I have 6 bantam hens in a small backyard pen. They have a nice house to go into as well as a nice area to play outside. I have noticed that they are plucking each other to the extreme. The Buff Brahmas are the only ones doing it. My little R.I. Red doesn't get plucked at all. At this point, some have no feathers on their necks, heads, or tails. They really are looking bad. What is causing this? Any solutions? My gradparents had chickens for years and I don't recall ever seeing anything like this. Let me know. Thanks.
Hens Plucking Feathers
They can pick for a number of reasons, but giving them something to do will help. Throwing in a shovelful of grass clippings will give them greens and something to scratch in. Growing hardy greens like kale or collards around the outside will let them reach out and eat some as it grows. Other than greens, a shovelful of leaves or straw or an old rotting log will give them hours of fun. You can rake out the stuff later (wonderful for compost) and add more.
Old log. What a good idea. Especially if it has bark with embedded bugs.
Never thought of that. Hours of busy work for the girls. LOL
I turned over a piece of wood yesterday that ants had taken up residence under. Wish I'd thought to throw it into chicken pen. They would have had a regular "amusement park" in their pen.
In a small pen, chickens do get bored and their attention turns to each other. They're going to peck on something, and if nothing else is available, each other will do.
I hope that's not something that the Buff Brahmas are more inclined to do. I have 12 of their eggs in incubator right now. They are pretty birds...........unless they're picked half naked.....lol.
I have one little white bantam Brahma now, and she is pretty agressive toward all the others. Although I don't recommend it for anyone else,
(it was a bad experience) I did end up trimming her beak because of her vicious pecking. She still pecked everybody else, with a sore beak, but is getting better about it. Or maybe the other chickens are just now realizing that it just dosen't have the sharp sting it used to. Things are a little more relaxed in the pen.
Shoot, I've got three light brahmas on their way, but not bantams.
I should add that this year I'm also growing amaranth around the chicken pen. It's a fast grower and they'll be able to pick lots of it. Borage, too.
Zeppy, is that something that grows from seed ? If so, where can you get it ?
I've been told to get an old piece of styrofoam block and tie it in the pen where they can peck at it to give them something to do. They styrofoam (supposedly) passes through them harmlessly. I haven't tried it myself. I've also been told that feather picking is an indicator that they're lacking something in their diet that's found in cat food, and if you throw a few handfuls of cheap, dry catfood in their pen for them, they'll stop eating feathers.
I myself will go and pick grass out of the back forty for them to eat (they love it), or will give them scratch grain as a treat. They love old bread, watermelon rinds, pasta, or any kind of starch or fruit/veggie leftovers. Raisins were a hit! I make sure to scatter it out so they'll have to find it. It keeps them busy.
That styrofoam idea is beyond me: why give them something to peck that will do them no good (and render their poop questionable) when there are so many things that will? I won't feed mine catfood, either. QueenB, your own solutions make a lot more sense. I'll have to try the raisins. Thanks! How many birds do you keep?
Peggie, I don't know why I'm seeing some of these posts of yours for the first time. You asked about the amaranth. It's a grain -- a really ancient one -- and you can get seeds of it almost anywhere. "Love Lies Bleeding" is a popular varietyhttp://davesgarden.com/pf/go/2/index.html , and very showy. I'll send you seeds of one kind if you want. I think it's Early Splendor. The leaves are edible as well and taste much like spinach.http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/53232/index.html
I have seen this numerous times in different strains over the years. The ideas mentioned above may help some to prevent it but it is usually a genetic trait. I have gotten rid of all individuals of certain bloodlines because I didn't like that trait in them and I hate having my birds in that rough condition and it detracts from the reason I had them in the first place which was primarily because of their beautiful physical appearance.
In some strains the hens are really bad about pecking the hackles and saddles out of the males, and there are other strains that are bad about feather pecking as chicks in the brooder, especially at the base of the tail feathers, but then stop do it as as they get older and after the saddle and cushions have grown down over the base of the tail feathers where there are not pin feathers exposed for them to see.
