RIR hen ripping feathers from her flockmates and eating them. Protein deficiency?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Alexandra33, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Twice today, whenever Alex squatted for me to pet her, Jordan the RIR wasted no time in running over and biting her back until she had successfully ripped out a feather. Upon gleaning her "treat," Jordan proceeded to run away and eat it. Besides noticing one of my Cayugas also pulling some feathers and devouring them, our White Rock stole the Alex feather from Jordan one of the times, made her escape, then ate it. Do we have a protein deficiency in our flock? I'm aware that I should feed our birds something high in protein if this is the case, and probably separate Jordan from the rest. I'm also informed that if your efforts are to no avail in curing the girls of their nasty habit, the one bird who still eats feathers needs to be....well.....dealt with. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you,

    -Alex
     
  2. BoomChickaPop

    BoomChickaPop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That is just weird
    Does Jordan do this everyday?
    You will need to separate Alex from the rest or she will be featherless by the way you described Jordan eating her feathers
     
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    Yes, all signs that your birds are suffering a protein deficiency, what have you been feeding them and how old are they? Definitely get them some better ration, and offer some cottage cheese or eggs to help them get a start. If you can get the deficiency straightened out the feather eating should stop, only the very persistent birds will continue and would probably need culling, but first I would straighten out their diet first.
     
  4. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks, you two!

    Jordan has only just started this behavior, @BoomChickaPop . Alex is pretty much bald around the base of her tail, so I'm beginning to suspect that she's a victim of protein-hungry birds.

    @oldhenlikesdogs , our birds are fed organic layer pellets at the moment. Would starter grower help at all? It's pretty difficult to answer your question, because the girls (and boy) in our flock are of various ages-anywhere from 1 year to 7 months. Scrambled eggs, that sounds pretty doable as we have an excess of duck eggs to use up.

    -Alex
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    I keep my birds on either an all flock or a non medicated grower, 18-24% protein, with a dish of oyster shells on the side. Layer is 16% protein, it's great if it's all they eat, any extras tend to cut the overall protein too much for most birds, especially if they are still growing and are laying, the more they lay the more likely there can be problems. Most chickens continue to grow and fill out for 2-3 years. So I would get more protein in the diet.
     
  6. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

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    I agree with oldhen. Start out treating the problem as a protein deficiency, and switching to an all flock feed, which is higher in protein, for a mixed flock would be the most sensible thing to do. Many of us have dispensed all together with layer feed since it's not got a lot of protein in it and it's very inconvenient when you're juggling roosters and chicks and pre-laying pullets. I haven't fed layer in years. Just make sure to provide oyster shell free choice.

    That said, feather picking is a complex issue. There's no single cause for it, so there's no single solution. In fact, in many cases, there is no solution at all other than to cull or live with it. I began a thread years ago when I had an EE hen who was a serial picker and I had tried everything with no success. Many, many people with the problem shared their experiences, and all pretty much agreed it was a problem that is guaranteed to drive you crazy trying to find a solution.

    When you rule out diet, that leaves behavior and the way a certain chicken's brain is wired. Pinless peepers can help in these cases, and sometimes you need to keep that bird segregated for the benefit of the rest. Or cull.
     
  7. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    @oldhenlikesdogs and @azygous , I am so very appreciative of your advice. We will definitely be looking into a feed higher in protein for the sake of our girls, and all-flock would be a good choice since we also have ducks in the mix. I'll try putting out free choice oyster shell out, but last time I did that, nobody touched it. In an attempt to fix this problem, I would distribute some sort of treats on the ground and throw in a bunch of calcium, hoping that during their frenzy, they would ingest a little. Any other solutions to this particular problem?

    Hopefully Jordan's problem won't be too hard to solve, though once they get into a habit, I'm sure it's harder to break than I realize. She has always been somewhat of an alpha hen, but never a bully who plucks feathers. Another indicator that something is off in a dietary sense, is that my ducks are CONSTANTLY horking down feathers, either chicken or their own.

    Thank you so much!

    -Alex
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    I have close to 85 bird, including ducks and turkeys, I might buy 2-3 bags of oyster shells a year, I have to pick stuff like hay and poop out of the dish of oyster shells because it's so seldom eaten, so what you are seeing is normal, a bag may last a couple of years. I also save and crush up any egg shells, those I throw on the ground and they eat those more vigorously, you can if you want bake them in the oven to dry out a bit, than crush them up so they don't resemble eggs.
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Some of your issue may also be the organic part. Organic feed usually doesn't have animal protein, and the birds need that. It's not always about the straight percentage, some of their need is the source of the protein also. That's where adding things like cat food or meat scraps comes in handy.

    The amount of calcium they need to take in really isn't much, so you may not notice them eating the oyster shell. But if you have it and/or eggshells available, they'll self regulate what they need. IF you have consistent thin shelled eggs from multiple birds, then you may need to look at making a change. Unless that happens, don't stress the calcium.
     
  10. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    It's good to know that calcium isn't a huge issue for the birds, especially since they obviously need a change in feed. They've actually been ruthlessly attacking our barn cat for her food, so that's yet another sign. I've never seen our girls go so insane over anything with high protein content.

    @donrae , I didn't know that organic had anything to do with their problem, and I sure am glad that I learned something new today! They do occasionally get a little protein from table scraps or their intake of cat food, however, I have the feeling they don't get enough to go very far with 37 birds in total.

    Thank you both so much for letting me know not to worry about calcium intake! [​IMG]

    -Alex
     

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