I’ve been searching the internet for a good explanation for why most of my flock has bare spots where their feathers have been plucked out. Beauty is the worst off, and yesterday I noticed she is not only bare on her back but is now sporting a bare bottom. My first assumption was that the rooster was getting rough with them, but now I am wondering…
What if they are itchy and are picking feathers out of themselves? I have not yet gone as far as capturing a hen and examining her for lice. I watched a couple videos for how this can be done, and I think tonight I’ll go into the coop after they have roosted for the night. They tell me you sneak in with a flashlight pointed to the floor so no one is alarmed. Then, I guess I’ll have to pull the one I’ve collected out into the barn and look her over. The videos of crawling lice and egg sacks are enough to turn my stomach over, but if it has to be done…
Another possibility is that they are low on protein in their diet and are eating feathers to make up for it. A suggestion is to add mealworm snacks to their diet.
A third thing could be aggression within the pecking order. There is a little device called a “pinless peeper” that you can snap onto the aggressor’s beak to prevent them from seeing straight ahead. These blinders are said to stop the mean hens from pecking at their sisters almost immediately.
Yet another solution suggested is to provide them with entertainment so that they do not abuse each other out of boredom. I guess that means a trip to the video store or piping in some good music?
Any of these may solve the problem, but if I do them all at once I’ll never know which one worked. I need to go about this scientifically. So, step one was to observe. I pulled up a chair outside their run and just watched for about half an hour.
At first, they all came running to see what I was there for and if I was offering food. When all I did was sit and watch them, they gradually wandered away and gathered into a clump of resting feathers. I did see now and then that one would pass by and another would quickly hop up and out of the way. Was that the bullying I was looking for?
As they rested and became less alert, I witnessed a lot of scratching. They were all turning their heads 180 degrees and scratching under their feathers on their backs and under their wings. Is this normal grooming behavior? Then I saw Cooper, the rooster doing it as well. This could explain the torn out feathers, but not the reason for the itchiness. Here’s a link to the video of Cooper https://youtu.be/nLtW18LL-44 If you can help solve the mystery, please help! I’m going out now to rustle myself a chicken and start the examination phase.