10 Years
Jun 3, 2013
North Alabama
I have 2 hens, 3 pullets and 1 cockerel. The young birds will be a year old in a few weeks. They are all starting to get bare spots on their backs. I have looked and don't see any evidence of mites or lice. I have scrubbed the chicken tractor and dusted with both sevin and permethrin. I plan to scrub it again this weekend and dust all the birds. I may do ivermectin, too, just to cover all my bases. Watching the cock, he's not overly rough although he does favor Maude and Bertha. I did notice that, for some reason, he grabbed 2 birds by the nape of the neck several times when not breeding--I feel like he was warning them away from a certain spot--he was not allowing any of them to get at the spot where my hose reel is (maybe a snake under there?). So, I don't think they are being beat up in any way. I wasn't thinking it could be a molt yet (maybe the older girls, but not the younger). but it's been awfully hot.....Is there any way to tell if it's a molt? Would I be seeing lots of feathers on the ground? and maybe incoming pin feathers? I'm not seeing any of this.I can whip up some saddles if it's the heat or breeding, but like I said, it's hot and I don't want to make the heat worse. They have almost 3/4 of an acre to range on during the day, then the entire 3 acres when I get home at 5 until bedtime. Lots of bushes, trees and places to get in the shade, a steady source of fresh cool water. Or should I just keep dusting them?
I have hens who are about 3 now. When they were quite young, some of them molted as well even though they were young too. I was worried about mite, but they definitely did not have them. I just waited for it to pass and they grew back lots of healthy new feathers. Maybe just to be on the safe side, keep checking for mites and dusting the house and chickens.
Molting usually starts at the head, so they tend to lose feathers on the neck first, usually the back of the neck at the base. You will see pin feathers and your hens will have quit laying. Feathers missing on the back is usually from mating. A rooster doesn't grab a hen to warn her away from somewhere, he usually crackles loudly and the hens will go on alert and run if necessary. Grabbing them by the head or neck and not mating is bullying and dominance behaviors. He may improve with age but at almost a year old he's not a rooster I would keep unless he's got some better qualities.

Your birds will probably molt this year but a bit later in the season.
He's a good boy so far, he'll call them over for treats and is really a good protector. If it's not a molt then it must be the action on their backs. No one is hiding from him, so I don't think it's too much for them but the backs are clearly visible. Should I get saddles for them even tho it's hot? I can stitch some up tonight if needed. Thanks for the input. I thought it wasn't a molt, the older girls have molted in the past and, while I ddin't notice it starting at their head, they definitely looked ragged and I saw a lot of feathers laying around.
I have had a few bareback hens over the years. I have never seen any skin being torn or scratched, the wings can get a bit irritated looking. I have never used saddles, they come with their own troubles like heat retention, skin irritations, and mites can get out of control under them. Use your own judgment whether you need them or not, I personally prefer not to use them. I would remove the rooster temporarily or limit his time with them instead.

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