The reason that myself and others have came to the conclusion that it is genetic is becasue if you keep several differnet strains under the same conditions and some do it and some do not, then it is hard to blame it on the environment or diet. Sometimes it is just certain birds doing it and if you can find one that doesn't have feathers missing, then that is often the one pecking the others. The problem is that one bird that is genetically inclined to feather-picking can get the others started doing it also, especially after the bare areas and bleeding feathers are exposed for them to see. It's a complicated problem of which I can't post all the info on it here.
i wish i knew which one pecked a chick to death this morning. they re 5 weeks old, for pity sake! they s hould know better! funny thing is, everything looked fine when i fed them. but afterwards, while i was trying to get other stuff done, one bird kept flying out of the box and making noise [these are the runts which i have kept in the house away from the bigger birds]. twice i put this guy back in his box. i think he must have been a compassionate one and was trying to get me to intervene, but i never saw what was wrong until the bird was half dead and it was to late. i moved her to her own small box with her own light and hot water bottle. she looked more comforatble for a little while. oh, i also put neosporin with a pain killer on her wound, which was about the size of a nickel... but i couldn't watch her live or die, so i went outside for a few hours to work in the gardne. she was gone when i came back in...
i am still up listening ot them. i have moved four birds out into another box which i have determined are not likely the culprit, and seem to "hang together". i hope to move a mfew more before i trun in. it's hard, i have to be sneaky to watch their behavior, cause they know when Mommy is nearby, and try to act innocent!
if i find the little pecker, he/she will be my first "cull". Buckeyes are supposed to have a trait of NOT pecking each other... i hear one calling again...
True, most of the time one chicken will do something and all the others will follow suit. If I have a chicken that I notice is being picked, I remove it as soon as I can, to keep the others from developing the habit. I keep it in another cage or pen until the damage has healed. By the time I put her back in, usually the others have forgotten, and things go back to normal.
At least until somebody gets another "birdbrained" idea to do something weird.
Don't know how they got the old saying "monkey see, monkey do",
It should have been "chicken see, chicken do".
well, when i got there, the four in a separate box just stood and watched me and played innocent. the hosiptal box is still getting laong fine, half sleeping, ahlf eating. and the "runts" box is ALL snuggle dup sleeping. so i bet that narrows it down to the Pecker being in the new box of four birds....
i don't have a fifth waterer [two are in the chicken house with 40 chicks], but i would think they can make it a few hours till i get up in the morning and figure something out. i don't want something they can spill, since i will be gone all day. maybe the feed store here in town will actually have one for sale... then i could keep them separate all day while i am gone.
here's hoping for no more deaths. the last death i had was also from that box, just last weekend, but i had no indication that pecking killed her, she just died ... i just try to keep in mind that hopefully mother nature will have her way with natural culling...
you might try hanging a head of cabbage at the chickens height so they can pick at that, i've never had to try it but it is supposed to be some long-lived fun for them!
i'm gonna try that. maybe i will remember to take pictures...
Oh Tamara I didnt realize you were having trouble, with your babies. I just started reading this thread, and was just so sad for you! How large is the enclosure with your 6 weeks old chicks. Some times mine play fight but they mostly stand each other down, no harm at all ,but they also have enough room to get -away, from a fight!
Hopefully it was mother nature helping you "cull" , sometimes it only takes a weak acting chick to alert the others that something is wrong , then it is a free for all, pecking order begins! I hope no more deaths occur, I understand how you feel !
well, acutally i lost one today, because i was moving chicks in... one got out of the enclosure, and didn't come when i called him [they usually do!]... i thought to myself, he won't go far, and he will be mad that the gate is self-shutting [though not fast enough for him]... well, i got busy with this and that, by the time i remembered to look gfor him, he was nowhere to be found. i spent over an hour counting chicks, looking, counting again, looking some more... ;-(
this sounds bad, but i just hope that all the ones i lost were cockerels.... down to 67 and counting...
i was remiended today what happened to the other one in that box. i was putting their food in and didn't move slowly enough, they all freaked and stmapeded, and somehow she just didn't move afterwards. i separated her, etc, but she didn't last long. she must have been stepped on in a bad spot or been weak to begin with. at that time, there were about half leghorns in their, and they are more flighty thatn the buckeyes. after that i separated the leghorns out so only buckeyes were left...
oh, the ones in the box i was having pecking problems was about 12 square feet and 16 birds. i have been working overtime just trying to get their wire cage repaired and set up. if i had moved them in with the others prematurely, without integrating, i surely would have lost more... now they have 18 square feet, and i expect since they can see and hear the others, they will be ready to be let out in a week. then i can move the hospital box [14 smaller birds in 14 square feet of space] into the wire cage.
let me tell you, those guys don't like being off the ground! i just didn't have time to cut the plywood floor today, amybe tomorrow...
