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.
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.
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.