Tail Feather Picking


In the Brooder
9 Years
Feb 9, 2010
Kirkland WA
I noticed that some of my 16 week old Sussex pullets have tail feather damage and even show a little blood where the feathers are missing I assume it's pecking order damage... they are in with about 10 older hens and a roo. They are cooped at night in a 4x4x8 coop and free range all day in a large fenced area that is about 30' x 250' of mixed area including blackberry brambles.... any suggestions?
It is not pecking order if it has gotten to this point. It is your older hens attacking your younger chicks.

How many chicks are we talking about ?

The fenced area sounds fine.
You coop may be too small.
I would suggest doing a separate sleeping area for the smaller chicks.

How many feeders and waterers do you have for the birds ? ?
How long have the two age groups been together ? ?

You may want to consider fencing off a part of that free range area for the smaller ones.
You may need to have a separate place for the injured ones to heal.

WATCH and see who is not being nice . . .

I had two birds that were not alpha hens, but they were bullies.
I had those two birds removed from my flock before I introduced any more birds.
One I raised from a chick and she was alway a witch !

I have introduced three more groupings of birds to the original birds and other than the typical 1 week adjustment / pecking order every thing was fine. I never had blood or skin damage. We did lose a few tail feather - - - but not too bad.
Thank you! I have 19 Sussex pullets and most of them are affected... I will consider how I might separate them... difficult because of a big coon problem here... have to have them pretty secure... One thing I might do is make sure they are not closed up until the lights go out.... I have closed them up about an hour early the past week or so... and I will keep a look out to see who it might be... I suspect it's only one or two that are bullying... and I will put out other feeders.... don't think it's a watering source issue, they don't seem to gather at the fountain a lot... but they have a 4' long trough that I feed out of and they do clammer around that in the morning.
19 pullets and 10 hens is a total of 29 chickens. That is a lot in the coop 4 x 4 x 8.

Your pullets are reaching the age where they may be trying to stand up for their rights. . . .

Here is what I would do . . .

1.) Add extra feeders - at least one more.
2.) WATCH to see if there is only 1 or 2 bullies and isolate them if that is the case.

3.) I do think you need more coop space, but they do have a LARGE free range area.
Some picking will be happening in the coop, but more will happen during the day time.
I am assuming you will be breeding and hatching more birds since you are up to almost 30 already.

Think about how you are going to add more coop space.
Thanks to all for the replies. I have three different areas for my chickens, this is one of them and all have large spaces to range over. I have another more established flock, Welsummers and Golden Sex Links... there are 30 laying hens and a roo in a same size coop and they seem to get along great... the difference might be the breeds. I suspect that in this flock in question, the Sussexs are too passive for some of the mixed breed hens that have been there longer. I got them from my friend Cindy and they are Sussex crossed with some more laying types.... since these guys seem to keep surprising me with chicks that they hatch out we will probably have more... I will have to study the matter and find out who is being aggressive. I have seen this before in little chicks but not involving a flock that got along well until a few days ago... these birds have been together for a couple of months.... I'll figure it out and look to reduce my numbers a bit..... starting with who ever is being aggressive.

I do have another flock of Freedom Rangers that will be butchered in late November.... that's a different breed, for sure...
After watching this flock for a couple of days I'm pretty sure it isn't the older birds that are bullying. I think it's one of the Sussex pullets. I have one that has all of it's feathers and I saw it pecking at the other ones. I haven't seen any of the other birds pecking at them at all.... and now that I am thinking of it, I seem to remember that this group had some pecking issues above the tail when I turned them out... I suspected over crowding at the time...that they outgrew their tractor... maybe one of them has a bad habit... I might start with pulling that one and putting her in the lower pasture with the older hens.... have to think about it.... might be easier to have chicken soup.
The good thing about this is
1.) She won't be able to pick on the older ones
2.) It will give the others a chance to heal

The bad thing about this is
1.) The older hens might pick on her.

I WOULD do it and just see how she does . . . .
I have a similar problem, my 5 chickens are all the same age, have a 6ft by 4 foot coop with a ample area to roam.
One of them has a "red butt" where all the feathers in the rear have been plucked clean, and looks red, kinda bloody.
I seen today where more than one chicken was pecking at this ones "butt".
I have isolated her, she seems better and is feeding & drinking fine.
She seems more relaxed now isolated and last time I checked was feeding more.
So whats going on...pecking order or what?
Jim Brown Lockport NY

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