Mysterious back feather loss

deacons

Songster
6 Years
Oct 8, 2013
627
72
171
New Hampshire
My 2 year old RIR hen has mysterious feather loss on her back. It's not bald, but it is clearly a spot on her back/base of tail where her downy feathers are showing through. I don't have a rooster, but the spot on her back looks like what you'd see if a rooster was overmating her. They are supervised during free ranging, so I can't think of any way she has a secret beau on the side ;) I grabbed her today to take a closer look, and the feathers are clearly pecked off, as you can see where they have been broken in that "v" pattern.

Here's the mysterious part: this is far and away the "head hen" of this flock (8 adult hens). I can't imagine any other chickens ever standing up to her, let alone jumping on her back repeatedly and being that aggressive. So, I can't understand what would be causing the feather loss. Is she doing this to herself? I never see this behavior, but of course, I'm not with them all the time.

I also thought about mites or lice. When I grabbed her today, I gave her another close look-over. I see no signs of pests near the shafts of her feathers or around her vent. She is also the only one with this strange feather loss pattern, so I figure if it was mites, they'd all be showing signs of discomfort? I've never (to my knowledge) had mites though, so not sure if I'd know the signs 100% outside of what I've read.

What else am I not thinking of that might be causing this? I'd say she's been like this for about 2 months now- it's not really getting better, but not realy getting worse. Throughout this time, I've been checking for signs of lice or mites, and as far as I can tell, she's clear. She lays and eats normally, and is quite active. Doesn't seem bothered by it in any way.
 
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deacons

Songster
6 Years
Oct 8, 2013
627
72
171
New Hampshire
Could she have caught herself on something?
Could this be a random molt?
I wondered if maybe it could be a molt. I got her when she was probably 8-10 months old (neighbor had to rehome his chickens), and in that time, I've never seen her molt. When I looked at her more closely, I did see that she has some really nice, shiny looking head and neck feathers- feathers in that area never fell out, but these look really plush and new. And, I am finding some of her feathers randomly around the coop and run, so maybe a molt?
 

seminolewind

Flock Mistress
Premium member
12 Years
Sep 6, 2007
18,257
2,361
532
Corydon, Indiana
It could be a molt. It could be a hen mounting her. You may want to try taking duct tape and taping from wing to wing across the back. It will stick to her feathers and not her skin most likely, and fall off in a few days or so. Maybe you can eliminate some reasons like that.
 

deacons

Songster
6 Years
Oct 8, 2013
627
72
171
New Hampshire
Seminole-can you explain more about what you mean with the tape across her back? Never heard of that and not sure what that would help me figure out?
 

seminolewind

Flock Mistress
Premium member
12 Years
Sep 6, 2007
18,257
2,361
532
Corydon, Indiana
I've seen hens mount hens. You never know.
And since people don't keep chicken aprons in their closet, Over a bald spot on their backs, I use 2 strips placed over the back, from a bit under a wing to the other one. Always works great for me, and seems to only stick to feathers.
 

hosspak

Songster
6 Years
Sep 2, 2013
1,389
107
156
Lake Elsinore, CA.
I'm seeing the same thing on some of my girls;





No roos since the March 9th meet up, so I'm a little concerned as to why this hasn't fixed itself... A little help here!
 

Bellacoby

In the Brooder
6 Years
Oct 5, 2013
28
2
24
Maryland
Hello to all on this thread... I didn't see a conclusion to this on this thread. I have one of my 3 hens with this issue also. The area with the loss showing her skin is not as pink and "fleshy" looking more dark and coarse if I can describe it. She eats, is laying, and otherwise seems fine. its really cold here now so just wondering what you did as well as the other person who posted the pictures? Any help is appreciated!!
 

deacons

Songster
6 Years
Oct 8, 2013
627
72
171
New Hampshire
Hi @Bellacoby - I started the thread about my RIR. Sorry for not coming back with an update! My conclusion is that she had a slow, "soft" molt this year. Throughout the summer and into the fall, she lost small clumps of feathers here and there, never enough to have large bare patches of skin. She stopped laying for a bit in the fall and then started up again in the early winter. That one spot at the base of her tail/back still does look a little less filled in than other parts of her body, but I've just kept an eye on it and nothing seems irritated or red or anything. No mites or lice.

This is a December picture of her, you can see how her feathers in that spot aren't as full as the rest of her body:


She's done fine though in our very cold winter (-17*F here this morning!). I actually had a couple who decided on a heavy molt this winter and had true bald patches when it was well below freezing. They all seemed to do ok. Personally, I would have preferred if they picked a different time of year and didn't stress me out so much, but they are no worse for it! :)
 
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