In my chicken book, it says that they peck the feathers out because the feathers are where a lot of protein is. You should be feeding them a good protein feed, I think at least 20%. I have to order mine to get the organic feed, but I think it is worth it. I didn't think that they may be bored, but I think I will try the cabbage head suggestion. I did seperate the wounded bird from the others until she healed and then put her pen ( a large dog carrier) back into the house to re-acquaint her with the others. They all seem to be doing fine now. I give them watermelon, grass and they love clover blossoms. Glad to know about the raisins, but they dont seem to like apples or grapes for some reason. I have 25 Aracaunas, two of which are solid white, it seems that the white ones are more prone to being pecked because areas show much easier. Hope any of this is of interest, I just love to watch them, they are so funny.
I put a pine branch into their pen in the winter when they have to stay inside. They will have that thing all cleaned off of needles and bark by the time I get home from work. Also, planting oats or grass is a great idea. My chickens love to peck at gourds, pumpkins, etc. and chase the round veges all over the yard as they roll them around.
I love to see them run around the yar. They are so busy!
Wait a minute, My chickens are bored. I know it can't be food because they have feeders of everything? How do you get more protien? MEAT? I don't want to. Is there any other way to give them more protein? Maybe beans? Is there a grain higher in protein? My big question is "Are these bald spots ever going to grow feathers back? And how long does it take?
I have to think that my BAs are very much prone to feather picking. A few of the hens are still pretty naked. Come to think of it, we didn't have this problem when we had the other breeds. So, all of the reasons for picking like being bored, needing more protein, etc, don't hold much water with me. We had 35 hens and 2 roosters when we had a mixed flock in the same space that we have 31 BA hens and 3 roosters, and no feather picking. So, I have to reason that the BAs have an inherited trait for it. It's too bad that most of the chicks I have for this year are BAs as that is one trait I DON'T WANT!!
Talked to DH this morning about it and said I might be changing the entire flock next year. We got the BAs for their egg production and they were supposed to be a dual bird. They are not the size that we wanted, so that is another reason to completely change them. I did buy some red sex-links at TSC this year, but will try to get Buffs or RIRs from a hatchery next year, maybe.
I had young pullets that would peck each other to death. They pecked the rear end out. I was told they needed protien, and to give them scrap meat from the butcher, and styerofoam. The styerofoam wont hurt them, and it might save you some birds. When I did that, they quit pecking each other.
Certain types of fowl are prone to canablism (SP), especially the sex-links.
Good luck. They may also need more room.
GG wish you had an incubator set up. i just got my BA roo back, and he is in penthouse number 3 with his BA hens. they are so big! look as big as my buckeyes, only not as wide... and their eggs are xlarge to jumbo... a good bloodline if you ask me, they came from a farmer in amarillo who got his bloodline froma vet who raised them. real quality birds. and to think we are just selling their eggs, when i should be hatching soem fo ryou.
eat those hens as soon as they are big enough. they are putting the dual purpose breeds to shame!
now i will have to go back and reread this, for old times sake...
coolchickens, not knowing what age you rbirds are, i could suggest you ask your feed store for game bird crumble, either a breeder which is 18% or aa starter which is 28% and you could mix it wiht whatever you are feeding htem.
if they don't free range they aren't getting the meat-protein they need. sorry, chickens aren't vegetarians, i don't know if they like beans LOL... another thing you can do is cut back on their scratch or milo, which is mostly for carbs, and add barley, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds. or buy a wild bird mix.
chickens need carbs, fiber, and protein. anyway you can get it into them. they also need something to do.
hope this helps!
