and one sort-of-a-rooster) we've averaged 40-44 eggs a day until very recently. We now range from about 36-42, so a bit of a slowdown but not bad still.
     
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Looks like picking.
     
  3. Susan49

    Susan49 Out Of The Brooder

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    That actually seems more likely now that I think of it. I just went out to have a closer look at everyone and there's this one Hy-Line that's the worst, plus one of my Red Rocks who's missing a few feathers on her neck but not as bad, and the Barred Rock with the bare bum (photo below).

    Given that the past week has seen some very nasty weather so there have been a few days when the girls really didn't want to go outside much, plus the fact that we introduced 15 new pullets a week ago, it's maybe not so surprising I would guess.

    I had a good look at all the new girls and no feathers out of place there. So my guess is that they know they're at the bottom of the pecking order so they just run away. Whereas with my older girls, the combination of the nasty weather that's had them in the coop more than usual, plus the presence of the new pullets, has got them a bit stressed and they're all trying to keep their place in the pecking order.

    Does that sound like a reasonable explanation? I've not had any feather picking problems before. The girls have a really big coop with loads of roosting space and plenty of nest boxes, a sheltered run, and a doorway opening out to about an acre of pasture. So I think they have a pretty happy, relaxed life most of the time.

    Now my next question is, what can I do about the feather picking to nip it in the bud? Or is it likely to settle down once the new girls are fully integrated and everyone finds their place again?

    Normally I throw scratch out as a morning treat, then toss them veggies and such during the day. Of course they also forage, and they have some feed in the coop as well. Would tossing more scratch out help, maybe keep them occupied and their minds off feather picking? Perhaps throwing some into the litter in the evening so when they wake up in the morning they've got something to do while they wait for me to open the door?

    Suggestions welcome, please and thanks!

    Here's the bare bum girl:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Chicken guy1234

    Chicken guy1234 New Egg

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    Feb 20, 2014
    Do they have enough space, you need 4 square feet for each chicken in the coop. Especially when they are cooped up they get bored and turn to picking out feathers. It could also be that they are not getting a balanced meal. try feeding them more protien.
     
  5. Susan49

    Susan49 Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm pretty sure there's plenty of floor space. We've read all kinds of numbers (everything from less than 1 square foot (!) up to 5 square feet per bird. We decided to follow the SPCA guidelines for floor space, roosting space, nesting space etc and we're well within those guidelines. Can't remember now what they all are but we did measure everything. I know for example that the amount of roosting space we have would allow us up to 136 birds, but we've got just 60.

    Plus the door to the run and pasture is always open during the day so they do have the option to go outside any time they want, it's not like they're cooped up except at night. Though when the weather is awful they obviously spend much less time out on the pasture or in the run.

    They do get a 16% commercial layer feed (free choice) to supplement their own forage and the seasonal garden goodies we give them, but do you think they need something even higher protein? Like, say, the frozen halibut carcass that's been in my deep freeze for a year?
     
  6. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, that could be the cause. You can apply No-Pick or Blue Kote to the area to discourage picking. Be careful applying it, if you get it on yourself, you will look like a smurf for weeks. If you can get a pumpkin, throw that out there to keep them busy.
     
  7. Susan49

    Susan49 Out Of The Brooder

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    No pumpkins, but plenty of winter squash. Do you mean to toss one out whole? I guess I spoil the girls too much, as I usually bake the squash and cut it open for them, or if raw, I cut it up in pieces so it's easier to get at. Maybe I need to make them work a little harder for it though, to keep them occupied longer!

    I read in another thread that people also use Vick's Vaporub to discourage pecking. I might try that first as I have some on hand (and less danger of smurfifying myself!)
     
  8. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    If you do winter squash, cut it in half first. And yes, they have to work a lot harder.
     

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