Tail Feathers Broken and Plucked and Bloody?

Sweetest

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 5, 2013
92
6
43
I was having a rough day yesterday and today, and when I went home at lunch today, I skipped eating and just wanted to hold a duck (said ducklings still hate me lol). Well, it's a good thing it was a bad day, or I wouldn't have noticed... One of my chickens that I believe to be a golden sex link, about 3 weeks old, had a bloody butt. On closer inspection to make sure it wasn't bleeding from his/her actual butt, I noticed that the tail feathers that were half in were broken off. All that was left was the white/clear quill and a bunch of blood. It looked raw and painful. There are a couple of feathers left on each side of the chicken's tail, but it just looks so painful. I pulled that one out, and my MIL and I washed its wing feathers (had blood on them from the tail), beak (dried blood on that as well), and what was left of the tail. Good chickie only protested twice, and it was just a startled peep, no scratching or freaking out. So we put some antibiotic ointment on the tail and I went to put the chick back in the dog crate. As soon as I set it back in the crate, three other chickens came over and started trying to peck at the tail feathers again. So I popped the wounded chicken back out of there, and we put him/her into a single tote bin. I just had my fiancee check on the chick before he left for work this afternoon, and he said that the chick doesn't seem to be picking at it himself, because it doesn't look "fresh" anymore and there's no blood on the beak.

But my MIL and I did notice that the chickens were all hanging out in the crates and pecking each other. I don't know what to do about this! I know stress can cause feather plucking, but it doesn't seem like they're actually doing it with the intention of plucking. I hate to say it, but it seems like a mixture of curiosity and bullying! Yesterday, we took them all outside for the first time, and they just huddled in the corner of the crate that they were in. They didn't seem to enjoy it much. Til I busted out the box of crickets for them to chase around. They had a blast with them. So I'm thinking that the moving outside might have caused a little stress. They were out there for 4 hours, and it was a little cool, but I sheltered them from the wind, and they had food, water, and their heat lamps.

The feed they're on is 20% protein, because I'm also giving it to ducks. They have had their diet supplemented with oatmeal, mashed bananas, crickets, mashed up hard boiled eggs with the shell on, plain yogurt, and a little tiny crust of toasted whole grain bread (I left it whole just to see what they would do with it...they ended up trying to carry chunks around).

The tail feather plucking and breaking, do you think that's just stress? Or something different?
 

RonC

Songster
7 Years
Feb 28, 2012
1,510
130
196
D/FW
How many are there and how large are the crates? Generally at that age they need about 2 sq ft per bird. More room is always better.
 

Sweetest

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 5, 2013
92
6
43
There are 15 chickens. Five of them were deemed about 2 weeks older than the others when we bought them at TSC. We have two dog crates stuck together. They are not divided. We bought two dividers for the dog crates, and instead of using them to split the crates, we attached them to the outside to make a kind of walkway between the two crates. The chicks seem very happy to leave one crate and go visit on the other side. They just bop right along from crate to crate. And there is food and water in each of them, if someone forgets how to get back across again. The one crate is 30x19x21 and the other crate is 54x37x45. Soo....7x4.6666.......2.1777777 square feet per bird...

We're waiting on some zoning crap to get settled before we can build the coop. But shhh...we're going to start building it this weekend, because we know it's going to be approved, and they won't be stopping back over here to check on it again til after it's all finished. We need to give our babies a place to go live with enough room. And between the 10x10 coop and two 15x10 runs for the chicks and the ducks, I think we've got enough room.

I'm hoping it's just stress. And putting antibiotic ointment on the wounds seems to discourage pecking...they must not like the taste. But last night, we noticed one of the older white ones with a raw area between her shoulder blades, and we saw that our two black australorps have bare patches by their tails. I hope this doesn't become a bigger issue! I did hear that having them too hot can be an issue, but we've got their temperature down to around 65 (that's what the house is usually at, and they don't have heat lamps on anymore unless the windows are open or they're outside).

The only other thing I thought of was this:
The other night, we heard a ruckus coming from the chickens' room and we went in to check it out. Turns out that two of them got stuck in their feeder and couldn't figure out how to fly out. And we've had a red light in the room, but away from the birds, and just shining on the ceiling. The ducks, I'm not kidding, will scream their heads off if it's pitch black in there. They freak out. We had tried to just leave one light screwed in on the ceiling fan, but the chickens won't settle down when the lights are on. So we turned the red light on, and the ducks settled down. Is there any chance that the red light is causing stress? It's off during the day, and it's facing the ceiling at night when it gets dark. I guess I could always give the ducks the nightlight from the hallway.

