SEVERE featherpicking - Pinless Peepers? NOTHING WORKS!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by ChickenWisperer, Dec 14, 2010.

  1. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008

    Had a flock consiting of 1 black Australorp hen/langshan/sussex/faverolle, 3 EE's, 2 comets, and a Ameraucana roo.
    In a seperate, VERY small coop, I had 1 delaware/dorking/orloff/holland/spitzhauben/chantecler/barnevelder/cubalaya and 2 Brahmas, all pullets. Due to the lack of ranging and small size of coop, the dorking/orloff were pecked on and consequently removed. Nobody else was affected.

    I took the roo out, and integrated the secondary, 7 month old pullets in with them. First were several co-op freeranging events, little to no confrontation. Then full integration, NO roo. The faverolle was taken in, due to shivering cold from molt and bumblefoot/possible legmites. The two comets were being pretty hateful for no reason to the new girls, but after a few firm pushes, head smacks and warnings they let them be for the most part. I am actively trying to find them new homes (as they are still good girls, just not the best for us).

    I go out today, and after two days of COMPLETE lockdown in the coop (3-4 inches of snow, windchills at -6, general too darn cold to be out in the snow-filled run) let them out. Mind you, the heatlamp is on and they have a NEW flockblock to peck at, lots of nesting boxes to lay in, straw to scratch in, scratch grains to look for, occasional treats... I go out and look beneath the coop, and the Buff brahma and the barred holland are PICKING at others and eating the feathers!

    I took them in, trimmed their beaks until the top beak was shorter than the bottom (no, they did NOT bleed at ALL), and put them back. I treated the delaware with watered down peroxide, and since she is white used flour to shut the wound and restore natural color. As soon as I put the delaware back down, the Holland when at her throat feathers and that place, would NOT leave her alone! (the holland has also had her throat feathers pecked out by someone, culprit unknown). I got so upset. The holland, Nina, is one of my favorite new little girls! I brought her in to isolate. Put her in with dorking/orloff, and she pecked at them! I took her back out and picked up the Delware. Nina never did anything else to any of the others. Just looked around, preened, and started to try to go to bed. I left, brought the delaware back inside.

    Total count for birds in the house is 4. I am so upset right now. I've lost three babes from this before... I can't stand anymore loss of my babies. I just can't stand to go out and ever see what I saw before.... gosh, I'm shaking I'm so upset.

    They don't seem to like the flockblock now. I've done the slight beak trimming. I've given them lots, all they have given me, of their eggs back to them cooked. I've thrown down scratch for them to peck at. I'll try to let them range as much as possible.... but there is still snow on the ground, and freezing rain is comming soon. Possibly as bad as the last ice storm!

    I'm going to buy a tarp to keep more of the run usable. Should I try to find woodchips/leaves to keep the run less muddy? Would putting logs/etc for them to perch on help?

    I'm looking at pinless peepers. Do all the birds in the flock have to wear them when I get them? Can I get them at TSC or Rural king?

    How much tuna/cat or dog food can I give them for protein? Should I give some to everyone, or the majority to the "bad" birds? Should I make the catfood/etc wet for ease?

    Would integrating new hens help spread the intentions of some? Or would it make things worse?

    Is there anything else I can do? I couldn't find the big thread on cannibalism [​IMG]
  2. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008
    Just bought 50 pinless peepers from EggCartons. Oh, get here soon..... I hope they work and don't hurt my babies.
  3. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    Are you using a 125W, or 250W heat lamp? Is it directed at the floor of the coop or aimed at ceiling and in a reflector? Is it only on during the day or 24/7? Excess light around the clock will increase picking and general overactivity. We discovered this during our first winter with chooks (baby monitor was tell-tale). We used a 125W directed towards ceiling in a reflector (lighting was indirect but intense). The chooks were active throughout the nights with plenty of whining/growling/yelping/feeding/etc. So ended the heat lamp experiment. We switched to a standard 15W incandescent (aimed at ceiling in a reflector) this provided just enough light to see what they were doing early in the morning but didn't interfere with normal roosting and, stress level dropped off to nothing. The only `extra' heat in coop is the 15W light bulb. It has been hovering just around 0°F for the past 4 days. The chooks are just fine (all are 5+yrs old). They spend most of the day loitering in the open door of the coop though the snow has been pretty much cleared from the run.

