Prob­lem of pick­ing feath­ers

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

Q One of my girls has started to pick feath­ers off my other chick­ens and eats them. In the sum­mer they used to free-range, but with the shorter days, they’re con­fined to a se­cure en­closed run as I by the time I ar­rive home from work its dark. I never had a prob­lem when they were free-rang­ing. What can I do to stop this be­hav­iour? A Julie Moore says: Now that your chick­ens are con­fined, they are more likely to be­gin feather peck­ing out of bore­dom and cu­rios­ity than when they were freerang­ing.

It’s im­por­tant to pro­vide them with dis­trac­tions such as hang­ing pecker blocks or fresh greens or scat­ter­ing meal­worms to keep them happy and oc­cu­pied. Vary the ‘bore­dom­buster’ daily. Pro­vide a dust bathing zone — large flower pots or con­tain­ers filled with sieved soil, sand and wood ash al­ways seem to be a big hit! You could en­cour­age for­ag­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties by grow­ing sprout­ing seeds.

Chick­ens like to peck and scratch and by na­ture are ter­ri­to­rial. When too many chick­ens are con­fined to too small a space, scratch­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are lim­ited and at­ten­tion turns to other hens in the form of re­lent­less bul­ly­ing and ag­gres­sive peck­ing.

Space is key to happy hens. The bare min­i­mum is one square foot per bird if they have an out­door run and four square foot per bird if they are con­fined to in­doors. You can in­crease the square footage avail­able by pro­vid­ing your hens with dif­fer­ent things to roost on such as old chairs or tree branches. Do not over­stock the space you have avail­able. You could re­move your bully from the flock and keep her in iso­la­tion for a few weeks which may lessen her dom­i­nance.

Con­fined chick­ens of­ten feather peck out of bore­dom.

You can in­crease the square footage avail­able by pro­vid­ing your hens with dif­fer­ent things to roost on such as an old wheel­bar­row.

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