half bald chickens

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Hi all

I am a new posters, and I have a question about my chickens. I have, Bantys, RI Reds, Barred Rocks, Jersey Giants and Delawares.

We have had an on going problem with feather eating. I know that their houses and pens are more than large enough. We have tried to solve the problem with plenty of produce, hay now and then in the pens, and tossing scratch in the litter inside the houses to keep them busy. I have also been giving them scarambled eggs, hoping that the added protien would encourage quicker feather regrowth. But nothing seems to help.

Right now, because of molting, their has condition has been worse. But some are showing very good feather regrowth presently. However - I do not want to see them take a step backwards as soon as they begin to work on the new feathers.

I have been told that it is possible that they are eating feathers because they are not getting enough fiber in their diet.

I read, in one of the threads for goats, that BOSS is rich in fiber and protien. I'm wondering - would adding black oil sunflower seeds to their diet maybe do the trick? If not - does anyone have any other suggestions I might try?

They all came thru last winter OK in this sorry state, but I'd sure hate to see them have to go thru another winter this way.

Thanks! :-)


-- dottie in MD (mother-ducker@webtv.net), September 03, 2001


Are you sure they are picking each others feathers? Have you put new ones in lately or have all the chickens been together all the time? How many roosters do you have with them? I have never had trouble with them eating feathers, but I give them extra protein in the form of a can of Costco's Kirkland brand of cat food once or twice weekly, also some cheap dry catfood soaked overnight in a little water every few mornings. If they are just bored, try giving them a whole cabbage to peck on, some oversized zucchini or cucumber cut in half lengthwise, or a few windfall apples to keep them busy.

-- Duffy (hazelm@tenforward.com), September 03, 2001.

I have the same problem. I read somewhere that it is mostly the dominant roosters that create the problem and that if you put pine tar on the hens it will give the roosters a very bad taste and may help break this habit. If I can find out where to get this stuff I am going to try it myself.

-- r.h. in Okla. (rhays@sstelco.com), September 03, 2001.

If you have too many roosters, the hens will have bare backs. It's not because the roosters are eating their feathers, but when they mount, and they do hold onto the neck feathers, it's just rough on the hens to have a large ratio of roosters. One to every dozen or so hens is plenty.

-- mary (marylgarcia@aol.com), September 03, 2001.

I have no roosters so this intrigues me: How does a rooster "hold on" since it doesn't have "hands" and presumably would be using it's feet to stand up. I'm gonna have to get me a rooster for my girls.

-- Ann Markson (tngreenacres@hotmail.com), September 03, 2001.

Ann, you ride in the same boat with my sister-in-law. She thinks chickens have boring sex lives. She thinks the hen lays the egg and then the rooster has to come along and set on the egg to fertilize it.

-- r.h. in Okla. (rhays@sstelco.com), September 04, 2001.

Thanks for the replies!

We have gone thru oddles of cabbages and right now there is a big old apple tree right by their pens that is dropping apples, so they've been getting apples every day.

And yes! I know for sure that they are eating the feathers! And it is the hens that are doing the eating - not the roosters. I have yet to see any of the roosters eat a feather!

It all started with my ranging Banty roosters. In the spring time, they have a habit of holding their breasts up against the wire of the pens. They stand there, perfectly still, and LET the hens pluck the feathers off their breast!

Now - n 2 different pens - that are not side by side, the hens have plucked the tail feathers and underneath the tail bald. And the area covering the roosters' crops. And in another pen, they have plucked the feathers along side of the necks on 2 of those roosters. And I have watched them many a times walk up behind another hen and pluck at her back. And this is where the majority of baldness is. Their backs are completly bare! Many of them no longer have any tail feathers, or have only 2 or three. Many have had their wings plucked bare. Some have no feathers covering their rumps. The worse case was one hen that they had plucked completely except for her neck and her breast area. She has been being kept seperate along with 2 others. Right now she has almost full feathering with the exception of her tail and they are coming in nicely now too.

So in my case anyway - the problem is not being causes by the roosters, but the hens themselves!

I had had this problem a few years ago with the Bantys. (the ones in the pen) But they stopped, and they have not done so since. Their feathers have been fine ever since, except for the normal molting proccess. What confuses me is that when the Bantys were eating feathers, I didn't do anything in particular to have caused the problem to go away. I was still very new to having chickens at the time. And why are all the other flocks doing it but not the Bantys???? They all get the same feeds and treats. They are all cared for identically.

-- dottie in MD (mother-ducker@webtv.net), September 04, 2001.

