Feather pecking

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Feather pecking

Postby DuncanZA » Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:28 pm

I wonder if anyone out there could please give me some advice?

The hens have started feather pecking and it's getting desperate - a couple of them look practically oven ready. I have tried the Nettex anti feather pecking spray (goodness, it stinks too!), I have tried separating the likely aggressor but having kept a very close eye on them these last few days I have noticed that several of the hens are gathering around those hens that are in the nest box waiting to lay and they are all pecking at the laying hens feathers. Several of them are missing feathers around the neck and vent but the two largest hens (Speckled Sussex) are really suffering and have lost a lot of their feathers.

They are confined to a run - I live in an area still classed as High risk - but they've been in the same run for the last 5 months and this has only been happening for the last couple of weeks. They have diversions - logs to perch on, a dust bath, cabbages hung on strings to peck at etc.

If it was just one I could separate her from the rest, or, for the good of the others, cull her but it does appear that while one of them feather pecks much of the time, most of them seem to join in when any are in the nest boxes trying to lay.

I have 9 hens and there are four nest boxes.

I really don't know what to do. Any advice you can offer I'd be grateful.


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Re: Feather pecking

Postby valeriebutterley » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:35 pm

Hello, sorry about your feather pecking problem, very hard to solve. I was there one time and had a dreadful time, one or two of my layers simply developed a taste for feathers. "Bumpa bits" helped solve the problem they really do work, unlikely as it seems and ungainly and unkind as they appear.
There is also an application that you can paint on, that helps too.

Hope it goes away!
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Re: Feather pecking

Postby rick » Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:46 pm

I wonder if it has been triggered by the spring and they a little more 'stir crazy' in their confinement than they have been up till now. How much run have you got?
The guidance says:
'Keepers in higher risk areas must continue to keep birds housed or netted.'
Is there any way that you can exclude birds from a wider area of your garden? As I understand it the netting could be the kind of thing that you would suspend over your veg patch to keep the birds off as that’s its only function. Breaking the feather pecking habit might be a bit easier if they could spread out and get out of sight of each other with interesting stuff to do elsewhere.
Of course, if you live under the landing approach of the local water bird population or on the banks of a river then only inside will do.
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Re: Feather pecking

Postby Marigold » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:37 am

Are you sure that they're not infested with something like Northern Mite or chicken lice? Both of these problems will affect the vent and neck areas, so have a really good look. I think northern mite gives the feathers a sort of greasy appearance and is microscopic, whereas lice eggs are tiny white specks and apparently a nice snack for other chickens - no accounting for tastes!
See Poultrykeeper https://poultrykeeper.com/external-problems/
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Re: Feather pecking

Postby DuncanZA » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:43 pm

Thanks for your advice. I've ordered some Bumpa beak bits to try out.

I've spent a lot of time watching them these last few days and have identified the culprits - I don't think it's Northern Mite or lice, Marigold. I try and monitor them regularly, handling them and checking them over and other than the feather pecking (and eating) they're in fine form - well, the ones that don't look oven ready at least.

Unfortunately Rick, I live right next to a canal and the River Trent so it's a bit limited. The plan has always been for them to live confined to their run in the morning and have the run of the garden in the afternoon - it's not worked out like that because we've been going through a major refurb of the house and garden and the work only finished a couple of weeks back. Hopefully the Defra ban will be lifted soon and they can roam more freely.




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Re: Feather pecking

Postby chrismahon » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:36 am

Sorry you have problems DuncanZA- I'm surprise more people aren't in the same position. We have recently sold our house which had a garden next to the Trent and Mersey canal with the Trent not far away and it remains in a high risk area and I know our hens would go absolutely nuts even if confined for a day. A farmer here was filmed in his sheds where he had been ordered to keep about 20,000 chickens confined and not free-ranging. The result was cannibalism, with dead birds everywhere, so you would do well to nip this pecking in the bud before it gets serious.

To fit Bumpa bits safely you need a pair of external circlip pliers.
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Re: Feather pecking

Postby DuncanZA » Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:47 am

Thanks Chris. We're in Colwich, near Stafford and right next to the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Trent!

I'm spending as much time as I can patrolling to keep the little devils apart but I can't wait to get these beak bits (I ordered the pliers too).


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Re: Feather pecking

Postby chrismahon » Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:38 am

Hi DuncanZA. Good luck with the Bumpa bits- they worked for us with the few that persisted despite free ranging. Sometimes it becomes a habit that can't be shaken off. We had one Cream Legbar who wore one all the time- they wear out after a few months and need replacing, but generally two weeks is enough.

We lived in Lichfield for four years and we used to shoot competition clay pigeons regularly at Shugborough, so we know your area quite well. Bought stuff for our last house from Hadleigh Reclaim, if you know it?
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