Our 2 beloved 10 month old girls. Pecking started and getting worse.

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Eddie K, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    edit - thread title changed since we found out what is going on!

    We are concerned and relatively inexperienced owners of two much-loved hens, a Light Sussex and a RIR, who've been with us since 8 weeks.

    Yesterday evening we couldn't fail to notice that our Light Sussex had suffered some bleeding around her tail area. We have no idea how this happened although I couldn't rule out a cat attack as local cats have expressed an interest in our girls a few times in the past.

    I inspected her and found that a couple of her feathers had snapped near the base. I was in the process of making a noob post to ask particularly about this, but a quick googling returned the answer that these were blood feathers and that this was something we needed to be concerned about.

    What should we do next? Do we need to take her to a vet, or shall I attempt to remove the feathers myself? Alternatively, is there any argument for leaving them in place and allowing them to heal naturally? I have just inspected her again and there has been no further bleeding, so is the best course of action here just to avoid infection or do those feathers *have* to come out?

    The second part of my post is to ask are there any "natural" biological causes for this to happen, or is the only logical explanation that she was somehow the victim to some kind of physical trauma, whether that's a cat, has been pecked at by our RIR, (unlikely because we've never witnessed them exhibiting aggression towards one another in the past), or she's somehow just caught herself on something.

    Any advice would be very appreciated. It's nice to finally join this fantastic forum, it was an invaluable resource when we were starting out. I shouldn't have left it until something went wrong to join but I suppose you get that a lot on here!
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  2. jeslewmazer

    jeslewmazer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 24, 2009
    Mississippi
    First...[​IMG]

    I can only say from personal experience.

    Broken blood feathers are not normally a big concern. I have never had to doctor broken blood feathers. As long as she is not still bleeding, she should be just fine. Clean any excess blood away, as the blood could trigger the cannibalistic nature in chickens. As long as she has no other problems (excessive redness, swelling, or other signs of infection) removal of the feathers is not necessary. Nature can run its course, and the feathers will eventually replace themselves. If you try to remove, make sure that you remove the whole shaft, so the new feather can grow and lessen the chance of infection. Nature works best for me. The are numerous ways this could of happened. Blood feathers are very soft and ,as said in the name, are full of blood to support the new feather growth. If your chickens have a well balanced diet (including plenty but not too much protein) then I would not think that the other hen did it. Any type of snag could break the feathers, including predators. I have heard that chickens (Silkies being one breed) with the "Sizzle" feathers have a tendency to break do to the genetic disposition. But I don't think that the breeds you have have such disposition. Hope that helps some.
     
  3. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    I'm thinking of isolating her for a few days to ensure that she doesn't knock it and the bleeding restarts... any thoughts?

    edit: oh wow, fast response. The above was not in reply to your good self! *goes away to read*

    edit2: massive thank you jeslewmazer, that is extremely reassuring. I will continue to monitor her carefully. Thanks again!
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  4. jeslewmazer

    jeslewmazer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 24, 2009
    Mississippi
    It should not restart bleeding, as when the feathers broke all the blood that filled them should have shot out. If they are still bleeding 1-2 day and there should be no more blood. You can separate, it would not be a bad thing, and if it makes you more comfortable and reassured. But I have never had to separate mine do to broken blood feathers.
     
  5. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    Bit of a worst case scenario. Beans, our RIR is the one picking on poor Sophie!

    Sophie's tail feathers have healed fantastically. She is even now starting to sprout a fine black plumage around her tail, although her butt is still just a very small stump from where she lost her bum feathers last time round.

    Anyway, she was loitering around our back door today but seemed very subdued and was very clearly trying to avoid Beans, (who I also noticed half-heartedly lunging for her a few times). Sophie was also doing that stooped neck thing where they hunch over and withdraw into themselves, which immediately tells you something is wrong.

    Her neck was looking a bit raggedy so we gave her a closer inspection and it was obvious that she has been pecked at, with a few feathers missing and a couple of small wounds where they had been ripped clean out.

    Putting two and two together it would appear that Beans was the one who broke the blood feathers a few days ago, (see OP). Can't say that conclusively of course. Perhaps the cannibalistic instinct only kicked in since then, but it seems far more likely that Beans is the one causing the damage.

