My chickens are feather eating maniacs! Help!


In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 21, 2009
I've got 10 hens that are just turning 5 months old. 4 of them have recently started laying. The problem is that over the last couple of weeks my two RIR's and to a slightly lesser extent my two Barred Rocks have started terrorizing the other chickens. They chase them around and pluck feathers from their butts and then eat them. It is driving me crazy. Is this normal? Is it somehow connected to when they start laying?

I don't think it is a cannibalism problem yet but i am scared it will become one. We tend to feed them treats daily of lettuce and melon rinds and such. Are they eating too much of that and not enough feed and thus becoming protein deprived?

Also we have no rooster. Not sure if that makes a difference.

Any help will be greatly appreciated. It kills me to see my precious hens treated this way.
I have heard it can be a protein problem, or can be simply boredom. Do they have plenty of room to run around? For added protein you can boil eggs and feed them back to them, or add meat or cheese for snacks. It is also good to feed them yogurt once a week, that also has protein, as well as the probiotics. Good luck.
I'm going to cut out the treats and give them a little free range time in the backyard when i can watch them. I was giving them yogurt every few days but haven't recently. I will try that again. I hope it works!

Any other ideas?

Sometimes i wonder if i'm just being paranoid and overprotective.
If I were you I would feed a ration with a higher protein level than whatever it is they are getting now. If they are getting pellets I would change to crumbles, and I would give them some leafy alfalfa hay. Sometimes they pick because they need more protein and sometimes they pick because they are bored. The above suugestions will help with both.
My girls had this problem at around 4 months. I read through a lot of threads and saw the suggestion to feed more protein, and specifically to try BOSS. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. I got a bag at the feed store, started tossing that into the treat mix, and they were done with feather eating a couple of weeks later. There look great now and seem happier.
Well i bought some Blu-Kote but i'm holding off on using it. Let the chickens free range for a while in the backyard and they are so much happier and less aggressive. Also feeding some black oil sunflower seeds. Crossing my fingers.

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