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pecking out feathers

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by BigPeep, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. BigPeep

    BigPeep Songster

    May 27, 2009
    I have been having a real problem with pecking out of back feathers. Most of my flock now have bare backs. Even the new chickens that have been kept entirely in chicken tractors away from the rest of the flock have started doing this. I am concerned that they may have problems in the winter if they don't re-grow the feathers.

    I have introduced blood meal into their diets a couple of months ago and I think it may have had an effect as a couple of the oldest set of birds that would be due to have started their molts at 18 months of age seem to be feathering back out without losing the new feathers again. One post earlier gave me this idea, which said that they need animal protein not just the plant protein that they get in the feed. I have started giving this as well to the newer chickens in the tractors.

    One possible problem is that I can't get out to the coop at dawn as we had a fire in our house and are living some distance away so by the time I can get there to let them out, it has been light for a couple of hours already. I think they are doing this in the early morning hours as I have never seen them peck each other's backs once they have been let out. They have 3 to 4 square feet of space per bird in the coop and well over ten sq ft of run space per bird outside.

    I have eight roosters for 40 hens so, to the extent that it is a rooster problem I could reduce that number or put the roosters in a separate coop for winter. I have a friend who has a very large doghouse that had been used for Great Danes that I can transport over here and re-tool for the roosters to keep them entirely separate but I don't know if they are the problem or it is the hens also doing this.

    Any suggestions if the behavior doesn't stop? Do I need to heat the coop for the winter? It is insulated so adding a heater wouldn't be a problem but they would still be going outside during the day if they want. I would be concerned that the hens might just stand around outside and get chilled.

  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well, if you pen the roosters separately, then at least you'll have process of elimination going for you; you'll find out whether the roosters were the problem or not and can go from there. Since it sounds like they have enough space in the coop, I'd put my money on the roosters, but you never know.
    If your coop is insulated, I would think your chickens would do okay. If possible, you might want to tarp the winter time prevailing wind side of the run. I opened my pop door every day last winter to give them the option to go outside. On really cold days, or when it snowed more than an inch or so, they would pretty much stay indoors, but it's nice to have the option....

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