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Seeking advice on featherplucking and cannibalism. (quite long, sorry)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by monkeyc.monkeydew, May 21, 2007.

  1. monkeyc.monkeydew

    monkeyc.monkeydew New Egg

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    May 20, 2007
    New Hampshire
    I have three RIR and one Lakenvelder (all hens) and two of the RIR's have missing feathers on their backs above their tails and below their vents. They are completely bald. The third RIR has full plumage, so she is obviously the troublemaker (or is she). They were all in a 4' x 6' cage through the winter in my garage, and all were fully feathered until a few weeks ago. I noticed the feather plucking and wasn't sure if it might have been self inflicted, but about a week ago, one of the RIR's had a hole about the size of a silver dollar and 1/4" deep just to the right of the plucked out area. I immediately confined her alone and took a wait and see approach and she appears to be healing steadily and has substantial feather regrowth. The other three have since gone into a chicken tractor (4' x 4' coop with covered 4' x 8' run) which we move twice a day. The second plucked out girl has no feather regrowth and so I pulled her out of the bunch tonight and put her in confinement. I am afraid that we may have contributed to the girls getting picked on, even though the winter quarters were 4' x 6' which is 24 square feet or 6 sq ft per bird. I was also hoping that getting them on pasture (grass) would have helped, but no feather regrowth in a week and a half so I think there is still a certain amount of feather picking going on. Does anyone have any recomendations?
     
  2. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    RIR are known to be bullies. You may have a very aggressive bullying hen.

    First, I would try providing more protein in the diet and see if that helps.

    Second, I would keep the birds separate from her for now. Once the plucked birds are healed you could try putting them back in the main pen and removing the bird doing the picking to another holding area for a week or two. This might shake up the pecking order when you return her to the general population.

    If that did not stop the picking I would get rid of that one bird.
     
  3. monkeyc.monkeydew

    monkeyc.monkeydew New Egg

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    May 20, 2007
    New Hampshire
    Thanks Miss Prissy. I appreciate the advice. Sometimes I'm surprised at how vicious they can be to each other, but I'm more surprised at how they allow themselves to be bullied and don't stand up for themselves.
     
  4. Simple Chick

    Simple Chick Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 24, 2007
    I had a pecking problem recently too. I had to seperate out one of my hens because she was being pecked at and they were pulling her feathers and making her bleed. I put her into a pet carrier so she could heal and kept her in the coop with the others so they would stay familiar wtih each other. The first time I reintegrated her, they immediately started in on her again and I had to pull her out a second time. Then I bought a product called Blue Kote (I believe what I bought was actually called Wound Kote - Same thing.) It helps with healing and has an unattractive smell and taste. It'll turn her feathers purple so be ware! Anyway, after she healed a little, I sprayed her really well again and reintegrated her. This time I waited until dark when everyone was quiet and roosting and very stealthily let her out of her pet carrier. They have left her alone ever since. Unfortunately I lost Pearl to the skunk that got into the chicken house the other night! She was a real sweetie too. Anyway, the Blue Kote trick worked for me. It's something to consider. They may quit too after they are in the pasture and have more interesting things to keep them occupied. Good luck
    Simple Chick
     
  5. monkeyc.monkeydew

    monkeyc.monkeydew New Egg

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    May 20, 2007
    New Hampshire
    Thanks Simple. I'll give the BlueKote a try when I put them back together. I'm planning on keeping the wounded one confined until she is completely healed, but the baldy might go back sooner with a shot of BlueKote. I was hoping that putting them out on grass would shake things up, but the bald RIR had no new growth of feathers in a week and a half. Our little Lakenvelder hen got pretty beat up at one point, (six months ago) and finally decided to stick up for herself and her feathers grew back in and she has been fine since.
     
  6. Arklady

    Arklady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read on ezbyc that one gal had problems with that. She went to the store and got the cheapest canned dog food (please check to see if the canned food poisoning is over) and she fed them like one can each day and they attacked it each day. After 4 days they were like eating as they went by but not as enthusiastically as before, so she put it out three times a week. It took care of the issue asap.

    Most people resort to adding extra protein via some form of pet food ie: cat or dog food. But I find that my birds do well if I give them like one cup or two per gallon of layer ration. I give it like 3 times a week till they are stablized but you could add that protein regularly if you need to. Turkey starter is non medicated and at 28% protein boosts their protein intake quickly without adding animal proteins ie: actual meat products from chicken or beef or mutton, in the mixture.

    I just feel that you shouldn't feed animal proteins to chickens but thats just me.

    Arklady
     
  7. monkeyc.monkeydew

    monkeyc.monkeydew New Egg

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    May 20, 2007
    New Hampshire
    Arklady, I have seen quite a few people mentioning giving cat/dog food for various reasons and I kind of feel the same way as you, that perhaps feeding chickens something that contains chicken might not be the best approach. I never thought they might be plucking feathers for the nutritional value, I thought it was some pecking order phenomenon. Thanks for the advice. Ours are all layers, so have been on layer pellets for the past six months (I find that they waste too much food when i give them mash) and they are quickly becoming very good grubbers on the lawn. In the last few days, the efficiency with which they can locate and dig up a grub is very impressive. I might try the additional protien idea, perhaps with fish. My seven year old is a pretty good fisherman, and we have lots of places to wet a line.
     
  8. Arklady

    Arklady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh I forgot about fish, but then you can raise your own fish I have forgotten how. They are so cheap you can give them like 12 or more minnows a week I had thought to try and raise my own but not sure exactly how to do that. Maybe someone out there is doing that already and can show us their set up. I would be interested in the pictures.

    Arklady
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2007
  9. arwmommy

    arwmommy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As a heads up, there are many dog foods that do NOT contain chicken. Our dog is allergic to every major protein source except fish, so he gets a fish and sweet potato food. We will be giving this to the chicks as well, as it is an organic dog food.

    I agree that I would TOTALLY avoid a chicken based food--- but birds eat fish all the time, so I feel OK with this type of food.

    Take care......
     
  10. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    When I give my girls the catfood, I always check to see if it's got chicken in it...You can also give crickets or mealworms...I've had that problem with my Leghorn.It could also be boredom, which giving a bunch of live crickets could take care of. Or hang a head of lettuce or cabbage and let them peck at that too.
     

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