Why do my chickens keep biting the spines on their feathers?

thefeatherlady

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 28, 2014
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I have two Light Brahmas 3 months old and for the past month they have been preening themselves constantly and keep biting the spines on their feathers, and of course, I now have feathers (and what looks like little pieces of plastic) everywhere. Is this normal? Are they preparing to molt? Most importantly, should I be concerned? Since I'm brand new at raising chickens I am in need of some answers from the "Pros". Thank you for any answers and help you can give. Everyone on here has always been extremely helpful. Besides, it is without a doubt, the most entertaining web site out there.....when you read some of the funny questions and comments about chickens. Thanks BYC!!!!
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,435
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They are far too young for a full-on molt. It sounds to me like they're just really into preening.

However, you should check them over carefully to make sure they aren't infested with mites or fleas or lice, and that they aren't preening because of chronic skin irritation.
 

thefeatherlady

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 28, 2014
30
0
22
Thank you so much for your quick response. I also checked out the info on that link and it really helped. The timing seems to be perfect for a partial molt. I don't know what to look for as far as parasites since I've never seen one. Would I just check under their wings and close to the skin for anything moving? I live in a regular neighborhood and not near any water sources and never seen fleas anywhere around here. I haven't heard of any lice either but I will check. Thanks again for your help.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,435
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Look at the skin. If it's not white and smooth, but reddish, they have a skin irritation. Look also around the feather shafts, especially around the vent to see if you see any tiny things moving. You should know it when you see it. Also, some mites only appear at night, crawl on the perches and then up onto the chickens. Take a flashlight out there after dark and inspect the perches for moving things. Mites will appear as darkish "dust", either red or gray.

I still vote for preening, and you're just being naturally nervous as a new chicken mom.

By the way, light Brahmas were my very first babies, too.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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Those little tiny pieces of 'plastic' are the sheathing on the new feathers coming in, if you pick up a few pieces and rub them between your finger tips, you will see that it is really kind of 'waxy'. This is what creates a lot of the dust floating around chickens.

That's also why they are preening a lot, to clean that sheathing off the new feathers....plus growing feathers itches a bit, I think.
 

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