Mean chicken picking on the rest of the flock

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by laurelandcheryl, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. laurelandcheryl

    laurelandcheryl Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 25, 2013
    Hi everyone! I have a flock of 4 hens. 2 cinnamon queens, 1 Americana and 1 Rhode Island Red. For the past few weeks both of our cinnamon queens have been missing some neck feathers. I looked for parasites etc, cleaned the coop well and have just been watching them. Yesterday I came out to let them out of the coop and found literally hundreds of feathers in the coop. Last night when I went to close them in, their run was covered with feathers. (They have a large coop (4 x 6) and a large pen to run in 12 x 12). My kids have been watching them and tell me that the RI Red has been picking on the rest of the flock. It makes sense because all of the feathers that I found in the coop and run were the "caramel" color that belong to all 3 of the other chickens. I closed them in last night and did some research about why this might all of a sudden be happening (all 4 have been together for a year and a half - we did loose 2 of our girls to a hawk attack last winter). Then this morning it was carnage again - feathers everywhere and my poor girls are looking awful! The RI Red is totally fine, so I put up my large dog crate and have crated her in the coop. I don't know what to do! HELP! How long until the other ones get some feathers back? I'm worried that it's November and we have a long, cold winter ahead (I live in Massachusetts).
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    Two things are going on.
    It is their second autumn so they are molting. The same thing will happen every year from here on.

    RIRs are notorious as the bullies of a mixed flock.

    When they molt, they feel like crap so she is taking advantage of the opportunity to be top hen.
    She may also be craving the protein contained in the feathers.
    I imagine your egg production is down now.
    Upping the protein is a good approach during this time.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree. Assume for now that your little flock is going through molt. If they've gotten on well together to this point, this is probably what is going on.

    To place your mind at ease, examine the feather loss areas on the hens. If you see a solid set of pin feathers emerging, then molt is what you've got.

    If, on the other hand, few if any pin feathers (they'll look like the hide of a hedge hog) are present, then you may have a personality conflict going on. RIPs do have a rep for throwing their weight around. But rule out molting before you try to deal with any aggression problems.
     
  4. laurelandcheryl

    laurelandcheryl Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 25, 2013

    Egg production is down. We don't keep a light in the coop and because of the time change I assumed it was partly due to the lack of light. She also isn't eating any feathers.

    The reason I don't think it is just molting - I can see some pin feathers, but the girls also have bare spots on them where I can just see skin and no pin feathers. They look really sad, especially one that almost has no tail feathers left.

    How many feathers do they typically loose during a molt? Hundreds a night? If that is the case, I just was not prepared for that at all!
     
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    A drop in egg production, a coop that looks like there was a pillow fight in there, a birds second autumn spells one thing, it IS molting.
    They lose them all and all day and all night. They look awful and when they grow the new feathers they look beautiful.

    Your best bet is to stop the layer feed and switch to a grower feed to up the protein and eliminate excessive calcium.
    Provide oyster shell in a separate container for the RIR or any other bird that may still be laying.
    Making feathers requires a lot of high quality protein and vitamins and minerals so bolstering the nutrition is helpful.
    It is very difficult to make eggs and feathers at the same time. Molt is the time when a hen's reproductive tract rejuvenates.
    The extra calcium in layer feed can be harmful to birds not actively laying.

    Shorter days can drop production too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  6. laurelandcheryl

    laurelandcheryl Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 25, 2013
    Thank you for all the advice. I will add protein to their diet & assume for now it is a molt. I'm still going to keep my RI Red in the crate, separated for a couple days to make sure it's not her picking on them and to give the other 3 girls time to grow feathers without being battered.
     
  7. Little momma

    Little momma New Egg

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    I had 1 rooster and one little white hen that looks like a Rhode Island Red except white. I got 2 other hens, one that lays color eggs....the other one ?.
    Now the rooster don't pick on the little white hen, both picks on my 2 new hens.
    I am thinking about cooking that rooster for Thanksgiving dinner, killing the white hen for chicken sandwiches...
    What else can I do? HELP ME...
     
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    They'll always pick on new birds.
    Separate the little white hen and the rooster may accept the others.
    Or take both the older birds away then add the hen after about 3 days. Then a few days later add the rooster and all should be fine.
     
  9. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    --Just food for thought; your chickens don't know there was a time change! They are getting less light because there are fewer hours of daylight in winter, but that has nothing to do with the time change.

    During moult, I have seen hens pull their own falling feathers out, and yes, it does look like a massacre. My white Leghorns all moulted over three days this fall and the pasture looked like it had snow on the ground. One of my EEs looked like she'd been plucked after she moulted. They may have bare skin for a bit before the pin feathers poke through.

    Since you have your RIR locked up, you should be able to tell easily if she's the one doing the feather pulling, since it should stop.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Little momma

    Little momma New Egg

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    Thank you...we are going to do that today. We are putting the white hen in another pen.
     

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