My chickens are going bald!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chicken noodle, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. chicken noodle

    chicken noodle Hatching

    Nov 22, 2007

    In the Spring of this year, we ordered 25 pullets from our local Tractor Supply. They shipped us 26 and all survived. I gave 10 of them to a friend of mine. We ordered a variety and received 5 white leghorns, 5 buff orpingtons, 5 Americaunas, 5 rhode island reds, and 6 silver-laced wyandottes. My friend took 2 of each variety.

    In the Fall, we started to notice that our white leghorns were feather picking the other birds at their tail heads. The white leghorns are untouched. I researched the topic...conditions too hot, insufficient diet, boredom, overcrowding, etc, etc, etc.

    Most people say that our chickens won the lottery the day they were picked to be shipped. We have gone to great efforts to create the finest environment for them and we strive to do everything right. Their coop is a 14' X 14' building with multiple windows, shelves, and nesting boxes. This was an old chicken coop that we refurbished. Most people say they would move into our chicken coop if they could. We built a 14' X 14' adjacent outdoor run that is fully predator proof. They eat a commercial balanced diet. Daily they get scratch and many, many treats. My mother-in-law goes in that coop multiple times a day to tend to them. They have toys, perches, swings, and ladders. We sometimes hang a head of lettuce in netting and let them chew on that. Hence, they are not overcrowded, or overheated, and they can't possibly be bored.

    I'm going to start pulling my own hair out soon. My 13 of the 16 birds are looking terrible thanks to the white legshorns. Interestingly friend said that her 2 white leghorns from our batch were doing the same thing. Alas...a genetic component? I had read that some breeds were more prone to this behavior. And white leghorns were one of the breeds listed.

    We have tried Hot Pick and Blue Cote (sp?)....but the areas of feather loss are getting bigger and bigger. We are discussing separating the white leghorns from the rest of the group, though we aren't sure if this is a good idea. I have read some on trimming the upper beak. Will that work? What is the best solution to this problem?
  2. joyful-homemaker

    joyful-homemaker Songster

    Jul 11, 2007
    central ohio
    My birds did this too. If they are eating the feathers they just need some extra protine. Cheap catfood is the best way to go. Have you wormed them? That could be the problem. Hope this helps!

  3. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    My only thought is the "many, many treats" and scratch could be lowering their protein levels somewhat, but I had a breed-specific picking problem with chicks once. Delawares plucked about seven other chicks in two hours time in a humongous nursery coop area. Only those Delawares. It could be an aggressive strain like mine or too low of a protein level that this breed needs for high egg production. Hard to say, exactly.
  4. chicken noodle

    chicken noodle Hatching

    Nov 22, 2007
    Thank you! Interesting....I was not aware that dietary protein could be linked to this problem. I guess I would say they are eating the feathers because I am not seeing feathers all over the place. I checked a fecal sample on one of the white leghorns who recently seemed a little "off" but is ok now. The results were negative for parasites. I have not dewormed the birds.

    With regard to the treats...I may have exaggerated a bit. They get plenty of diversion on a daily basis, but their commercial diet makes up the majority of their diet. Yet, I certainly could offer a little cat food. When our one bird was a little off, we scrambled up an egg for her....she loved it! And that is a great source of protein.

    So, is trimming of the beak not a valid option for this problem?
  5. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    It isn't always protein, though. There are some strains of breeds that just are aggressive. My Delawares got plenty of protein and they still were terrible pickers. My Ameraucanas in particular never pluck each other, but will eat small feathers they find on the ground. Definitely not a protein problem since my layer feed and breeder crumble exceed 21% protein and they get eggs and yogurt at times. They just eat feathers. Also, there is something called Methionine, a nutrient that they could be lacking if they're eating feathers. Black oil sunflower seeds provide this. Just plain unshelled are fine.
    Be careful feeding too much cat food due to excess salt. You could mildly trim the end of the beak with dog nail clippers, but I wouldn't actually debeak the bird. That would never grow back. I'd rather find the cause and treat it than clip their beaks.

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