Molting or something else?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RichtmanRanch, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I posted this in Emergencies and diseases too

    For warning... Sorry if this is a long post, just wanna get all the details out...

    Hi I have 7 hens. I live in northern MN and I am trying to figure out what is causing feather loss in 5 of my hens. One is in really bad shape, feather condition wise. The others the feather loss is just located to butt. But not the vent, the area under the vent. I will include pictures too. The one who is really bad, I noticed she started losing tail feathers about 3 months ago, real causal, nothing too dramatic. However in the last month she is practically naked on the back side. I have been monitoring all of them daily for about a week now. I am not sure it is a molt though. None of them seem to have pin/blood feathers. But I have also never experienced a molt before either. There skin is smooth and naked. Red at times too, paler others. All the hens are about 9 months old. I have not gone out at night to check for mites/lice yet. But that is on my agenda tonight! There doesn't look to be bite marks or swelling around any of my hens vents though. And the feathers they do have seem, well I have not noticed lice. But again this is my first time experiencing this.

    Again the one who is worst off, she is my biggest, and on the top of the pecking order. She doesn't appear to be getting pecked at by the other hens. She doesn't take **** from nobody! Haha. But with monitoring her every day for about a week now, well this morning her neck looks like she lost a bunch of feathers over night! Additionally she has lots of thin patches of feathers. on her legs and under wings. It also appears the hens with feather loss are also having feather damage. They seem to be breaking off mid feather. Also what I think is feather growth, but possibly infection, some of the shafts look bloody, almost like a black head on a person (pictures below).

    All the hens appear to be eating and drinking normally. Droppings look fine, have been inspecting the poop shelf and don't see any obvious signs of bugs/worms. Laying has been interment due to winter, but I also have a red heat bulb.

    About 3 weeks ago I did a full clean out off the coop and adding new shavings. But I also added a tub of playground sand and mixed it with ash from my fire place (I read on the forum you could do that as a dust bath, several people recommended it). However after taking with my local feed store they wondered if I didn't accidentally make lye by adding to much wood ash. So it may have been dissolving their feathers! So I did a full clean again on Wednesday. Took out all the sand and bedding and put in two fresh bags of pine shavings. But again my big on is still getting worse! I am also offering black sunflower seeds in the morning.

    I know they are not broody, they spend all day moving about, I have one who is currently and her feather loss is localized to normal broody spots, doesn't seem to be affected like the other girls are. So my questions are has anyone seen this before? This type of feather loss? If it is molting, can their skin look naked for a few weeks, with no pin feathers? What can I do to help them! Its only January, winter is still here for several months. I will check for mites/lice tonight and get back.

    Thank you!!!
    [​IMG]
    "Blackhead" like feather shafts on neck feathers of my worst hen
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    Patch on the neck of my worst hen, new I think as of this morning, some pores look red.
    [​IMG]
    Weird feathers some of my hens have growing out of red rump areas
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    Feathers on thigh area, normal new growth, parasites, or infection, something else?
    [​IMG]
    Feathers just above vent, infected or new growth?
    [​IMG]
    Naked rump of my worst hen
    [​IMG]
    Patch neck feathers, new as of this morning
    [​IMG]
    New feather growth on belly or infection?
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    Another hen with feather loss, limited to what is visible.
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    Another view of my worst hen
    [​IMG]
    Another hen with feather loss, just this area though.
     
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I am pretty sure that is a molt. Those black feathers are going to be beautiful in another week. I have had chickens for 9 years. It still surprises me how horrible they can look. The feathers they have are straggly, and broken, and large places of no feathers at all. I had a leghorn, that I swear lost every feather but 2 in a single night. I opened the coop, and it looked like a pillow had broken in there.

    Just to make sure, how do your birds act? Are they walking around, eating, alert? They may be a bit crabby, but that is normal.

    My vote, is this is a molt. One thing when they molt hard, they seem to grow feathers back fast, and with the longer days, they should be making eggs soon.

    Has your egg production dropped? That is a sign of molt too.

    Mrs K
     
  3. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    Egg production seems normal for them. And they all seem to be behaving as the normally do. However in the last few hours I did looked through the feathers of my one hen who seems to be unaffected to find LICE! Plucked on of her feathers out to take a closer look. There were 6 of them on it. So I am now researching the best ways to resolve it. Thanks for replying. Maybe they are potentially molting too, but they now have lice as well! Sigh.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    My guess is you have a feather picker, but I could be wrong. They are growing their feathers in nicely. That type of feather pattern loss is generally seen when someone sneaks up behind them to grab a feather, or they get pulled on the roosts at dusk.

    Have you observed your hens at roost time? Many bird squabble at roost time, you may have one doing some feather pulling to get her point across. If the feathers are pulled totally out they will usually grow back this time of year.

    This year haven't been an odd molting year. So if they grow in without problems than it was just a molt.
     
  5. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    I have not observed them at night for more than a few mins. The dont seem to move around a hole lot. Is it possible to pull feathers due to lice irritation?
     
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Definitely, a good dusting with a poultry dust never hurt any chicken and is a good place to start.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    How old are these birds?

    I'm betting you have a combination of molting, bugs, and picking.
    There is some new feathers growing in...a feather fully plucked will grow right back.
    A feather broken or bitten off will not grow in until molt.
    Some birds do a partial molt or molt slowly, some birds have brittle feathers that break off easily.

    Feather picking can be from crowding or nutritional deficits or the bird itself pulling feathers trying to get at bugs bugging them.
    Number of birds in how big of a coop(feet by feet) and what/how exactly you are feeding might help eliminate those issues.
     
  8. RichtmanRanch

    RichtmanRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 23, 2013
    Minnesota
    I have 7 hens, all nine months. The coop is 8x8. They have access to a covered run, which also have the sides covered with old sliding glass doors to block the wind. Straw covering the run floor for enrichment and warmth. I have been feeding a normal layer ration with no problems. I also provide them with a big block of compressed food to pick at. They liked the first one, this one not as much. I also hang cabbage too as a distraction. In the past week I have started to provide them with a scoop of black sunflower seeds as well as some cooked brown rice and scrambled eggs for extra protein. Occasionally I have mulched their egg shells and mixed it into the scraps I give them.
     

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