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#3976 - 01/12/03 12:48 PM Plucking and eating feathers
Carol Offline
Chick

Registered: 10/19/02
Posts: 10
Loc: Tennessee
Can anyone tell me why one of my hens has started to pluck and eat feathers from other hens? I have 16 chickens, including 13 hens and three roosters. The culprit hen is a Buff Orpington, (one of 5) and seems to be near the top of the pecking order. The other hens are a mix of dark feathered types. The other hens try to take the feather away from the "Plucker" and eat it as well. I fear they are getting the same idea.

My coop is about 66 square feet and the fenced outdoor run is about 20 by 40 feet. I am feeding layer crumbles with oyster shells. When we let them out in the morning, we throw out a couple cups of scratch mix, which they busy themselves with for quite a while.

Most of the flock has been molting for a few weeks, and some are just beginning to lay. (5 to 7 eggs/day) I'm new to chickens, about 6 months now, and don't know why they are eating the feathers.

Thanks for listening. I sure enjoy reading all your insights and humor.

Carol

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#3977 - 01/12/03 12:57 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Rob Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 783
Loc: Pennsylvania
You will get plenty of ideas. I would hang a block of suet in the pen.

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#3978 - 01/12/03 01:36 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Anonymous
Unregistered


I'm not positive, but it sounds like it could be cannibalism and the only cure that I know of is debeaking. It seems extreme, but it works and the beaks eventually grow back.

Though, I seem to remember reading somewhere that it could be nutrition involved. Not getting enough protein or something like that, but don't quote me on that.

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#3979 - 01/12/03 03:50 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8501
Loc: Montana
Feather picking is just a bad habit--and often begins with boredome and the top hen or rooster will start it. The birds being picked seldom object--it is almost a social thing.

You cannot really break her of it!!! You can remove her from the flock. Or you can give your birds some chunks of a bale of nice leafy green alfalfa hay to keep them busy.

It is not a lack of minerals, it is a bad habit, like children biting their fingernails or twisting their hair. (But those habits can be broken). For chickens you must provide a diversion, and if that doesn't work, live with it, or remove the culprit. Good luck, CJR

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#3980 - 01/13/03 01:57 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Bill Ludwig Offline
Classroom Professor

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 2582
Loc: Ohio
Carol

Do a search for picking, and feather pulling. You'll find many suggestions. I tend to go along with the bad habit belive. I delt with it for nearly a year. I had many bald backed chickens eek Your right that the others will learn the habit. The simplest way to stop it is probably pine tar. Good luck,

Bill

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#3981 - 01/13/03 02:19 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Aram Seattle Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 547
Loc: Washington
And just in case, give them some extra protein (worms and such) for a little while to make sure that it is not a protein defficiency which they are trying to compensate for by eating feathers (which by the way is a highly unpalatable form of protein)

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#3982 - 01/13/03 05:28 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Jude Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 08/14/02
Posts: 179
Loc: New Zealand
hi
i have found that when they eat the feathers it is a vitamin deficiency. i give an extra vitamin and mineral mix if i see this and generally the feather eating stops nearly immediately.
it is more apparent in the little birds - budgies etc but i have had it happen with my poultry.
picking the feathers off other birds is extreme and i would act quickly before it becomes a habit.
have fun
jude

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#3983 - 01/14/03 05:01 AM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Big Boy Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 845
Loc: Kansas
I usually have this problem appear only in my young adult birds but when it occurs in older ones it appears to be an indication of boredom. A flake of alfalfa or some 'toys' appears to control it.

I'm not ruling out a vitamin or other nutritional deficiency, but if you are feeding a complete ration as the main course with only a FEW treats, then I would be inclined to think boredom would be the cause.

At evening I go around to each of the pens and give each a little scratch mix of wheat, whole oats, calf manna pellets, milo (plus cracked corn during the winter), a little barley, and proso millet plus some alfalfa leaves and pigeon peas. I of course take pleasure in seeing them (come when I call and toss them a bit of a treat) but I also use the opportunity to observe their condition and behaviour as well.

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#3984 - 01/19/03 01:23 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Carol Offline
Chick

Registered: 10/19/02
Posts: 10
Loc: Tennessee
Thank you for all your replies. We have dabbed 'pine tar' on the naked spots. This is supposed to help the feather snacking, but there is this one buff who doesn't like it on her and is commencing to clean it off herself. confused We have also added protein to their diet, (a mixture of greeze and broth from pork, simmeried with corn meal with bugs). (I never throw anything away.) laugh The are also getting their fair share of dog food. With the sub zero weather we are having, they won't come out of their coop, and it is to crowded inside to be able to assess the situation, but we are having fun trying to see what works. Thanks again. You are great! wink

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#3985 - 02/09/03 08:25 PM Re: Plucking and eating feathers
Anonymous
Unregistered


Carol,

Did your feather snacking problem go away?

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