Anyone know anything about feather loss in Chickens?

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Anyone know anything about feather loss in Chickens?

Postby Val » Sat Jul 15, 2006 6:12 am

hi

this is my first post - so please be gentle on me!

Emailing from sunny (oh when will it rain?!) Norfolk.

We have a couple of hybrid chickens in a good sized run.

Eedie is the dominant one and likes to try and crow in the mornings and Bree is a bit more shy. Eedies' feathers look as good as new, but Bree is looking rough. I don't think its just moulting as its been a few months now and no improvment. She has areas with no feathers (back of neck, breast) and all her feathers look a bit 'greasy' - like she's not washed her hair for a bit! Egg production is fine -though a bit less than a couple of months ago and a bit small recently (my husband reckons I feed them too many scraps?)

Does anyone have any thoughts on what this could be? I would have thought if it was diet or if we had some sort of lice or mites both girls would have been affected, but Eedie is in tip top condition.

Would be very greatful of any help

regards
Val :?
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Postby Millymollymandy » Sun Jul 16, 2006 7:13 am

Oh no replies yet. :( I haven't experienced moulting yet but a couple of mine seem to have lost about half the hairs (? what would you call them) on the feathers on their backs - i.e. the quills are still there, but half the feathery bits aren't. I don't know if that is how a chicken moults!!

With yours it is possible that one is pecking the other?
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Quilly bits

Postby Val » Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:29 am

yes we still have quilly bits!

One of the girls (could be Eedie) has started laying tiny eggs (my husband calls these 'Ovs' as they are not big enough to be Ovulations!). Is egg size related to aggressive behavior.

We've had one grumpy neighbour because of Eedie's 'crowing', so in view of all our probs we are thinking of trading them in for some Bantums - has anyonehad noisy bantums?

thanks for the help

Val
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Postby Boots » Sun Jul 16, 2006 2:52 pm

Ah, I love birds.

The first couple (Eedie and Bree)... sounds like maybe Bree is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to protein. Is it possible Eedie is standing over Bree at feed time, muscling in on the high protein bits, and leaving poor old Bree to the lesser bits? Maybe try spreading feed wide, so they have an equal chance to feed on all available food sources...

That egg shrinking business has me scratching my head. How old is this girl? And is this her first lay? Am wondering if there is some vent problem, which may also explain her racket in the morning... You haven't been in after a few days of reduced eggs to find a massive egg, or a 'sticky laying box' have you? Like all yolky, but little or no shell? If there is no return to normal egg size, you might need to investigate further. You got some rubber gloves? :lol:

Bantams cluck all day. Mine fuss and carryon constantly... They are real chatty and heaps protective. They are like nattery old women. If your neighbours don't like the odd laying sound, I doubt they will appreciate a bantams fussy carryon just because a bird flies over head or a car pulls up.

Might be easier just to offer the whingey neighbours some eggs...

MMM - Yep, sounds like a moult to me! Those "quills" you see are the new feathers. They should soon open to reveal full feathers.

We have just had a day and a half of rain here. I am hopeful my girls will decide egg laying is a good idea again now.
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mmmmm...

Postby Val » Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:38 am

interesting!

We have had two normal sized eggs again yesterday, so I don't know what they are up to!!!

They have ready access to layers pellets so protein shouldn't be a prob.

Will check for red mites so I can rule it out - but they don't seem reluctant to go up to bed.

Very interesting to hear what you say about bantums being noisy, will perhaps stick with the bigguns a bit longer

The neighbour that has whinged does have 7 kids and is all shouting at them so there is noise both ways (and I think on balance I'd rather have a bit of clucking )

thanks for your help

Bottom line is both girls seem really happy in themselves so can't be too much wrong!

:wink:
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Postby Millymollymandy » Mon Jul 17, 2006 1:03 pm

Boots wrote:MMM - Yep, sounds like a moult to me! Those "quills" you see are the new feathers. They should soon open to reveal full feathers.


But these are the quills of the old feathers, Boots. No actual whole feathers have come off/out. I thought the hen house would be full of feathers at moult time. Also they haven't stopped laying, which I thought they did when they moulted.