    Try cutting down on the light to a bare minimum and get a bottle of No-Pick (same primary ingredient as in Pine Tar but much easier to apply).
    Dump a couple of 50lb. bags of sand on the mud/ice and spread it a bit, that will help some.
    If the worst of the pickers start doing damage to unwounded chooks (observe for compulsive `style' of picking - just won't bother with `tuna' - wants to eat chicken, instead) either keep them isolated or cull them.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  4. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008

    The heatlamp is a 250 watt, with red coating, but it is pointed directly at them. Everybody is on roost now, doing fine. Sometimes it stays on all day but it is usually turned off. We don't use the heatlamp unless it gets real cold, at/below 15 degrees - lately, it's been around 10 degrees with a windchill of -6, plus snow. Our coop isn't insulated.

    We are going to look at a flat panel heater tomorrow and see what we can do to cut down on the light.

    Edit: I don't know if Nina/Koji are compulsive. They seem to pick constantly, but when there are cooked eggs/treats around they forget all about picking. Is that still compulsive?
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  5. TennesseeTruly

    TennesseeTruly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 5, 2009
    Church Hill, TN
    Quote:It sounds to me like you have too many birds for your coop and if thats the case cannibalism can & will happen. I had it happen to me last year. I think you may need to thin things out a bit. Also, we've had wind chills down to 0 this past week and my chickens have been outside. I'd get them outside even for just a little while.

  6. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    The presence of light and heat as well as the limited space and snow on the ground are all contributing to this. I've read that heat to prevent frostbitten combs is not necessary until somewhere around minus 25 in a well ventilated coop.

    I've never seen pinless peepers anywhere but online, and I've read that only certain kinds (I don't know what kind) really stay on the chicken. I do know that cannibalism is nearly impossible to stop once it starts.

    I certainly wouldn't add any birds if they are already crowded as the new ones can learn this behavior from the ones you already have. I doubt that protein will solve the problem as it appears to be caused by small space and boredom in this weather that causes them to stay indoors. Of course a little extra protein is often good as these feeds usually have minimal protein. BOSS and game bird feed are good ways to add some, as well as meat. Cat food is not good for them at all; see the bottom of the treats chart. Sand in the run is a very good idea.

    If you haven't already, you need to read Patandchickens' pages on cold weather coops and ventilation and muddy runs:

    Links at the top of the page.

    You will see that she won't keep birds in less than 15 sq ft of coop space because of her cold climate and their staying in.

    Please don't add any birds to this problem until you get their living space fixed.

    A lot of people have success with hanging a cabbage or similar treat for something to do.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2010
  7. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008
    They are actively in the large coop. I can't remember the footage of it offhand, but I honestly don't think they are over-crowded, but they would be if they only ever stayed inside. It's WAY bigger than the eco-friendly pallet coop.

    I wouldn't worry so much, but not all of my birds are cold-hardy and some are still in molt. Yesterday, I had to "rescue" Skye the Spitzhauben because she was outside, shivering, but was just sitting there. After she warmed up, she went back out. The babies stampede me to get outside, and every night they are outside my two dodo birds Kira and Fang are too stupid to come inside. The babes don't want to go to bed until it's too dark to see and that scares me.

    We had been planning to expand the floor space of the coop for some time, but never could due to my illness. I guess during the winter on nice days we will.

    I'm not sure what to do about the boredom. Last time, the flockblock cured it but now they don't want to do anything with it. I've tried the lettuce on a string, and they didn't really seem to like it.... but I'll give it a shot again.
  8. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008
    Just measured the coop. The floor space is 7.75'x7.75' or 60 square feet. Plus the height, which is probably about 8'. The run has almost 130' floor area as well.

    Divide that by 3, the rule of thumb for indoor space, and I can have 20 chooks in the coop, 24 in the run - I only have 16 in right now.

    So I'm guessing the cause is more the light and the boredom? They are free ranging right now.
  9. bburn

    bburn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2010
    Delaware, Arkansas
    I may start a war here. An older woman that has raised chickens for years said to me if they were pecking each other very much to add bacon grease to their feed....or on greens as a treat. She believes they have taken the animal protein out of the feed and that causes the feather pecking. Could be an old wives tale. However, I have started doing it once a week or so.....those old timers sometimes know better than us.
  10. sben451

    sben451 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 26, 2008
    Anniston, AL
    I used the pinless peepers (I think from one year when we had a featherpicking problem. They worked very well. I only had to put the peepers on certain chickens that I had observed picking on the others. That said, I believe you should still be aware of any overcrowding problems. Also, maybe a higher protein feed could help. I've also given my chickens BOSS or hung a cabbage in their coop to give them something to keep them occupied. Hope this information helps.

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