Feather pecking frustration
QI have 10 hybrid hens and they have Smallholder layers pellets, fresh water everyday and fresh greens every day. They also get the occasional bit of corn. All my hens seem to love pulling out each other’s feathers and gobbling them up, which I find very frustrating because it results in them having no feathers in areas around the vent, breast and back. What I find really irritating is that when one of the hens has a dust bath, all the others gather around and pull out her feathers. They have a big run with soil under a huge cedar tree.
ACharlotte Popescu said: This is a very common and difficult problem, especially with hens that are confined. Possible causes for feather pecking are: protein deficiency, stress, lack of space and boredom. No one has as yet come up with a solution to this problem, which occurs, almost inevitably, amongst commercial flocks, so a lot of research has gone into it.
You are unlucky because now that your hens have got a taste for feathers it is going to be hard to eradicate it. If one or two hens are mainly responsible for the feather pecking, then you could separate them. You say they are on soil, but hens do better on grass as they can spend a lot of time scratching and looking for insects amongst the grass; you could spread straw over the ground in the run and scatter mealworms through the straw, which would keep your hens busy. The protein deficiency is unlikely to be the reason in your case as you are giving your hens a balanced diet – feathers are full of protein and so that is why hens eat them. But you could add sunflower seeds to their diet as these are full of protein. My hens do sometimes get bare necks, which I assume is because other hens have picked out the feathers, but I do not worry too much as they have lots of space to get away from each other and the feathers will grow back after the moult each year. My hens, though, and there are a lot of them, never lose feathers around their vents, breasts or backs so your problem seems worse. This makes me inclined to think it could be lack of space; if you could let them out of their run to roam freely, you might notice a difference.