1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

Suggestions on growing strong, glossy, healthy feathers?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by naturegrrl, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. naturegrrl

    naturegrrl Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    Santa Cruz, CA
    My girls have all gone through their first adult molt, and I've noticed that all of them have some fault bars in their feathers. I'm guessing that this is something that people who show birds know a bit about, since fault bars (also called stress bars) can increase the likelihood of feathers wearing and breaking. Does anyone have any particular advice on how to help birds grow strong, healthy feathers? Next year I plan to boost their protein intake starting in August, and perhaps add a daily vitamin supplement as well. Anyone else have any tricks for pretty feathers?
    Thx! [​IMG]

  2. Pine Grove

    Pine Grove Songster

    Jul 18, 2007
    Lakeland, Ga
    Is it stress bars or Feather Mite damage?
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    My games sometime exhibit fault bars if they become sick during feather regrowth. Not much can be done about that.
    Feather mites are preventable although I seldom deal with those. Another cause associated with stress at roosting time. I do not know mechanism(s) although when birds crowded stress bars moe frequent. Maybe that blood supplied portion is bent at some point. To prevent this I make certain roost are more dispersed.

    Nutrition. Increasing protein, including some of animal origin (i.e. fishmeal), helps build feather structure. Chickens are normally omnivorous and more predatory than what is realized in typical backyard setting. Many diets in use are more grain based where protein they contain is less available (effeciently used). Selecting grain based diets with higher protein contents than recommended can compensate. Also consider use of soaked oats.

    The types of lipid (fatty acids) which may vary with protein source could influence gloss of feathers. Not related to fault barring directly but immediate health of my birds can be estimated by how glossy feathers are. I think if my bird consume lots of greens and their posterior gut is fermenting the way it should, they wil have good glossy feathers. Green plants generally are not rich in lipids (fatty acids) but they are the correct ones. Good healthy posterior gut function can also generate many of of the vitamins that might be in short supply from the diet.
  4. bargain

    bargain Love God, Hubby & farm

    Apr 13, 2008
    Bowdon, GA
    Centrachid, agree fully, good health and nutritious show themselves in beautiful feathers! I would add to check for lice as well as mites. Also, in our recent weather, with the rain, none of our feathers look very good but seriously nutrition and health first! Have a blessed day. Nancy
  5. naturegrrl

    naturegrrl Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Thanks, guys! I do a weekly health check on each girl and have not found any sign of mites or lice, so I'm pretty confident that these are actual fault bars. During September, when they were doing most of their feather growth, they were eating mainly layer crumble and some occasional scratch, so I'm guessing lack of protein was the main culprit here. I started feeding them dried mealworms, but that was after I noticed the fault bars, so too late for this year's feathers... [​IMG] It was only the earliest feathers to regrow that show the bars; later feathers are structurally solid. I'll definitely try the soaked oats -sounds like something they'd love! [​IMG] Green stuff is a bit more challenging, as they've already completely consumed my little lawn, and any other herbaceous greens in the yard that they can get their beaks on! I will try fencing off small areas and seeding with quick-growing grass seeds, to allow them some reliable source of green food. They will eat lettuce etc, but not with nearly the same relish that they go after seedlings.
    Thanks again!
  6. kathyinmo

    kathyinmo Nothing In Moderation

    I have never heard of fault bars or stress bars. What exactly is it?
  7. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I regularly feed canned salmon... I think that helps.

  8. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    Hard boiled eggs! Inexpensive, and a great source of protein. Nature's perfect food for chickens, after all.
  9. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    The birds I first raised on the newer vegetarian feeds didn't feather out nearly as nicely as my birds used to. When I started free ranging them, they started to look so much better. Lots of green feed, bugs and worms for them made a real difference. I also feed more sunflower seed when they're molting. They get it all the time, as their favorite treat.

    You could grow some garden flats of grass for them. It's pretty easy to sprout grains like wheat and oats. If you let the sprouts continue to grow, you have green feed. My chickens like a lot of dark leafy greens. You can grow Swiss chard, spinach, collards, kale or leaf lettuce, just to name a few. I think chard and collards hold up best when it's hotter. The others all do well in cool weather, although chard is also great in cool weather. My chickens do seem to prefer to pick their own. [​IMG]

    You can fence off areas for them and only let them in at certain times. You can also make guards for plants. A circle of fencing with larger holes will let them eat what grows through or stick their heads through, but not let them eat it down to the ground and then scratch the roots out. They are efficient little eaters! For grassy areas, you can also make a frame out of 2x4s and cover it with hardware cloth. The grass will still get water and grow through, but the chickens can only eat the new growth at the tips. Having the roots and several inches of the blades protected will keep it growing.
  10. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    When they're in molt, I mix in high protein show bird/game bird starter into their regular feed, and give plain cooked beans, spinach, and things like that as treats. You can google different veggie types for their content of protein and minerals, and use it as a shopping guide when you see it on sale or the mark down rack at the store. Carrot mash is another good thing. I run it through the juicer, mix the juice back in, top it off with a little yogurt, and treat them.

    I've also been thinking about alfalfa cubes (you can get it in large bags as horse or rabbit treats) because of it's protein levels. Soaking them in water and using it in the absence of all day free range time. Alfalfa is to horses like steak is to people. I haven't tried it yet, just thinking about it as fresh US grown veggies become scarce over winter.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by