Testing a theory: are feather pecked chickens raised confined?

sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
I would really appreciate your input.

I have a theory that chickens with feather pecking issues are those raised in confinement and not those raised with free ranging.
My hypothesis is that feather pecking or pulling is seen in those raised in a enclosed environment. When they do have plenty of space per chicken, they are still close all day. And when they are scattered and very busy foraging all day, they do not have opportunity, boredom or desire to peck/pull each others feathers.

Question:
1 - If you have confined chickens - not overcrowded, have you evidence of feather pulling?
2- If you have a flock that ranges during the day, do you see evidence of feather pulling?

I don't think anyone has looked at this question with this comparison, hope the responses prove my theory.
 

sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
I would really appreciate your input.

I have a theory that chickens with feather pecking issues are those raised in confinement and not those raised with free ranging.
My hypothesis is that feather pecking or pulling is seen in those raised in a enclosed environment. When they do have plenty of space per chicken, they are still close all day. And when they are scattered and very busy foraging all day, they do not have opportunity, boredom or desire to peck/pull each others feathers.

Question:
1 - If you have confined chickens - not overcrowded, have you evidence of feather pulling?
2- If you have a flock that ranges during the day, do you see evidence of feather pulling?

I don't think anyone has looked at this question with this comparison, hope the responses prove my theory.
And there should be a 3rd choice, part time ranging, part time confined and you see evidence of feather pulling.
 

sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
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Looks like no one cares about this topic but me
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At the risk of boring everyone
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, the following is why I am interested in learning more about why this happens to some of us and not to others:


When I first saw this in my chickens, it worried me for weeks. Posts on our forum get responses to look for lice, mites but I did rule that out. I examined each chicken frequently and never saw any evidence of pests. So, looked for other possible answers. Other common answers indicate a stress issue - and my chickens are not stressed, so I ruled that out and even built onto their run area to make sure we exceeded the space they need. Most on line discussions I could find about this pattern feather loss without pests as the cause were on British forums where many are kept in small backyards, likely in confinement and not free ranging. And the only true scientific publication I could find suggested raising those raised on sand --like mine-- may be a factor. But sand floors would indicate confinement, I think. And I was sure the sand did not "sand off the fluff" since one girl never lost hers. Other discussions suggest an aggressive hen, but I don't have s single aggressive personality in my small flock. Some discussions and blogs explain it that your best layers just lose their fluff, but mine are all equally productive. The book I quoted in an earlier reply was the first to list feather pecking as the primary cause and it helped me stop the frequent chicken physical exams, but they do seem to like me sitting in their run on their poo to hold them!
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My theory on this pattern of feather pecking is that those that range ALL DAY are too occupied and doing their own thing, to pull feathers.


I decided to test the theory, but seems no one is responding to the thread I started yesterday. Guess the group thinks It's a stupid or uninteresting topic, but I am still hopeful that there are a lot of us who still look for new information that can help others that experience this and new knowledge is always a good thing.
 

MOZFarm

Chirping
5 Years
Aug 5, 2014
110
7
58
NW Florida
Not uninteresting at all. I don't know anything about the behavior in chickens, but have read many articles on the subject in regards to companion parrots. Most credible sources indicate that the behvior is triggered by inadequate cage space, inadequate social interaction, dietary issues, external stress, and perhaps a genetic predisposition in particular varieties.
The above factors are indeed many of those that you pointed out in your post.
Doing some reading about the behavior in companion parrots may be more informative and assist you.
 
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sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
Not uninteresting at all. I don't know anything about the behavior in chickens, but have read many articles on the subject in regards to companion parrots. Most credible sources indicate that the behvior is triggered by inadequate cage space, inadequate social interaction, dietary issues, external stress, and perhaps a genetic predisposition in particular varieties.
The above factors are indeed many of those that you pointed out in your post.
Doing some reading about the behavior in companion parrots may be more informative and assist you.
Thank you for your input.

But, truly I have ruled out the above issues in my chickens…they have abundance of space, get proper diet, are not stressed. I have 2 breeds - BR and BO and don't think they are predisposed to pecking. Mine get plenty of social interaction, they get along with each other and have frequent interaction with me and my husband.

My definition of confined is not a cage, just not let out to free range.
 

raro

In the Brooder
9 Years
Aug 9, 2010
84
4
41
For what it's worth, my chickens free range in a large backyard all day and I've never had problems with feather pecking each other. :)
 

sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
For what it's worth, my chickens free range in a large backyard all day and I've never had problems with feather pecking each other. :)
Thanks for the response, this makes 3 responses total that are a plus for my theory:

the other two responses:
Mine in confinement have feather pecking
One other from a different thread has part time ranging with feather pecking.
 

MistyMountain

Songster
8 Years
Aug 24, 2013
1,150
227
216
Virginia
Sorry to blow your theory to pieces with an odd ball, but my chickens free range sun up to sun down on 11 acres (they maybe only actually go on 3 of it, their choice). The only one who gets feather pecking is the rooster, and only his hackle and saddle feathers. It has stopped for some time now, but the damage is done. He is molting now, so hopefully it won't happen with his new feathers. It is only the ends of his feathers, so still enough "fluff". They get high quality 18% protein feed along with whatever the forage and no pests or parasites. I have a feeling that in my case it is simply over-grooming. Not aggressive at all in nature, the one hen I witnessed doing this was simply "plucking an apple from the tree" and he just stood there tall and proud, letting it happen.
 

sunflour

Flock Master
8 Years
Jan 10, 2013
14,974
7,794
772
Macon,GA
Sorry to blow your theory to pieces with an odd ball, but my chickens free range sun up to sun down on 11 acres (they maybe only actually go on 3 of it, their choice). The only one who gets feather pecking is the rooster, and only his hackle and saddle feathers. It has stopped for some time now, but the damage is done. He is molting now, so hopefully it won't happen with his new feathers. It is only the ends of his feathers, so still enough "fluff". They get high quality 18% protein feed along with whatever the forage and no pests or parasites. I have a feeling that in my case it is simply over-grooming. Not aggressive at all in nature, the one hen I witnessed doing this was simply "plucking an apple from the tree" and he just stood there tall and proud, letting it happen.

Thanks so much for the input. Very helpful. Now I have 3 to support and 1 that doesn't. Not enough responses for statistical significance yet.


But a Hen pecking a Roo, never would have imagined that!!
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A Real Life Case of what HEN PECKED MEANS! Is she his favorite girl?
 

MistyMountain

Songster
8 Years
Aug 24, 2013
1,150
227
216
Virginia
Not his favorite, and not the top of the pecking order either. She is a NH, and it really is like… oh… that feather is out of place… got it!

It has not been a problem for a while now, we will see what it is like after his new feathers come in. He's rocking his first tailless molt now.
 

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