The start of feather picking?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by saellis, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. saellis

    saellis Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One of my 4-week-old Australorp chicks just got into a scuffle with one of her 5 sisters. She managed to pick out a wing feather and was prancing around the brooder with her new trophy. I got the feather away from her quickly because I did not want her to fancy it so much that she would want to start a collection. Hopefully this is not the start of "Hen-ibal" the Cannibal. They have plenty of room, are eating well and normally get along well with only minor issues with each other. She just seemed to have a tantrum.
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes, just a scuffle.

    What you want to watch for is an individual who stalks the others, zeroes in and focuses on a portion of her target, and drills in purposely with her beak to snatch a feather, then quickly consumes it. That is a feather-picker, and the sooner you can identify the individual and get some pinless peepers installed, the better off everyone will be, and you might even nip the behavior in the bud, being able to remove the peepers in a few months and not have her revert.

    There are many different forms of "beak behavior" and most are simply means of social interaction. Most common is a hen standing next to another and "tasting" her mate's feathers on her face or back or butt, and picking off bits of food or duff. Another is mutual preening behavior where they smooth and comb each other. Another is a disciplinary peck on the back or head by a higher-ranking member when one steps out of line. Feathers usually are not liberated during these interactions.

    Feathers often do get accidentally liberated when there's a brief scuffle to settle a pecking order disagreement. A feather flutters to the ground, and someone picks it up and runs about with it until they can decide if it's something they wish to eat. This is probably what happened in your flock. It's nothing to get alarmed about.

    it's common, though, for many of us to mistake harmless beak behavior for the more serious cannibalistic feather-picking. By carefully observing the behavior of your chickens, you can learn the difference.
     
  3. saellis

    saellis Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
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    98
    Nov 30, 2012
    FEMA Region VIII
    My Coop
    Thanks for the information. Everything is peaceful today. Not even the usual episodes of one bird chasing others around the brooder.
     

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