what might I be doing wrong, chickens losing weight and pecking

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by embrown, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. embrown

    embrown Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 18, 2009
    I have 3 BR's and 3 Isa Browns about 10 months old. 2 months ago I noticed that the BR's were getting pecked as they lost feathers near the tale, but not the Isa's. Now some of the Isa's are also losing feathers, none laying around so I am assuming they are being plucked out and eaten. Now I notice that 1 Br is very, very thin, one Isa is quite thin. I checked for mites and see no signs on birds with flashlight at night, no bugs under purch area, no specks on eggs, no bugs crawling on us when cleaning nest boxes or coop. I just brought the tiny BR inside a few days ago and she eats all day, I am giving her layer crumble, water with vitamins, and a scrambled egg every day. Her poo is normal with the exception of two that looked like human vomet. Her keel bone is protruding, and there is not any "bell" rounding at the bottom, and she has stopped laying altogether. Her comb was pale and starting to look shriveled, but that has improved while inside. We are feeding the whole flock Layena layer crumble, they get grit, shell, and lots of fresh water with vitamins and once per weekOACV. I ocassionally give them yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese as a treat. But, I also think all my birds are "too" small. BR's, according to my research should weigh 7+ LBs but my largest one is just over 4 LBS, and the one I brought in is only just over 2 LBs. I can feel all her bones. My Isa's are all around 4 LBs and they too should be over 6.5 lbs, and the lightest one is under 3 LBS. I feel like I am letting them down but can not figure out what else to do. I have read weeks worth of feeding posts. I have read that mites can zap weight but I do not see any. I have read about worms but do not know how to know if they have that problem or what to do. I used to get 6 eggs most days but now I am lucky to get 4, today I only got 3. I am worried, and want to boost up all their weight, rule out what problems might be causing the pecking, the weight loss, and the lack of overall growth. They are inside a coop kept at 32 to 40 degrees it has several inches of pine nuggets on the floor, and is 4 x 6 floor space coop with elevated purches and nesting boxes with a window and a door to get in fresh air. They have all day access to an outside "porch" with wire floor that is 8 x 2.5 and we just added a way for them to get to an 8 x 3 wire fenced area if they want to peck around at the frozen and snowy ground...which they mostly do not. Is it a feeding problem? is it worms? Am I missing a parasite I should know about, is it a pecking order issue and that is why the pecking, wounds, and loss of feathers that is preventing the two little ones from getting food? Where do I go from here? Any direction would be appreciated.

    Worried in Williamston,

  2. jhm47

    jhm47 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 7, 2008
    Do they have access to Layena at all times? If not, you might try that. As to worms, it won't hurt to deworm them, as most birds have them if they are allowed to have access to dirt. As to the pecking problem, I'd figure out which birds are doing the pecking and remove about 1/4 inch off their top beaks. It's not a nice thing to do, but then, neither is allowing them to torment their flockmates. Debeaking is the most sure way to stop pecking. I know many would disagree with me, but given the choice between debeaking and culling, I think the birds themselves would choose the debeaking. Good luck!
  3. Kim_NC

    Kim_NC Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2009
    Mt Airy, NC
    It sounds like not enough protein. They don't normally pluck each others' feathers and eat them unless they are lacking protein.

    For a quick protein boost - get some game bird crumbles (usually about 28% protein) and feed these as a mash by wetting them with warm water. Feed about 1 -1.5 oz per chicken per day (about 6-9 oz total). Split it among 2 or 3 pans or trays so that each bird has the chance to eat some.

    Also sounds like they are not getting enough to eat in total. They do sound small - although many birds don't reach full weight for their breed until 1 yr old. Is the Layena available free choice, 24/7? If not, fill their feeder and never let it run empty. Let them eat all they want - don't worry, they don't overeat like some animals will.

    I would bring the other small bird inside - the ISA under 3 lb - give her free choice feed along with the small BR. Continue the vitamins, etc. They sound painfully thin and need a bit of TLC until their weight improves.

    Many worm species are passed in their poo. So, if you haven't seen that, then I'm thinking it's probably not worms. You could worm them with a product like Wazine.

    I'm sure others will come along and offer some additional advice.
  4. Akane

    Akane Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 15, 2008
    I would deworm them, cut down on the dairy treats, and get a higher protein feed to help them regrow feathers. Animals did not evolve the ability to digest dairy and while those are cultured forms they still contain some of the fats and sugars that can't be digested. You can use gamebird feed or unmedicated chick starter in place of layer so long as you have the oyster shell for their calcium. You also might want to try to distract them with something. Once there's a patch of missing feathers or blood showing chickens will keep pecking until they kill each other. Give them something else to peck at. Some hang cabbage or lettuce in the coop in the winter. Hay, a container of sand for dirt baths, branches off trees... it doesn't take much to entertain chickens. They will act scared of everything when you first add it (mine panic about new bags of bedding) but after a few days they will explore. Just make sure you have grit for anything edible.
  5. purpletree23

    purpletree23 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2009
    I agree with the others. One thing I will add is to try and get them more animal protein. I give my girls the carcass from a roasted chicken or turkey. My neighbor had duck for Christmas and they also loved that. You can also give them browned ground beef or anything like it. No ham or anything salty. A few scrambled eggs also can help.
  6. embrown

    embrown Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 18, 2009
    thanks, all: I hope more will chime in.

