Pecking out tail feathers

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by feltingfrenzy, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. feltingfrenzy

    feltingfrenzy Chirping

    Aug 6, 2012
    Greetings all,

    My flock consists of 14 pullets: five SL Wyandottes and nine Barred Rocks. They were all purchased from a hatchery and brooded at the same time. The tail feathers are being pecked out of the Wyandottes, and now the feathers continuing up the backs. There is no blood, just red skin. This is my first flock of chickens (had guineas for many years) and I'm not sure what, if anything, I should do or look for.

    I have not yet seen these two hens being pecked at, but assume the feather pulling is being done by the other hens. Based on the info from various "how to" books on chickens they have more than sufficient square footage in their coop and day yard.

    The hens started laying about 6-weeks ago and have ample grit, calcium, high quality feed and clean water. I think the situation has gotten worse during the past week or so.

    Is is possible there is some other problem with these hens? Should I cull them out of the flock, or just leave them alone.

    Suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    There is no magic formula for how much space is enough. Sometimes we have to go by how they behave. usually, feather pulling is either feeling crowded and bored, or insufficient protein. With protein, most feeds are vegetarian, which is unfortunate because chickens are omnivores and love to eat bugs or any other source of animal protein.

    The first thing I would do is check them carefully,at night, for any sign of lice / mites (link below) This can certainly contribute. If there are none, then different things to address boredom can be tried, like a flock block, hanging veggie such as cabbage, new items in the run to sit or jump on, etc. You can give them a piece of sod now and then. You can build a flat box with a screen and plant grass or sprouts. There are many ideas in the Feeding and Watering forum. In either case I would find ways to get some animal sourced protein in their diet.

    Good luck!

    This post is excellent reading on space:
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
  3. feltingfrenzy

    feltingfrenzy Chirping

    Aug 6, 2012
    Thank you for the suggestions and the informative links. I double checked the feed label and it's 17% in a certified organic soy-free feed (no processed crumble or pellet - just grains). Fish meal is the animal protein included.

    Talked to the supplier, and he suggests adding finely chopped hardboiled eggs (three daily for 14 hens) and would up the protein and might stop the pecking.

    My intent had been to release the hens in the afternoon for true free ranging, but a sudden appearance of a pair of Cooper Hawks has given me pause. So, the girls stay in their safe dayyard and I bring them a wheelbarrow of garden weeds or dried leaves almost daily - it's a party. However, they are not getting the bugs and subsequent proteins that I had hoped.

    Do you think the 3 eggs per day for 14 hens is adequate for the animal protein requirement?

    Many thanks.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by