We were thinking about putting a motion sensor light on the coop facing away, in case something tried to sneak up on the coop at night. Will this stress them? We have 3 dogs, so usually not a lot of wildlife going thru the yard at night...that we know of.....
 

Michael Apple

Crowing
11 Years
Mar 6, 2008
3,495
586
318
Northern California
Never mix different ages of chicks together. Mixing breeds that differ in size is never a good idea either. 65 degrees is too cold for 3 week old chicks. 80-85 is preferred. If they get cold, they'll huddle together and increase the odds of feather picking. Some anti-pick lotion from the feed store has a peppery taste chickens don't like and will help prevent picking. Feeders must be situated so birds don't get stuck in or around them. The same goes for waterers.
Here's some info you should read:
http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKRaisingChicks.html

If your house is loud with much commotion, it will stress chicks. If you handle them too much, it will stress them. Easy access to feed and water is important. If you are feeding them a 20% feed and the same feed you give your ducks, is it a chick starter formula?

Stop feeding them hard boiled eggs with the egg shell. Too much calcium will kill them. Oatmeal will plug them up, and give extra protein they don't need right now.
 
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DawnB

Chirping
7 Years
Sep 26, 2012
252
3
98
Alden, MI (Near Traverse City)
I have the same feather-pick situation with 15 chicks. . Mine are just 6wks and were getting over crowded. We moved them to a bigger space. However...after watching them a bit, I found I have one main bully. The others will pick on instict once there's a wound. If you can identify and isolate your main bully in a separate crate for a few days and then re-introduce her...it may shake up their pecking order and put her back on the bottom.
 

Sweetest

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 5, 2013
92
6
43
We keep putting a heavy lid on the feeder (it's just a 7lb hanging feeder from TSC) but they keep knocking it off. I put some screen across it, but they kept pulling at the corners, and I was afraid that pulling on the metal would hurt their beaks, so I took it off. They aren't the brightest. The feeder that's going to go in the coop is made so they can't get into it at all...the most they might do is sit on top of it. But I can't put a Rubbermaid garbage can in a little dog coop. They were getting their heads stuck in the long rectangular chick feeder, and they would panic, so I took that out of there and just gave them the hanging feeder.

We lowered their temp because they seemed to be too hot. Even with access to water 24/7, they were spread out all over the place, their wings drooping loosely when they were laying down, and they would kind of pant. I keep saying these birds are 3 weeks old, but I don't think they really are. When we got them from TSC, the one group of 5 birds had just barely the tips of wing feathers starting. The other ones were still all fluff. But within 3 days of having all of the chicks, the ones that appeared to be younger sprouted the wing feathers as well. They aren't any different in size than the "younger" ones. The man at the store told me that they were two weeks old. But reading the forums, I don't think they were 2 weeks old when I got them. Maybe a couple of days older, but I can only really go by what I'm told. All of the birds are the same size right now, except that the ones that are a little bit older(?) can stretch their necks a little taller...and have started hopping up and down in place, trying to reach the latch on the side door (we think!).

We have three dogs, but they're lazy, quiet labs. And we don't pick them up unless they want to come to us. We want them to be affectionate, but not needy.

What I'm feeding them is a chick starter by DuMor (I think that's the name of the company). I was told to feed them the oatmeal (it's extrememly watery) because a few of them had very loose poop, but we couldn't figure out which one it was. The pooping problem has gone away, but I can't say for sure if it's because of the oatmeal or if it's because they outgrew it. Nixing the eggshell.

Thanks for all of your advice, everyone!
 

RonC

Songster
7 Years
Feb 28, 2012
1,510
130
196
D/FW
An upside down funnel works well for a lid on the feeder if you can secure it well. On mine the wing feathers were coming in at about 3-4 days old. The chick in your avatar appears to be a week old at most. Sounds like you are correct about them being too hot but you may get a smaller bulb or heat emitter and heat one area in their enclosure to about 80 degrees. A 250w heat lamp will heat a whole room in a house to a temperature possibly too hot.
 

lghrnlvr

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 7, 2013
69
4
33
orangeburg sc
I have used wound kote or blue spray in the past with great results when my chickens were ripping eachothers feathers out. its an antibacterial and it has a nasty flavor. On uninjured chicks i just sprayed a medium size spot on their backs as a preventative measure. after a week i didn't have anymore problems
 

poopednurs

Hatching
6 Years
May 27, 2013
1
0
6
I have 3 buff bramahas born in March in a run with 3 RIR. the Brahmas did not have tail feathers when I bought them. When do those come in? Also, I see a few long feathers in the nesting box now and then and wondered if the feathers are trying to come in if the Reds may be pulling them out? Anyone have a clue? Thanks.
 

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