    We only have one coop so we have placed her in a box with some straw and although I am loathe to have birds in the house, will put the box in the bath to ensure she is warm and cosy instead of locking her in a box in our tiny windowless shed, which just sounds cruel to my mind.

    Will get some kind of anti-peck product ASAP and will obviously not keep her completely quarantined. Any garden time will have to be under supervision for the time being unless we keep one of them in the fenced off area near their coop.

    Real shame this. They were always so cute together. Slept top and tail every night and completely inseparable, clucking away to each other all day long.

    Hope Beans can learn to behave. Will have a look at a possible calcium deficiency. Any other experiences welcomed!
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  6. stormylady

    stormylady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 27, 2008
    Illinois
    Could be she is just being mean, but more than likely she is needing alittle more protein in her diet. A little cat food or a boiled egg chopped up would be good every now and again. [​IMG]
     
  7. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    Thanks a lot for the reply, will definitely look into that.

    Sophie's tucked up in a box in the bathroom atm, but she really isn't right. Have never seen her this quiet before. Neither of the girls really like me anyway, (I'm over it), but they do interact with my wife a lot and they both respond to their names. However all she will give my wife is the tiniest little whimper, otherwise you'd barely know she was alive.

    A difficult balancing act really because being separated from Beans and being whisked off in a box may, for all I know, be every bit as traumatic as being cooped up with The Beansinator, (as we may have to start calling her).
     
  8. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    I've been reading plenty about pecking on these fora and there's a fair bit about isolating the aggressor and reintroducing them later. However, I don't see how that can work in the case of two birds as opposed to a flock, especially when their personalities are so monumentally different, (Beans - loud, adventurous, HUNGRY, Sophie - homely, reserved, shy and retiring). Neither of them are going to change, (nor would we want them to!), and Beans is always going to the bosslady. They've been like that since the day we got them, eight weeks old.

    In practical terms, I will obviously be looking to address the diet issue immediately, and up the protein and calcium intake. They are both growing new adult feathers the moment, and maybe that's the source of the problem if they're not getting the right nutrition.

    Otherwise, I'd be very interested in any theories on the psychology of the pecking order when there are just two girls if anyone has any experience in this area.
     
  9. Eddie K

    Eddie K Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 11, 2011
    Girls have been split for a few days and we've upped their protein and calcium intake, although it's obviously too early for this to really take effect.

    Whenever we isolate Sophie she gets her spirit and vitality back but we sometimes put them back together under supervision but Beans always goes straight for the tail and throat.

    We just applied some anti-peck stuff to her neck and tail and if anything, this seemed to make Beans even more curious. I wanted to see what would happen and thought I'd just try to let Beans "get it out of her system", so under our watchful eye Beans had a few gentle tugs at Sophie's tail feathers, but nothing too aggressive. Sophie stands there like a statue, terrified, the poor little thing. Beans then walks round to her front and my wife is saying, "that's enough" but in my infinite wisdom I said "let them be", because I really wanted Beans to get a taste of the anti-peck stuff and decide, "this isn't for me". That was the theory anyway. So Beans has a couple of tugs at her neck, more in a probing manner than a violently pecking one, but then aims a sharp stab directly at Sophie's throat and tries to pull a feather clean out. Obviously we jumped straight in to stop it but if we were in any doubt that we had a real issue on our hands, we aren't any longer.

    We checked Sophie afterwards and luckily she was OK after the attack but that is the kind of thing she is enduring and it's really unfair on her and she's obviously very distressed. Starting from tonight the plan is to put Sophie back in the coop and Beans in the box in the shed, because Sophie has not laid for several days now and we don't want her becoming egg-bound and her problems getting even worse. Meanwhile, the Beansinator has never looked healthier or more magnificent, and is laying every day, despite an initial slowdown when it started getting cold a month or two back.

    We are not going to allow this to go on for too long because it's not fair on either of the girls. If anyone has any more strategies for us they'd be welcomed, otherwise I see no alternative but to give them away. Sophie to a gentler environment and Beans to a flock with a Cockerel who can teach her some manners, or if she's not careful, someone's dinner table! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
  10. Barnmaradotte

    Barnmaradotte Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2011
    eugene
    Get sophie a couple friends and send beans to where she belongs. On the dinner table.
     

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