Pine tar and brittle feathers

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by HillsideEstate, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. HillsideEstate

    HillsideEstate Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 22, 2015
    I am new to BYC and chickens in general and decided I really need help.

    The short story - we applied pine tar to our hens to keep them from bloodying each other and now their feathers are ragged, pecked broken and generally nasty looking.

    The long story: After 9 months of raising hens, I came home to find nearly all my flock with bloody saddles. I panicked and applied pine tar before more damage was done. I feared cannibalism since we had to remove our roo the month prior. They were pulling out his feathers and eating them. (This is another issue I am dealing with. He was removed and I tried to slowly reintroduce with no luck). So we thought the pine tar would stop the behavior before the pecking became more severe.

    First, we were told they were cramped, but they have more than twice the suggested minimum space. The run is filled with toys, perches, flock blocks...

    We were then told it was from a weak winter diet and so we added Avia Charge to the water, Poultry conditioner to the food, more calcium and started begging for greens from the local market.

    Then we were told mites because we had switched to straw so we cleaned out the coop and dusted it along with the girls. While dusting the girls we didn't find mites but did find nits! So we have been diligently dusting every 5 days. The severity of the pecking has stopped, but it now appears that the pine tar has made the feathers brittle. I haven't seen them doing it but the feathers look chewed off - like the top half of the feather is missing.

    Then I assumed (key word) that the brittleness was bothering them so I applied coconut oil to the bare skin and brittle feathers. I was thinking it would condition the feathers and help the girls groom out the old pine tar. But the chewing (wrong word but that it what it looks like) has continued.

    Nobody I know has ever had this many issues with their flock and some of them are telling me I just have a "bad batch" which I refuse to believe. I have pictures of some of the girls now if it would help.

    Someone please help me figure out what I am doing wrong before it is too late!!
    Thank you in advance for your collective knowledge-
     
  2. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, pictures would help!

    What type of feed are you using and what is the protein percentage?

    MrsB
     
  3. HillsideEstate

    HillsideEstate Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 22, 2015
    Thank you for getting back to me. I feed them Layer crumbles from either Southern States or Augusta Co-op. The SS brand has 16% protein. I supplement with the Poultry conditioner, flock block and also yogurt and tuna.



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    Please help my girls get better-KD
     
  4. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Huh. Do you happen to still have a rooster?

    MrsB
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
  5. HillsideEstate

    HillsideEstate Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 22, 2015
    No, we had to separate him earlier in the year because some of the girls were pulling out feathers (chest and tail, not saddle) and eating them.
     
  6. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It's just so strange... The places where the hens are missing feathers are the same places they would miss them if they were over-tread by a rooster....

    Have you SEEN the girls picking at each other with your eyeballs??

    I promise I'm not questioning your sanity, but if all other circumstances are ruled out (over-crowding, boredom, nutrient deficiency, etc), I'm at a complete loss. It IS possible to have one hen that starts it, then the rest learn from her. So instead of having a "bad batch," (which is still possible) you've got a hen that taught bad habits to the rest of your flock. :/

    I would take a chair, a book, and a nice, warm cup of tea out with me and have a seat. Eventually, they will forget you are there and will go about their chicken business. You may have to be out there for a few hours before you can observe the behavior. Without SEEING it, it's difficult to identify the cause, since everything you've tried so far hasn't stopped the issue.

    Have you checked them for mites/lice and wormed them with Valbazen or Safeguard lately? It's possible that the mamas are pulling out their OWN feathers, because they're itchy and covered in creepy crawlies.

    MrsB
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
  7. HillsideEstate

    HillsideEstate Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 22, 2015
    Prior to this snowstorm I watched them often and recently didn't see the malicious pecking that we saw before. I did see a couple of little pecks but they seemed more gentle and never pulled feathers. I assumed we were over the hump. Recently we are super cold and not chicken watching as much.

    We have been dusting with poultry powder (permethrin) every 5 days to rid a heavy louse infestation so that might take care of the mites too. I did not de-worm them as I read you cannot eat the eggs afterwards and I have lots of customers, but if you think it might help the girls I will do it!

    Do you think it is possible that the coconut oil is encouraging them to nibble on their own feathers?

    If this is a habit, is there any way to stop it? I have not read about any successful methods.

    I am so appreciative of you help,
    Kate
     
  8. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can eat the eggs after you worm them. There may be a withdrawal period, where you'll want to discard the eggs, but that's only a few days, I believe. Pick up a bottle of Valbazen liquid goat/cattle wormer from the feed store when you're there next time. :) It's a little pricy, but it lasts forever.

    I have no experience with permethrin... We always use Sevin dust around the coop and add it to the places where they dust bathe. :) Maybe add a little permethrin to their favorite spots?

    Unknown about the coconut oil... You could always offer some on a little plate and see if they fight each other for it. That would be a good indication.

    In the meantime, I would cover the bare spots with some iodine. That will hide any red, irritated skin, provide a little bacterial protection, and discourage other hens from pecking at exposed tissue while we figure this out. <3

    MrsB
     
  9. ChickenLegs13

    ChickenLegs13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm a country hick from hell but I never heard of putting pine tar on a chicken. Where do you even get pine tar now days?
    I suggest applying blue coat, and if your feed and space is correct then check for roost bullying in the evening. That may be when the pecking is occuring.
     
  10. MrsBrooke

    MrsBrooke Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I never thought about roost bullying... Hmm!

    I've heard Blu Kote prevents oxygen from getting to the feathers or something like that. Unverified, but I stick to iodine and the girls get along just fine. ^_^

    MrsB
     

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