TF, I am not going to incubate any more chicks this year. You have to remember that I have 3 different sizes of chicks right now. We are going to need the garage where we put juvies until they are fully feathered and can put them in the temporary henhouse. But, I was thinking of putting the keets in the expansion on the henhouse to acclimate them to coming back to roost at night there. So, that will prevent my being able to add the juvies to the adults and keeping them in the henhouse and addition for another six weeks. We also let the adults free range in the evening, so will have to keep the juvies penned up for another few months to acclimate them to coming back to the henhouse after they free range.
I banded the juvies today, tried to put them with the adults, but since they are on chick grower and can't have layer mash yet, they had to go back into the temporary pen and house for a little while yet.
I have a very determined broody who is now setting on a clump of poo that dried out. We (I) decided to let her brood until we can intergrate her into the flock. We don't leave any eggs under her. So, I don't know how long she will be this broody. If it had been in spring, we would have let maybe hatch out eggs.
Audrey mine have been helping themselves to styrofoam and about 6 or 7 of them got very sick so they couldn't even hold their heads up or walk. I ended up loosing one rooster. It looked like they had been poisoned. I will never let any of mine eat styrofoam if I can help it!!!
It never bothered mine. There could have been something poison on it.
It was the solid foam insulation that you use in walls. Can't think of anything they would put on it.
I used plates, cups, and package inserts. Mayve they're made differently!!
They are. The cups and plates and coolers are polystyrene (non-toxic). Solid foam home insulation tends to be isocynate based (toxic).
You think if I fed them the cups they'd stop trying to eat the walls?
oh my goodness, cups hanging all over the place, what a site that would be! I bet it would be a hoot to watch the chickens go after them though...sound like they LOVE the stuff.....it would be like giving a cat some catnip. Sounds like they would have a blast! If you do that Molly, I dare you not to laugh! : )
I have found all this talk about chickens eating styrofoam so interesting....to the best of my knowledge, my chickens have not gotten a hold of any. Sure glad to find out the difference between the 'stuff' used in cups and the 'stuff' used in walls. Now I know that if I see any of the toxic stuff, I will keep it far away from them.
Granny, I'm sorry your broody went broody on you at the wrong time. Wow, a clump of dried poo huh? Well, I guess when they go broody they will sit on anything that feels kind of like an egg. How funny! I bet you were surprised when you saw what she was trying to get a chick out of, huh? : )
If you end up needing to break her of being broody there was a thread started not too long ago about how to do it. I just read some more very interesting ways to do it that I'm going to post on that one. (I have a feeling that I might have to try some of them out soon!)
after reading this whole thread, i would say many times picking is from protien deficiencies, and for anyone not ok with real meat, Pond fishfood is 32% protien, expensive, and needs to be fed in apropriate proportions, but nothing takes the place of real meat, freeranged fowl get lots of bugs, lizards, small snakes, frogs, even a mouse when they can.
its funny reading this again, it goes way back to when i got my first chicks and then met my now-husband! brooding chicks is sure a lot easier the way he has me setup than all those cardboard boxes i had in my dining room!
I'm not going to worry about her too much, we will keep taking the actual eggs out from under her (some of the others insist on laying in that nest box) and she will get the idea. I do, however like the idea that Aussies do brood if I want to use them next spring to hatch out chicks. The only problem doing it in April around here is the weather. We did let a hen set in April, but the weather got so cold, the eggs got too cold and she abandoned them.
Christy you should see the contraptions I have on the walls trying to block them from being able to reach the stuff! Last night I walked in on one chicken that was up on a barrel. He kept taking these flying leaps in the air to grab a beakfull just above where my covers ended! Talk about one determines chicken!!! I added an old cookie tin in that spot. Let's see him defeat that one!
LOL well everything was in place this morning so I guess the cookie tin worked. Funny I thought I would hear them as they hit it. Didn't hear a single bang.
LOL Molly, that is so funny! I can just see the look that must have been on your face when you walked in and caught him doing that! They are just like toddler's, aren't they? You put everything up that they can get into and hurt themselves.....then they still find a way to get into it, then you have to come up with yet another solution.
I think if it had been me that caught him making flying leaps off the barrel, I can see myself with hands on hips, shaking my head, saying, 'well look at you, you silly little thing!' lol : )
ladybug, I can see it too, same thing only I would be saying "you pilly sup" (you silly pup) an expression I have used for ages. LOL