Stressed chickens?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by lelia, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. lelia

    lelia New Egg

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    Nov 23, 2013
    Help! A couple of months ago, I was letting my 7 hens free range. Unfortunately, a hawk (or 2) killed one and one they took. Before that time one of the hens was pecked at occasionally. After the hawk attack, she was pecked on to the point that I thought I saw blood and her feathers were everywhere. The total eggs I was getting daily was 2-3 from 5 hens. So, I watched to see who I thought might be the bully & gave her to a neighbor. Since then, there are now lots of feathers from 2 hens & no eggs for a week! Have I ruined the flock?
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    [​IMG] My guess is that your hens are molting. I doubt that you have 'ruined' your flock.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  3. KayTee

    KayTee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The hawk attack could well have traumatised them enough to stop laying for a week or so, but if it was a couple of months ago then I would have thought that they would have got over it by now.

    Also just removing one hen from the flock shouldn't be enough to stop all the rest laying.

    I would be more inclined to consider the fact that they could be moulting - which can look very scary the first time if it is a severe moult. (Bizarre though it seems, nature seems to decide that chickens moult at the coldest time of the year!) If your girls are moulting then they will stop laying eggs in order to use their energy to produce new feathers to replace the ones they've lost.

    Make sure they have plenty to eat (you can buy special high protein moulting feed, or give them chick starter feed which is also high in protein), and be patient - once their feathers grow back they will start laying again.

    Also, don't forget that we are coming up to the shortest days of the year - the less daylight chickens get, the less eggs they lay (although some breeds are better than others).
     
  4. lelia

    lelia New Egg

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    Thank you for the responses. Do chickens act different when molting? This will be their 2nd winter and they have never molted before. The one who was picked on (or so I thought) so much has had most of her neck feathers gone for a month now. She shies away from the other hens too.
     
  5. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    They certainly can. The seem to be uncomfortable. Often a "lap chicken," one who likes to be held and petted, will not want to be touched during a molt. They usually stop laying eggs, or at least lay a lot fewer. Their appetite may be off, even though they use extra protein to make the new feathers.

    Typically, the molt begins at the head/neck and works its way down, in a set order. Sometimes it's hard to tell one is molting without experience and a good eye, and sometimes they look as if they have been half plucked. This time of year is a common one for a molt. Mine have been in a molt for a month or so; no eggs, lots of feathers in the coop, some rather raggedy looking birds, and a few who I haven't see any sign in, or only a ragged tail feather or two. I've got a couple of links if you want to read more.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/580915/for-the-new-folks-that-havent-experienced-a-molt-yet/0_20

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/chickens-loosing-feathers-managing-your-flocks-molt
     
  6. lelia

    lelia New Egg

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    Nov 23, 2013
    Thank you. This puts my mind to ease.
     
  7. KayTee

    KayTee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They don't moult in their first year - my girls are 18 months old now, and two have just gone through their first moults, but they were quite mild - no huge bare patches to talk of. The third (a black star / sex link) hasn't yet moulted at all, and is still my best layer, even with these short days.
     

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