Poor hen has most of her feathers pecked!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LestersFlat, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our 9 hens and one nasty roo were free ranging, until one of my hens disappeared, and then a second was attacked by something, probably a feral cat, just a few weeks later. (Thanks to all those on these forums who helped me through those situations!)

    We are in upstate NY, and it was getting colder anyway, so we decided to coop them up again for the winter. They have a large coop, and a fenced run in the back. On all but the coldest single-digit days, they have access to the run.

    Things were OK for a few weeks—my injured hen has fully recovered and her feathers have grown back to where I can't even tell she had a problem. But now, Red Momma is being pecked by the rest to the point where her bottom and the top of her legs are completely naked. I thought at first she was molting, until I read on here that molting usually starts at the head or neck, and this definitely started on her back end.

    Since they are not eating the feathers, I am thinking it is boredom rather than a protein issue. One of the 2 of us is out there with them at least 3 times a day, usually more, but I think they are just reacting to being closed up after having the freedom to run.

    I have tried the head of cabbage, which worked well until it froze solid and disappeared somewhere in the deep litter. I throw grapes, blueberries or other fruit in their litter or out back for them to find. On really cold days they get warm oatmeal with milk and honey. They have 2 human-size wooden ladders in front of large windows, in addition to the roosting bar, and they have more than enough nest boxes and other "furniture" to play in and around.

    I don't know what else to do?

    I let them loose to free range again today as the weather was a bit warmer (32° and sunny) and most of the snow has melted. What snow remains has cat footprints going up to and around the coop, which scares the heck out of me that another hen will be attacked.

    So, 2 questions: Should I continue to let them out when the weather permits, and take the chance that another hen will disappear or be attacked? And, more importantly, should I remove the de-feathered hen from the flock until she grows her feathers back? I have no idea which of the others is pecking at her, even though I have tried to sit and watch them. The only thing I can think is to move her, and give her a warmer place to stay, since she is mostly naked at this point. But then what happens when I reintroduce her?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  2. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update: It was only sunny for about 2 hours, then started snowing. I kept looking out the windows because I was worried about them being loose, but didn't see them anywhere (not unusual, I am 500 feet from the coop). Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and went out to find that they were all back in the coop, probably because of the snow.

    I tried to capture Red Momma and bring her back to the "chicken hospital" in the garage, but I didn't grab her quick enough and she got loose, loosing more feathers in the process. I tried again, but she was wise to me and wouldn't let me get anywhere near her. Plus I have to defend myself from the ornery roo, who was watching me as well.

    It is just starting to get dark, so I will try to take her from the roost, and maybe enlist the Husband to help. Now that I had a better look and can see that she is missing about 2/3 of her feathers, from everywhere but her head, I want to give her some quiet time away from the others. It won't be too much warmer in the garage, but I filled the "hospital" with lots of hay for her to burrow down into.

    Still hoping for advice if anyone has any to offer?
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    How big are your coop and run? Is your run predator proof?

    If I'm reading you right they're confined to the coop only most of the time? Overcrowding is my first thought.
     
  4. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have 9 hens and one roo in a coop that is (maybe) 12' x 14'. It is an old milking shed for cows, with 5 big windows and 2 human-size doors. The pen, out the back door, is about 12' wide by maybe 25' long. Both have proven to be predator proof so far, although mice do get into the feed every now and then (thus the feral cat who prowls the area).

    I really don't think that crowding is the problem, although you could tell me otherwise [​IMG].

    They always have access to the coop and penned area, unless it is windy and freezing, when I close the back door and keep them just in the coop. On those days they don't want to go out anyway, so the coop just gets colder with the door open...snow blows in the feed...the litter gets wet...

    I tried 3 times today to capture the pecked hen, but she was totally freaked out and not ready to be caught. I think, if it is the solution to separate her, that we will have to wait for the weekend when we both can work together to get her.
     
  5. BCchick

    BCchick Out Of The Brooder

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    Will your hens eat out of your hands, or at least come up to you if you have treats? That's the easiest way I've found to catch one.
     
  6. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sometimes yes. That's a good idea...I will try tomorrow with some grapes.

    Trouble was, she came up to me today, but when I picked her up she freaked out. I have picked her up many times before, but either she is hurting, or she thought I was just someone else trying to peck at her so she went crazy on me. She looks so pathetic she makes me sad! But she was more comfortable being pecked at on the roost than having me try to hold her this evening

    We'll make it through this somehow!
     
  7. RedIII

    RedIII Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My guess would be that she's putting up a fuss about being handled because it's uncomfortable. She'll probably feel better after her feathers have had a chance to grow back in.
     
  8. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Schuyler Lake NY
    So the initial 2 questions remain: should I let them continue to free range on nice days and take the risk of predators, just to keep them from being so bored with me? I think my answer would be yes.

    And the other question is should I remove her from the others? I think the answer to that is also yes, although they have not hurt her, other than removing almost all of her feathers now. I can see her skin on her entire body, only her head is still mostly feathered. She is right up on the roost with them at night, so at least they keep her warm while torturing her, but I worry that this will go a step further and that they will draw blood, and then actually kill her.

    Which brings up a new question: To what lengths should I go to try to capture her and take her out of the coop? After 2 days of serious attempts at trying to catch her, now she runs whenever she sees me coming. I managed to give her a bowl of oatmeal outside, away from the others, but she wouldn't go near it until I went back inside. Just the sight of me puts her in a frenzy, and I worry she will hurt herself if I try harder to catch her.

    Any ideas for how to capture the poor girl? If I had a fishing net, I would try that...but afraid I might hurt her with that as well.

    I did try after they were all on the roost last night thinking she would be calmer, but she hid behind the others. When I reached in to try to take her, she dropped down between the 2 pipes that I didn't even think she could fit through, and then squawked and flapped her almost feather-free wings, scared to death, and hid behind a crate. I don't know which is worse, letting them torture her further, or torture her myself trying to catch her?

    [​IMG]
     
  9. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would watch to see who is picking on her, if its a certain hen then take that hen away, and when you add her back she will be at the bottom of the pecking order. I had to do this 2 times last year, since then no problems what so ever. your coop is more then big enough, and free ranging if your around is ok if they want to, and you can keep an eye out for them. you have a big pen? if so they are fine in the big pen. mine are in a big pen and though they want out, I can not do so while I work and they have a large covered run. if its a problem with lots of hens picking on your bird, then you may have to give her a coop of her own.
     
  10. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    if she is very scared, put a towel over her head . she may just be worn out and scared and hurting. try going to the coop tonight and bringing a towel to remove her :)
     

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