    Yes, they do have 24-7 access to layena, it does not get empty, fresh water twice daily at least, access to grit and shell is always there. I would say the dairy is only about once per week and I favor yogurt if we have it for the probiotics.

    I did add some logs with branches, added the extra run space, but I will look in to lettuce or I also read about a suitt wild bird thing that may give them some fat and something to peck at instead of each other.

    I will also pick up some higher protein food.

    Does anyone know if there would be any reason to keep the isa and the Br separated, they have always been together until two days ago so I guess if they have the same symptoms, they probably have the same problems and will not further make each other sick. The thin isa is my very favorite girl so I guess I will be happy to have her inside.

    should I preventative worm and if so, using what? Money and time are both an issue.

    I keep reading mixed messages about seeing worms in the poo. Some say you may see the nasty guys and others say only the eggs can be seen under microscope. I do not think I can afford a vet visit, sadly enough.

    Should I preventatively treat for mites or other things that might be causing feather issues?

    I am giving the one inside scrambled egg, does any know if I should give this to all the girls, and if so, how often and how much?

  7. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Have you seen them pecking at each other--I mean really pecking and pulling out feathers? IF they are eating the feathers, which sounds like a possiblity, then yes, get them more protein--perhaps a higher protein feed ration for a while (make sure they have oyster shell available at all times). Hens will slow down in laying during winter, it is not abnormal. I am also thinking that you may be overly concerned about their "fatness". Laying hens do not look like the cornish crosses that we eat, they are much more sleek. Is there any way you can post a photo of them? Also if they are molting, the combs will shrivel and become pale, completely normal. Since you are concerned about worms, I would definitely take a composite sample (several poos) in and get a fecal float done at the vet. Then you will know for sure if you have worms, and what kind, and if so--what medicine, as the meds are very worm-specific. And each time you worm you have to throw out eggs for two weeks, so find out what you are dealing with first.

    Your coop size is really borderline for the number of hens you have, so you may need to figure out a way to get them a little more room. I'm having a hard time following everything in your post, but everything else sounds pretty good. I would put the two inside together, so they can keep each other company, as it does not sound like you are dealing with a disease.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  8. RocketDad

    RocketDad Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2008
    Near US 287

    If you go through your original post and break it up with a few blank lines (hit "return" twice) it will be a lot easier to read.
  9. Akane

    Akane Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 15, 2008
    If you see worms just looking at droppings a few times you've already got a serious infestation and should have dewormed awhile ago. Many internal parasites complete their lifecycle by having eggs leave the body not the worm itself. Worms are only visible when they make a mistake and then they only get noticed when there are lots of them. For a few parasites you do see the worms but they'd still be missed easily until there were lots of them. Most animals and especially livestock are dewormed regularly instead of as seen and the rest usually have fecals done so doing it once when you see problems is not excessive at all. I wouldn't start up a regular deworming schedule without doing fecals because you'll end up doing it more or less than you need to several times over but deworming a questionable animal once has never been a debate for me. Usually whenever I get a new animal or can't solve a weightloss problem I use as broad of dewormer as possible. Even when I get something like a new guinea pig I give it ivermectin. Although one tube of horse dewormer can treat 250lbs of guinea pig so cost is not an issue there.
  10. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    I agree with the others for the most part. I wouldn't start debeaking though, feather eating is usually a protien issue, not an aggresion issue.

    1. Take a multi-poo sample in for a fecal float or you could just deworm. I like to test first, but you're having a skinny bird problem, so worms is a good possibility and wormer is cheap. Remeber to toss the eggs for two weeks, or feed them to your dog if you have one and it's not one of the herding breeds.

    2. Get them onto gamebird, flockraiser, non-medicated chick starter or some other high protien feed.

    3. Your inside coop space would be ok if the had more outside space that they could use so see if you can manage a little more run space and in the meantime hang some cabbage, suet block, or any other healthy treat or fun things around the coop so they have something to do. Mine like to scratch around for BOSS on the barn floor when it's too nasty for them to want to go outside.

    4. Get some blue-kote and spray it on any red/raw spots. It will help them heal up faster and (help) keep the others from pecking at the sore areas--the blue color and nasty taste do a pretty good job, but it doesn't always work so keep an eye on things.

    5. If you can, put another feeding station in the coop. That should help make sure everybody can get feed no matter who is on her bossy horse and guarding the feeder.

    6. Check for mites at night with a good flashlight. They are more active at night and easier to see. Look closely around the vent area and under the wings. While your there check for lice and nits too.

    7. Your two little girls would probably like being together, chickens get less stressed out if they can have a buddy with them.

    8. Scrambled eggs are always a good treat. I'd just do one egg for every two hens so it's a boost not a meal, especially if you get them on the higher protien feed.

    9. Check your feed. I think it was Speckledhen that lost some chooks awhile back because the feed store sold her some moldy feed. If I remember right it looked good for most of the bag, but had some mold on the bottom. Moldy feed can make them unthrifty/dead so it would be good to rule that out.

    10. I'm sure I forgot stuff and I know I repeated a lot that others have said, but hopefully having some stuff in list form will make it easier for you. Good luck with your girls and keep us all updated.

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