Quail obsessed with ripping and eating feathers

2 many chickens

Crowing
Jan 14, 2017
2,054
5,508
352
I have 5 button quail in one colony and two are feather eaters. My male is not as bad as the other one.. she is absolutely obsessed with ripping the other hens feathers out and eating them.
She constantly stalks them (creeps from behind them, head slouched down and all) then grabs a hold of wherever she can and rips then eats.

She even jumps off the igloo i have for them to grab them as they walk by. The 3 females look like they were attacked by tiny button quail lawnmowers. Well that lawnmower is mrs. Feather eater.

They have unlimited feed so her feather eating self is not starving. I don't want to cull her she is my favorite.. and I don't want to isolate her. She seems really dumb as well. What can I do?
Like I said, she is on the hunt all day for feathers.
She doesn't eat the male feathers just the females..
 

DK newbie

Songster
5 Years
Apr 20, 2015
1,772
1,068
241
Once they start plucking, it might not be possible to make them stop again. The longer you let it go on, the more unlikely it is you'll be able to stop it.

3 usual suspects when it comes to feather picking buttons:

1) Too little protein in the feed (needs to be at least 19-20%)
2) Too crowded (one bird might be fine with 2-3 sqft/bird - for the other 10 sqft/bird might be too little)
3) More than 2 birds to an enclosure

It sounds like you are at least having more than 2 birds in the enclosure, but even if you correct that (I'd try her just with the male, as she doesn't eat his feathers - yet) you might not be able to break the habit.
If it keeps happening, you'll have to make up your mind; are you willing to let her pluck her cage mate(s) till the day she dies, with all the pain and stress this will put them under?
Will you keep her alone, with all the stress this causes her?
Or will you cull her, despite her being your favorite, making sure neither her nor her cage mates are stressed?

It's a hard choice - I know, because I'm still debating with myself and it's been a couple of years now.. I have two roos that will peck the feathers of their cage mates. One is living alone now - the other I tried with a hen again a few weeks ago, and they are still living together, but he is plucking her.
I'm leaning towards culling both of these roos - it's obviously the right choice, I just don't want to kill a healthy animal if it's not because I intend to eat it.. But maybe I should try to convince myself plucking is a mental disease, so they are actually not healthy..
 
Nov 2, 2018
3,788
54,202
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NSW Australia
Try maybe seperating the problem quail from the rest of them..........
I choose not to cull I can not bare it so try maybe seperating her from the others????? Could you put her cage next to her mates cage so they can see each other but she can’t rip their feathers out
 
Last edited:

2 many chickens

Crowing
Jan 14, 2017
2,054
5,508
352
Once they start plucking, it might not be possible to make them stop again. The longer you let it go on, the more unlikely it is you'll be able to stop it.

3 usual suspects when it comes to feather picking buttons:

1) Too little protein in the feed (needs to be at least 19-20%)
2) Too crowded (one bird might be fine with 2-3 sqft/bird - for the other 10 sqft/bird might be too little)
3) More than 2 birds to an enclosure

It sounds like you are at least having more than 2 birds in the enclosure, but even if you correct that (I'd try her just with the male, as she doesn't eat his feathers - yet) you might not be able to break the habit.
If it keeps happening, you'll have to make up your mind; are you willing to let her pluck her cage mate(s) till the day she dies, with all the pain and stress this will put them under?
Will you keep her alone, with all the stress this causes her?
Or will you cull her, despite her being your favorite, making sure neither her nor her cage mates are stressed?

It's a hard choice - I know, because I'm still debating with myself and it's been a couple of years now.. I have two roos that will peck the feathers of their cage mates. One is living alone now - the other I tried with a hen again a few weeks ago, and they are still living together, but he is plucking her.
I'm leaning towards culling both of these roos - it's obviously the right choice, I just don't want to kill a healthy animal if it's not because I intend to eat it.. But maybe I should try to convince myself plucking is a mental disease, so they are actually not healthy..

I'm wondering if it is a mental thing. She seems really odd, not just the feather thing either, she just seems weird compared to the others. I have many of them and she is just the odd ball. She also eats her own poop and every other pile she finds. Her feather eating mate, Cabbage, also does this.
They act like it's delicious too. Makes me physically ill.
They eat 20% crumble and are in a 55 gallon tank which maybe is too small for them idk. It is big and has plenty of hideouts.. which she locates the hens no matter where they are. Esp. One who is her favorite to eat. Follows her around like a baby chick and mama do. I feel bad for the hens, sometimes they'll think she trying to groom them and she grabs their feathers violently and they look confused...
Maybe I'll isolate her for now.
Thank you guys.
 

JanetMarie

Crowing
6 Years
Oct 23, 2014
1,988
2,675
376
SW Michigan
I cull any chickens that eat the feathers of others. I've had two hens in 11 years of chicken keeping that have had this bad habit, and I've learned that once they start, they don't stop. In chickens others also can learn the bad behavior. I've tried temporary separation, giving feathers as a snack (I know weird), and they do get extra protein when molting.

Culling, or separating the trouble makers from harming the others is part of good flock management.

It's unfair to keep the feather eaters with the others, so if you cannot cull them, remove them and put them in their own enclosure.
 

2 many chickens

Crowing
Jan 14, 2017
2,054
5,508
352
I cull any chickens that eat the feathers of others. I've had two hens in 11 years of chicken keeping that have had this bad habit, and I've learned that once they start, they don't stop. In chickens others also can learn the bad behavior. I've tried temporary separation, giving feathers as a snack (I know weird), and they do get extra protein when molting.

Culling, or separating the trouble makers from harming the others is part of good flock management.

It's unfair to keep the feather eaters with the others, so if you cannot cull them, remove them and put them in their own enclosure.

Yeah, I don't think she'll ever stop. It won't matter if she's in a shoe box or free to roam the world. She'll always have a thing for feathers, she's nuts.
I put her and her feather eating friend in a separate enclosure. After watching her drag her sister around by her neck feathers and her mate joining in on the fun, I moved them. They're both sitting there staring hard at the glass now day dreaming about feathers I guess. I'm sure they will both go on a poop hunt later looking for piles of crap to eat together.....
 

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