Feather Pickin’ Chicken

featherpickinchicken

featherpickinchicken

A few days ago I noticed that BB and Dumptruck were looking… raggedy.  Specifically, their “bustles” (the area right above their tail feathers) looked like the feathers were thinning.  Yesterday I noticed that the colored portion of the feather was almost completely GONE in some spots on those two- meanwhile, Little Girl looked just fine.  What gives?

Seems we have a feather picker in our midst.  Ben caught LG snapping off feathers from BB, and spitting them out on the ground.  What a jerk chicken.

picked4

pickedpicked2 picked3

It’s likely boredom, and a little aggression thrown into the mix.  I saw her do it today- Dumptruck was taking a break from being out on the snow, resting on the stone step in the doorway of the run.  Little Girl stood above her, giving her the stink eye, and grabbing little strands of feather and pulling.  I pushed LG away several times, and finally just picked her up- it really came off like she was harassing Dumptruck to get out of her way/off her sunny spot.  Dumptruck doesn’t even seem to notice her doing it.  Same goes with BB: Ben noticed she was getting picked by LG, and went out there to stop it. BB didn’t seem any worse for the wear, like she didn’t even notice LG had been snapping off part of her feathers.  You can see in the pictures above that BB has a patch of orange missing, where it’s down to the fluff.  Likewise, Dumptruck’s bustle is sparse, but seems more uniform.

aggression

The culprit is none to happy about being picked up and carried around when I’m out there.  Of course, she also doesn’t like walking on the snow, being in the cold wind, not being able to run around outside of the coop, etc.  I feel like she’s getting a little stir crazy, and all-around grouchy.  I feel her pain.

So, I’ve got some options:

-give them things to peck at (I’ve given them cabbage, but squash and pumpkin are also good choices to keep them busy)

-give them distractions (I hung some cat toys and left a tennis ball inside- the ball seems to be the winner)

-reduce their high calorie treats (suggested by Terry from Hencam.com)

-shake up the pecking order (trying to do this by carrying the aggressor around)

-isolate the aggressor

Isolation is the worst case scenario, and will happen if this keeps going on.  Of course, because it’s winter I’ll have to take into account that the 3 need to huddle together to stay warm; I’m thinking I might be able to isolate LG during the day, and bring her back out before sunset so they can all sleep together.  I’m a little nervous about this possible action only because LG might get used to the warmth of the house and have a hard time adjusting when she goes back outside.

Always an adventure with these birds.  At least nobody has drawn blood, yet.

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3 thoughts on “Feather Pickin’ Chicken

  1. Hi Laura

    They’re not pulling each other’s feathers out. They’re simply molting! :) You don’t need to isolate anyone. I live in Michigan as well (SW corner of Lapeer County). I too keep Buff Orps (6 to be exact). Last January (2012), 2 of my girls decided to start their first molt. They were 9 months old at the time. Typically a molt can last from 3 to 5 months. My girls molt lasted for 9 months!!!! Don’t worry. Just make sure they have a heat lamp going in the coop. The pecking you are witnessing is normal pecking order behavior and if they are confined in a small run, the need to keep the order established is heightened. Last winter was my girls first winter (I only had 3 at the time). I kept them locked up in the run during the winter months. This year however is different. I still let them out every day from dusk till dawn with the door of their run wide open for free ranging which they do A LOT of. They are well acclimated to the cold and even will walk in the snow. On the few occasions this winter when we got deeper snow, I still left the run door open, but the girls decided to stay in the shelter of their run. Give your girls some extra protein in their diet (Scrambled eggs are great for molters). Don’t be afraid to give them access to the yard. Having more space will make them much happier and less confrontational. Here’s a link to my blog. It’s to the post from back in Feb of 2012 and you’ll see that my girls were molting just like yours are. My girls also lost feathers on their chest. Click here to see our chickens. One time, I had a chicken go into molt and I went out to the coop in the morning, and she had had what I call “a feather explosion”. And it literally looked like a chicken had exploded! Feathers everywhere. Our Buff Orps are total pets. They are pampered and loved on constantly.

    Have a wonderful day, and congratulations on winning your battle to own chickens in Ferndale!!

    Kelly
    Our Country Chronicles

    1. Hi Kelly:

      Unfortunately, not a molt. My ladies decided to molt early in December, and we had the great “feather explosion” as well. They also got really testy with eachother during that time as well, presumably due to the irritation of the feathers coming in. Once those pretty feathers came in, the Jerk chicken decided she wanted to pull them back out. I’ve invested in some pinless peepers as a last resort, and will be trying them this week. The Jerk has literally pecked a hole at the base of the tail of one hen, and her continued aggression seems to be rubbing off on the other two.

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