What am I doing wrong?!? Feather picking is making me crazy!


10 Years
Apr 30, 2009
New Hampshire
This is our second flock that we have raised and although I love chicken-keeping so much, I am ready to give up. Our first flock was 8 NH Reds and the only complaint I ever had about them was that we had a chronic problem with feather picking. They were constantly covered in bald areas, usually on the butt, but eventually some had it on their "shoulders" and necks. We tried everything we ever read as a suggestion on here - Blue Kote, calcium, hanging cabbages to give them something else to pick at, seperating the culprits for a time, etc., etc. Nothing ever worked and I finally got so fed up that we gave that we gave that flock away and decided to try different breeds.
We now have 2 Barred Rocks and 3 Delawares and they are lovely birds, but the feather picking has started again!!! I can't take it! I have sprayed more Blue Kote and ruined more clothing than I can even tell you and I am fed up. Nothing works and i am at a loss. I won't go through this again. There are fewer chickens in the coop this time, they are supposedly more docile breeds and I just can't figure it out. Could it be using the Deep Litter Method in the coop? I had been noticing that the feathers on the rear end were starting to look "thin", but it wasn't spotty the way it was with our first flock. I had to seperate one of the girls about a week ago because she had cracked spots on her legs that the others had made bloody so she has been seperated in our shed while she heals up. I think she was low hen on the totem pole and with her out of the mix, they stepped up pecking each other. All but one (not including the girl who was quaratined) has at least some evidence of picking on their behind and now two have spots that are beginning to bleed.
I had vowed not to mess around with them as much as I did with the first flock and just let them work it out, but now I feel like I should seperate the bleeders before it turns into a more serious situation. Why does this keep happening? I will be so sad if I have to give them up and I would never get another flock, but I am at my witts end, can you tell?

**PS - After doing some further reading on here I remembered that we also tried the Pinless Peepers with our other chickens. They were a total pain in the rear. Some of them were always able to get them off so it never provided a complete solution, it just slowed the progress down. I wouldn't even bother trying it again. Sorry to be so negative, but I am feeling very defeated
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Quick update: I had decided to try putting the chicken who was seperated in the shed back in with the rest of the flock for a bit. I did it for a bit yesterday and it went well. Tonight, I went back to check on them not 30 minutes later and she was trying desperately to hide from them and they had completely torn her healed feet open and were in attack mode. All of them had blood on their beaks and there was blood all over the litter in the coop. Grrrr...
I patched her up and put her back in the crate in the shed. Slapped some pine tar on the butts of the two with bare patches although we have used it before and it wasn't a permanent solution. Before we throw in the towel we are going to try removing the supplemental light in the coop to see if it is overstimulating them. We are going to try to find a new home for the girl in the shed because we don't feel she can be reintegrated safely and give the others a little time to see if dormancy helps them.
Increase their protein intake. Stop the treats, scratch, table scraps. Provide them only gamebird feed which is 22%+ protein vs 16-18% protein in layer feed. The picking should stop.
I am having the same problem with 2 out of 4 being pecked. I know space is a problem, going to have to convince the hubby to expand or buy a dog pen to use for expansion and sure it up top and bottom.
We are opposite on the space issue. I am going to check my food protein ratio and add more protein. Keep us updated on what you are doing and how it is working. It seems since I had to stop letting mine free range due to foxes they have had pecking issues. Hang in there!
Ok, I have a few suggestions that may sound a little silly:p We once had the same problem and we had a very hard time trying to figure out what to do. So, since chickens go crazy when they see blood which makes the pecking worse, we decided to put something in the pen the same color. We actually hung a slab of fat colored with red food coloring in the pen. It worked great
You have to go out there to redue the coloring about every other day, and ofcourse you will have to replace the slab of fat, but it was worth it for us. Try it, and if that doesn't work, I have also put Vics vapor rub on the spots that were raw. The chickens absolutely hate the taste and smell. You will actually see them shake their heads and try to get away. Hope it works:)
Okay I am no expert but, here are some things I would consider. Make sure the space your girls are in is big enough. I would think if they feel to crowded they might get snippy. Also make sure you are feeding them enough. If they feel like they have to fight to get enough food they pick at each other. I would also give them more then one food bowl. That way the chickens that are lower on the pecking order can get to food with out the more dominant hens pulling there feathers. I have 12 chickens in a 12 by 12 space right now which, I feel is to crowded and I will be fixing soon but, when I feed them I give them 3 different bowls with food in it in different places. This makes it where the less dominant ones can run to a different bowl when the more dominant birds come around. I would do these things and also for a couple of days I would find some brightly colored toys and sit them around it takes their attention away from each other. Also make sure they are getting plenty of free ranging time if it is safe to do so where you are at. I think sometimes they pick if they get bored. Good luck keep us updated. Oh yeah, the toy trick is something I learned when I was trying to add new chickens into an established flock. I was told to do this to help keep the picking down.
i have also been having this problem with my 2 week olds picking at each other. i appreciate all the advice given on this thread, i have one question tho: for how long should they be fed game bird feed instead of chick crumble?
There are a few things that will cause poultry to eat feathers.

There feed is lacking in Protein/s, (Methionine, Arginine, Animal based Protein)
Mites or Lice,
Low mineral level in the diet,

Dust your birds and then try supplementing with some high protein game bird feed. One that is around 20% protein and that contains Animal Proteins in it.
Here is a quote from Dr Marinus van Krimpen of Wageningen University.

"Severe feather pecking has been reported in birds that were fed a too low mineral level in the diet, a too low protein level or a too low amino acid level (methionine, arginine).
There appears to be somewhat more more feather pecking with diets containing only vegetable proteins compared to those fed some protein of animal origin.
Feather pecking is also more associated with diets that were restricted, coarsely ground or fed as pellets."
Dr Marinus van Krimpen of Wageningen University.


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