Newbie needs help on new hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Stonerowfarm, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. Stonerowfarm

    Stonerowfarm Songster

    Sep 16, 2008
    Cheshire, MA
    Picked up 13 16-month old hens yesterday from an old farmer. These poor girls were in a coop that was kind of dirty with old food on the floor, old water and what looked like dust in their food bowl rather than mash. The girls were so frightened of everything in trying to get them boxed one actually flew into the wall and broke her neck. Being new to this, and not thinking like a 'farmer' only an animal lover, I rescued the rest of the flock.

    Now I have them in my coop, hoping to get them outside into the daylight later today. Some of the hens look alright but others have bald spots on their necks, backs, etc. Old farmer told me this was 'normal molting' but they look a bit odd. Only one has pin feathers coming in, and the others are right down to bare skin.

    Any info/help would be appreciated. I feel badly for these girls and want to get them healthier and happy if possible.
  2. Thank you for rescuing these poor girls. They're probably frightened but over time they will realize how much better life can be. I'm new to birds too but learned a lot from other poultry owners rt and here, plus at another site. What do you need to know? Were they alone or was there a rooster? If they were crowded and hungry they may have been plucking each other's feathers. They were probably frustrated and had begun to compete for resources. Imagine how excited they are going to be at having some cucumber, pumpkin, squash or other treats! You will be their hero and in time they will reward you with affection and eggs.

    I think that clean water, a hygenic environment and proper nutrition will go a long way. Have you noticed any signs of infestation?

    Diatomaceous earth, food grade, can be mixed with the bedding to help with that. A very good way to help them should there be anything on them is to hang a 'no pest strip', which is a wax rectangle saturated with pyrethins high in the coop where they can't reach it. Another good place is just outside barrier wire near or above a roost. Avoid hanging directly over food/water. You can get these at most hardware stores, feed shops, tack shops and Co-ops. Some brands are Vapona, Black Flag, Home Hardware and TSC. You may need some lice/tick powder such as Dri-Kill or Sevin, which can be mixed with DE in a sock or old stocking and powder-puffed on the girls hind engs once you can handle them. I like the no-pest strip because it requires no handling of the birds and will also keep flies away.

    I hope more experienced owners will start to post, and thank you again for doing the right thing.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2008
  3. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator

    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan

    I'm sure nutrition has been a factor in these birds' appearance. Living with you will be a turning point in their lives. [​IMG]

    If they're 16 months old, you need to make sure to have some layer food for them (I think a lot of folks here recommend the Purina brand). It has the vitamins the girls need to be healthy while laying eggs. Also, fresh, cool water every day is essential. You can supplement the food and water with oyster shell so that their eggs have strong shells.

    If you believe any of your birds are having medical problems, or have mites or another parasite, check out this thread ( for some medications you can use to treat your flock. LynneP's info was good, too. [​IMG]

    It's obvious based on your description that these birds are not used to humans. To get them used to you, set up a chair in (or next to) your run and toss the girls some treats, such as a handful of cracked corn or some table scraps (small veggies or even very small pieces of meat for protein). Move slowly, don't try to touch them, and talk to them quietly so that they can get used to the sight of you and the sound of your voice. Try to do this every day, maybe for an hour or half hour before you lock them in the coop at night (or whatever fits into your schedule). It may take several months for them to feel safe around you because of their past experiences, but please don't feel discouraged.

    Good luck with your new chickens! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2008
  4. Stonerowfarm

    Stonerowfarm Songster

    Sep 16, 2008
    Cheshire, MA
    Thank you both so much for responding. I've been out a couple times today, just squatting down quietly so they get used to seeing me in the coop. Just went out and brought them some tomatoes from the vine and that seemed to make their day. One of the better looking girls even rewarded me with an egg. My first!

    They are getting Blue Seal Laying Mash, which was what the previous owner had given them. They seem to like it and have had their beaks in it all day.

    Hopefully they will adjust to their new home quickly and get used to someone popping in and around often. I'm in and out of the barn quite a bit because of the goats.

    Another thing I wasn't sure of. When I went in there earlier they were huddled into a corner, kind of playing chicken pyramid with one of the whites on the bottom and other hens piled on top. Is this normal??

    Thanks again
  5. debilorrah

    debilorrah The Great Guru of Yap

    If there was a roo with them, then it can be caused by the big lug mating with them. When we took ours from a farmer, free range but same situation, not really clean, we had two that were bald, Kojak and Cue Ball. Cue Ball is getting more feathers back, but Kojak is still bald as caan be. They are happy though, dusst bathe all the time.
  6. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    It may seem an odd thing for you to do but probably the best food you can give a really nutritionally-stressed chicken is eggs.

    The protein is perfect for them to use for building body tissue and feathers. And, there are a lot of calories in the egg yolk.

    You don't want them to get the idea they can eat their own eggs. Boil the eggs and thoroughly mash them (shells and all) before going out to feed your hens.

    A dozen eggs could make a big contribution to their nutritional requirements for a few days. You may see some improvement even in a short period of time.

    Here's wishing you the very best of luck. Thanks for your efforts and welcome to BYC [​IMG]!


    edited to say that I personally wouldn't give them more than about 25% of their feed ration as eggs. That would be about 1/2 egg each day if I did the math right.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2008
  7. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    Quote:This is true.
  8. whatsup chickenbutt

    whatsup chickenbutt Songster

    Sep 9, 2008
    last week i picked up 3 hens in just that condition. they came from a farm where they lived in a box and all they did was lay eggs. im not sure they ever saw light. i brought them home and they were quite frightened and would huddle in the corner away from anyone or anything, and face directly into the wall. after about two days, i put them out in a separate yard from my other chickens, although attached, and gave them a shelter, which is just a piece of plywood and an old tree container, and they are as happy as can be. They need time to adjust to the other birds, and me, and just the new environment that they are living in, albeit a hilton hotel compared to what they came from, but they are nervous. Ive had them for about 5 days now, and they are doing so well. they are starting to get color in their faces, they're still bald, but lively and healthy looking, minus their bare necks and various other parts. They are learning to integrate with the other birds, and eating and walking around. they act like normal chickens now, and even occasionally stand their ground when another chicken tries to eat in their spot. They are probably my favorite chickens just because they are the underdogs..
  9. I think this huddling will decrease as they get used to the coop. Every new noise is probably spooking them at this time. It helps to make the coop 'interesting' with various places they can duck for safety like behind a hay bale or up a ramp to a platform. Getting that egg is a very good sign. They may also be edgy through nutritional deprivation from poor food. Please let us know how things go! [​IMG]
  10. Stonerowfarm

    Stonerowfarm Songster

    Sep 16, 2008
    Cheshire, MA
    Well - it's been a week and while we are getting sporadic eggs, we seem to have a new problem. Went out this morning and one of the girls had blood on her neck. She is one of the white hens (not great about hen identification) so it was easy to see the blood, but not what caused it. I have her separated from the rest of the flock. When I found her this morning she was just fine, scratching in the yard, not fearful or sick in any way. Just a bit of blood. Should I keep her separated and if so for how long.

    In the meantime some of our baldy birds are getting their pin feathers on their backs again. What is so difficult for me is that I don't know if this was regular moulting, if the birds were picking on each others feathers or if it was something else. The majority of the baldness was on the back and bums.

    They are calming nicely and eating well. They love being outside and actually put themselves to bed at night. Other than the bloody neck issue, they seem to be happy and doing quite well so far.


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