Dottie, Have you dusted the chickens for lice or mites? And, have you checked the roosts for mites? It is pretty easy for free-ranging chickens to bring it back to the flock. It is not an uncommon problem with poultry. You can coat the roosts with old motor oil, I am not sure of the hazards of using this but it smothers the mites. You can use Rotentone to dust the hens. It is just a guess but I have had the same problems and it was mites.

-- Karen (kansasgoats@iwon.com), September 04, 2001.

Yup Karen. We keep checking them and so far have not found any creepy crawlers. Thought that maybe I was "missing" them so had a friend that is very famillar with chickens check them out - and - nada. Which is good, kinda. If the condition was being caused by the little crawling bugs - well - at least then I would have known how to put a stop to it.

We have 2 large hen houses and pens that are set up like duplexes. These we house the large breeds in, and the Bantys have a single house/pen of their own. For bug control - twice a year I dust the floors of the hen houses, the nesting boxes and the roosting bars with DE. And once a year I dust the outside pen area.

After checking for bugs, adding all sorts of stuff to their diet, and pretty much trying any/all solutions we can come up with, we can find no cause for them doing what they are doing with the feathers. This is why I was asking about BOSS. I was wondering if it would be OK to give them the sunflower seeds to add more fiber to their diet. Or if someone had any other ideas we hadn't thought of.

Ann - to kinda answer your question about how do roosters "hold on". :-) Just like you see lions and such "hold on" in the Nature type shows, a rooster will grab ahold of a hen's feathers on the back of her head with his beak and hang on while at the exact same time he's swinging/jumping up on her back. The hen goes into a kinda squat as she holds out the "shoulders" on her wings. (some of your girls are probably doing the squat thingy with you when you go to touch them or pick them up, it's kinda like they're bowing to you.) The rooster plants his feet on the "platform" that her shoulders make. All this is accomplished in one quick movement. And it is a riot to watch a "green" young rooster trying his best to get the hang of it! hehehe It's like watching Hop-a-Long trying to jump up side saddle onto his horse while the horse is taking off and he's got one foot in the stirup and his hopping along trying his best to get that other leg swung up and over.

But the funniest thing I have seen, and still makes me grin every time it comes to mind, happened last fall when a young Jersey Giant rooster was trying his very best to "get some". He had been chasing the hens for almost a month with no success. The hens were really giving him a run for his money. One day I had gone into the hen house and he happened to be inside along with a few hens. We had just changed the litter in the hen house, so there was a nice layer of fresh straw on the floor. Here and there, there were piles of it from them scratching around in it.

Well - hehehe - this poor little guy tried another sneak attack on one of the hens. Thought for SURE he had her! And she "was" under him - for second. She slipped out from under him - unbeknown to him because they were on top of one of the piles of straw. And all along this poor guy thinks he still has a hen under him!!! His tail is all spread out and just a quivering and he's going at "it" - pauses for a sec as he peeks down between his legs - and THEN - goes at it some more for all he's worth!! Thinking he's got a hen under him when all the while it's a pile of straw!!!!!hahaha

Finally - he stops and half stands up and "really" looks under himsef, then abrutly stood up and searched the floor under him and all around him as though he's looking for the hen. Then he looks up at me and goes - Pluuuuuuuuuck! As if to say - Where'd she GO!?" I was laughing so hard the tears were streaming down my face!!!!

But - he did his very best to save his dignity! He shook himself good and then with head held high, proudly strutted out of the hen house.

-- dottie in MD (mother-ducker@webtv.net), September 04, 2001.

OK. I know that R.H. stands for Russell Hays my chicken information source here on CS. ANd yes, I'll admit that for too long I did think the rooster came along later,HA ( I WAS raised in the city and one doesn't see that too often there....)But I SEE the light now (even if I don't see how it happens) But luckily, unlike MANY others, I AM curious.

-- Ann Markson (tngreenacres@hotmail.com), September 04, 2001.

I have a very young flock of about 110 to 120 chickens, with about 13 roosters in the crowd. The CA White male is an overexuberant thing that does an "end zone" dance whenever he "gets some," and only about 7 of the hens are actually up to mating age - the 2 RI reds and 5 Calif whites. All the other hens are either younger or are slower maturing breeds (all rec'd as 2-3 day olds on May 30) - 84 Buff Orps, 6 Anconas, 4 Ameraucaunas or Easter egg hens, 6 barred rocks. While the 2 Ameraucauna & 10 Buff Orp roosters look on, the CA white rooster grabs the feathers on the back of one of the RI hens just below the neck feathers and goes for a ride, while she squaks and tries to shake him off. She spends most of her time roosting on a branch or trying to hide behind trees.

-- Claudia Glass (glasss2001@prodigy.net), September 06, 2001.

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