Anyway glad you have had some rain!
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Postby hedgewizard » Mon Jul 17, 2006 11:22 pm

Moulting areas go bald from the root up, so no quill fragments are left. This is definitely pecking, imho. Sounds like Eedie is dominant and behaving more like a cockerel - i've heard of this happening. I'd fit a beak ring to Eedie before the moult starts (see other threads where we talked about these) and leave it on her for long enough to get out of the habit. And yes, too many scraps make feather pecking more likely. Have you considered a worm bin?
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Postby Boots » Tue Jul 18, 2006 5:33 am

You might need to post a pic MMM...

If the birds are tearing feathers away from the shaft, this would be very unusual. Feathers release from the follicle very easily - so any sort of tug would generally remove the whole feather.

I have a large flock, so when they moult it is very obvious, but a couple of birds are unlikely to fill your coop with feathers, I'd think - but I could be wrong. You would see them, but its not a case of the huge flight feathers being found on the ground, it is more a case of the insulating feathers from underneath (down feathers) that replenish... so you end up with kind of fluffy piles of feathers about the place, that are often recycled into nest preparation.

When feathers are replenished they appear as pin feathers... small sticky out shafts. The shafts then open and at varying stages can appear like half feathers. They usually, but not always, open from the outer end first, so you have a long shaft with a tuft of feather at the end to begin with. Does this sound like whats happening?
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Postby Millymollymandy » Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:25 am

No, I think these are the old feathers. Taking a photo might be difficult!

If you look at my avatar - the two red hens like this are losing half the feathery bits off their backs, which look now much whiter, cos it is the fluffier inner (or lower) bits of feather which remain. Like someone shaved down their backs. The third hen still has whole feathers.

I haven't got any pecking order with my hens and they don't peck each other. Believe it or not!
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Postby Boots » Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:47 am

I believe it.

Hang five, will see if I can find a pic... Will link you into this site and see if it looks familiar...

http://www.freewebs.com/nannyp/moulting.htm
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Postby Millymollymandy » Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:10 am

It does look rather like that especially the bit on the back just above the tail. I've just been to let them out and running my hand over their backs feels all spiky.

My 3rd hen whose feathers are still OK is the same colour as the hen in the photos! Good looking beast but a real prima donna.

So when are they going to stop laying?
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Postby Boots » Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:00 am

If they are still young (under 2) they may lay through their moult or just back off a little (reduced size, every second day for eg).

Moulting is a response to weather changes, not actually laying as such. A positive change in weather will often help restore the birds ability to lay though, if they do happen to go off. A drop in temp will induce a moult in order to better protect themselves for winter with winter down, as will a rise in temp, as they will then shed their downy protection. For birds to stop laying completely (as my lot have) the conditions have to be pretty bad.

As they get older, they will begin to 'cycle', and egg production/ovulation comes in patterns. This is why many egg raisers will only work a bird for about 18 months. They can lay continuously for that time, but then become what farmers refer to as 'unreliable'.
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Postby Millymollymandy » Tue Jul 18, 2006 1:30 pm

Ah, you are such a wise woman! They are about 20 months old, and not laying as well as last year - although the one who still has good lookin' feathers is laying the least - but I suspect she's going broody any day now.

Anyway, shan't worry about it. :mrgreen: I did think it might have been mites, but I can't see any.
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Postby Boots » Tue Jul 18, 2006 2:02 pm

Nah, not wise Mandy. Just love my farm and all the quirky critters on it. We are all learning as we go.
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Postby hedgewizard » Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:10 pm

My old gran had a remedy for getting hens back into lay, but you aren't going to like it. She'd put a butcher's hook on the washing line, seize offending chook, tie feet together with a few turns of string, and hang the chook upside-down on the line by the string. Then she'd peg the washing out. When the washing was all hung out (say 10 mins) she'd unhook the now limp chicken, untie it and sit down with it in her lap until it perked up. She always swore this brought them back into lay but I haven't had the nerve to try it!
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