Solo molting chicken losing her mind (as am I)

maryn7

Songster
Apr 29, 2020
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NE Illinois
My BR began her molt about two weeks ago. Her sister, a RIR, died suddenly just over a week ago (we'd had two weeks of rain, and I think she ate something bad - she wasn't the most robust).

The BR is now on her own, and clearly struggling being solo, especially during a molt. We are spending as much time with her as we can, but she won't go out in the run without one of us out there (understandable! but also not very practical). She just hangs out in the dark coop, sometimes sitting with her head out the pop door.

Her feathers are coming in well, but she's a mess. She's doing the drunken molting walk. She's also not eating a lot and has dropped a lot of weight (I can feel her breastbone, etc.). She's on chick crumble, but barely eats it - even if I offer it wet, which she usually gobbles. At first she was super excited about the wet cat food I was giving her in the mornings for a protein boost, but now is meh about it. Yesterday, the only thing she was excited to eat was some kale, after I noticed her eating grass; she loves greens. She'll take a couple bites of anything I offer her or from her feeder if I put it in front of her, but not more than that unless I stay in the run. The longer we hang out with her and keep her in the run, the more she acts like herself and eats.

The only thing she *really* seems to enjoy eating is small pieces of pine shaving in the coop. It's dark in there, but if I go to check on her (opening the door and adding light), she immediately starts looking through the shavings for ones to eat. (Right after she's done checking all the egg boxes to see if the RIR is there.) It's VERY weird, and I couldn't find examples on the board of adult chickens doing this. She has access to grit, and ate a little bit of that before going back to the shaving.

I've checked her for mites. Her droppings are real wet (I think because she's not eating much crumble), but no signs of coccidiosis, etc. I've got a call into a vet to do a fecal float, but I don't think that's the issue.

I'd planned to wait until her molt was done to add another pullet, but my small feed store has a leftover light brahma that's about 15 weeks that he's raised in the store. She's also on her own and needs a home, her size should be a good match for my usually bossy BR, and since she's still at the shop, quarantining isn't as much of an issue. I have to get her this week if I want her. (I have enough room to separate them in the coop and the run for the look, don't touch approach.)

But, lordy, this BR is a mess right now. I want this brahma to sit in the run with her so I don't have to, but I genuinely can't decide what the right move is here. I know the added stress of a new flock member during a molt is bad, but it really seems like she's not making it on her own (she and the RIR were absolute besties). But if she doesn't start eating more, she's going to die. And if that happens, then I've got a solo brahma.

I swear, either I or the BR (or both of us) are going to lose our minds before this molt is over. I guess I'm looking for a gut check on adding this new bird and/or if the combination of what I've described indicates some disease/illness I haven't thought of. Thanks!
 

DobieLover

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Jul 23, 2018
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I know the added stress of a new flock member during a molt is bad
But there is no flock right now.
What do you know about that Brahma other than her age? Ideally she would need to be quarantined before introducing her to your PBR. How long has the store had her and how did they get her?
I'd get her if she looks and sounds good on examination and isolate her for at least 2 weeks then put her into a look don't touch cage with your PBR for another 2 weeks before allowing them to interact unless they seem comfortable with each other after only a week.
In the meantime, I'd leave a mirror with each bird until they can be together.
 

Aunt Angus

Crossing the Road
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And I'll add that my BR and my Brahma are absolutely bonded and inseparable, and it's adorable. I hope the same happens for yours.
20190427_135605.jpg
 

maryn7

Songster
Apr 29, 2020
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NE Illinois
But there is no flock right now.
What do you know about that Brahma other than her age? Ideally she would need to be quarantined before introducing her to your PBR. How long has the store had her and how did they get her?
I'd get her if she looks and sounds good on examination and isolate her for at least 2 weeks then put her into a look don't touch cage with your PBR for another 2 weeks before allowing them to interact unless they seem comfortable with each other after only a week.
In the meantime, I'd leave a mirror with each bird until they can be together.
She's from the same hatchery as my bird. The store sell chicks and the brahma is a leftover from the fall. That's what I felt more comfortable introducing her (vs a craigslist bird, etc.)
 

coach723

Free Ranging
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Feb 12, 2015
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You have a very stressed bird. The fecal test is a good idea. Have you tried giving her some scrambled or chopped cooked egg? They usually like that, and it will help with protein for feather growth. I would also get a B complex tablet or capsule, regular not time release, and give her one every day (human ones). That may help with the drunken chicken walk and may help with appetite also. When they don't eat well during molt sometimes the B's can get a bit deficient. Since she's alone, I would go ahead and get the Brahma. Some birds just don't do well at all alone. Once things calm down, hopefully, I would consider adding a couple more if you can manage it, then ending up with a lone bird again is less likely.
 

maryn7

Songster
Apr 29, 2020
155
204
121
NE Illinois
You have a very stressed bird. The fecal test is a good idea. Have you tried giving her some scrambled or chopped cooked egg? They usually like that, and it will help with protein for feather growth. I would also get a B complex tablet or capsule, regular not time release, and give her one every day (human ones). That may help with the drunken chicken walk and may help with appetite also. When they don't eat well during molt sometimes the B's can get a bit deficient. Since she's alone, I would go ahead and get the Brahma. Some birds just don't do well at all alone. Once things calm down, hopefully, I would consider adding a couple more if you can manage it, then ending up with a lone bird again is less likely.
She was keen on egg earlier in the week, but ignored it yesterday. I'll check out the tablets - she usually is such an eater.

And we'd planned to add chicks in the spring (we moved about a month ago, so it wasn't practical to add them this fall). Hoping the Brahma will go broody in the spring, tbh, which is another reason to add her.
 

maryn7

Songster
Apr 29, 2020
155
204
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NE Illinois
Update: We got the Brahma on Thursday night. We segmented the coop and the run. The BR is obsessed with her, but seems overall pretty chill about a new bird. Feeding them mealworms along the fence between them and putting their food next to each other so they get used to eating together.

The BR was out in the run this morning, and the Brahma ran out the pop door before I could scoop her up. I was expecting fireworks, but the BR just did a little nip and a run at her (of about a foot; I'm going to generously call it a 'chase'). The Brahma keeps doing the jump, run, jump, dart, jump! thing I associate with younger pullets (she's about three or four months old), but doesn't seem inclined to peck the BR. Which is good because she is a Big Girl. She looks like an eagle - her beak is something else.

I gave them a couple minutes together, but the BR wandered into Brahma's section of the run, so I locked her in there a bit to give the Brahma time to explore the bigger part of the run.

I'd planned to give them a full week of look-don't-touch, but might experiment with small bouts of supervised mingling since this accidental one went well. It's going to get down into the 20s overnight this week, so want to get the huddle/cuddle going as soon as we can without too many bird fights.

Also, @coach723 the B vitamins seem to have done good work. That, or the hole we dug for the BR (her favorite); she ate 12 worms in a row. She's no longer hiding in the house all day either and is eating more. Something's definitely improved her spirits.

I just looked out and they're just hanging out together by the fence between them. The Brahma doesn't seem inclined to go explore by herself. Fingers crossed, but having high hopes for this friendship.
 

coach723

Free Ranging
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Feb 12, 2015
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Sounds like it's going pretty well! The look don't touch period doesn't really have a set time, it just depends on the birds. Some integrations can go very quickly and easily. So just do what works. If they are getting along then just lengthen the supervised periods until you are pretty confident that nothing but a chase and a peck will happen. If they have adequate space to get away from each other if they want to, it usually goes well. Glad shes's doing better! B vitamins can really help in a lot of cases.
 

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