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Chooks rubbing feathers off on tree roots?
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Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 1:33 pm    Post subject: Chooks rubbing feathers off on tree roots?  Reply with quote    

(8th March 2005) EDIT: I've renamed this thread, (original title, 'Have I got a broody?') now that I have a possible idea as to why my chooks' feathers might be coming out underneath.

Thanks to all the people who've responded, your replies have been very helpful, but I wanted to ask as many people as possible whether they've ever heard of anything similar? So far I've not been able to find any sign of infestation, and that's the only other reason I or anyone else has been able to suggest.
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I noticed a few feathers blowing round the garden these last few days and wondered whether my hens were going into a partial neck moult for some reason, (they are only a year old, and didn't have a full moult in the Autumn). But the feathers didn't look as though they'd come from the neck or breast as they were too big and soft looking.

The mystery was solved when I saw one of the hens from the back while she was bending forward to peck her lunchtime corn; she is completely bald in a roughly circular patch underneath her tummy.

Plucking out feathers underneath is broody behaviour, isn't it? She's not staying on the nest, and she's still laying, I think, but there was a bit of a shouting match going on at egg laying this morning. I guess she was being told in no uncertain terms to get the hell off the nest so one of the others could lay. There were two eggs in the nest box when I looked.

She's going to have a hard time of it if she's determined to be broody, because there's only one box! I will keep a careful eye on her and make sure she doesn't start trying to hide her eggs elsewhere.

Is she likely to continue her broody behaviour if I collect all the eggs as they are laid and she doesn't get exclusive use of a nest box? I've read lots of advice in older books on breaking broodies, but frankly I didn't like the sound of it.

Last edited by Marigold123 on Tue Mar 08, 05 4:43 pm; edited 1 time in total

Treacodactyl
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Ours are often going broody. First check that you hen hasn't got any mites or lice as that may make her pull out feathers.

If she's ok and you notice her sitting in the nest box then if you try and move her she'll stick her feathers up and make a funny agitated noise.

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

If she is out for her lunchtime corn, then she probably isn't broody. I would expect her to be sitting tight in the nest box, all puffed up and fluffy looking. She will be very defensive when you go near and might try to peck if you reach down to touch her. My broody wanders around making very strange complaining noises if I take her off the nest - not the usual "it's my turn for the nest box" shouting.

If I'm wrong, and she is broody, then you can just keep chucking her off the nest box and collecting the other eggs. It is a bit of a pain doing this, but if you are not bothered about egg numbers, then she will eventually snap out of it and get back to normal - it might take a couple of weeks though. No need to suspend her in mid air in a cage or anything drastic like that.

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks, I've turned her upside down on my lap and had a look, (whilst being pecked severely in the leg by the flock leader, who doesn't like me interfering with 'her' hens!)

I can't see anything louse or mite-like, or any indication that her skin has been bitten by anything or irritated in any way. I'm familiar with head-lice, having 3 kids ; I assume lice on chickens are similar. There are no signs of mite droppings on the eggs or in the nestbox or on the nestbox roof, either. The skin does look a little dry and rough where the end of the breastbone has been rubbing against the perch, so I'll try putting vasilene or something on it, to protect her skin until her feathers grow back.

She's not showing any other sign of broodiness - she's trotting around as normal - and I'm certain she's not being bullied, so unless she was only very slightly broody and the other hens put her off, I'm rather at a loss as to why she might be pulling her feathers out. She is the rather more mental chicken of the three, so perhaps she's just unbalanced!

I had wondered whether she might be the one most likely to go broody, as being Black Rocks, they are half Rhode Island Red, (which are supposed to be good mothers and go broody quite easily), and she is much more Rhodie-looking than the others - hence the name Ginger!

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Couldn't find the vasilene, so she got Body Shop intensive handcream with hemp and lanolin! LOL Nice and greasy, though. Hope it doesn't make her high - not that I've noticed any effects when using it myself, but then I'm not a chicken!

monkey1973



Joined: 17 Jan 2005
Posts: 683
Location: Bonnie scotland
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I remember when I had a broody hen last summer, the old fella who gave me the chicken suggested that I dunk the hen in a bucket of water!! Needless to say I didn't.

Incidentally, what are the tell-tale signs of red mite taking into account that I am unable to inspect the birds close up because I can't catch them. Somebody mentioned marks on the eggs?

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

monkey1973 wrote:
Incidentally, what are the tell-tale signs of red mite taking into account that I am unable to inspect the birds close up because I can't catch them. Somebody mentioned marks on the eggs?


They don't live on the birds, so the major giveaway is the little red mites running around inside the henhouse Lift off the perch and take a look at the ends, also look where the lid of the henhouse touches the frame - anywhere there is wood-to-wood contact. If you spot them, you need to act fairly quickly as they breed at an astonishing rate, and will really take hold once the weather warms up. At best they will reduce egg output and at worst they can kill the hens.

Edited to say that if you look inside the henhouse at night with a torch you will see them if they are there - that is when they come out from hiding.

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 05 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I'll quote this bit about red mite from my old chicken book. It's 'Keeping Chickens' from the 'Garden Farming' Series, and is written by John Walters and Michael Parker - First published 1976(!)

"Red mites:

These are in fact greyish in colour, about the size of a small pinhead and live in cracks and joints in the woodwork of the house. They visit the birds at night to suck blood and it is only then that they appear red. Heavy infestations, that are easy to overlook because the inects live away from the birds, can result in anaemia and lower egg production and, in some instances, can deter the birds from laying in the nests.

Heavy infestations in a house may at first be recognised by reddish-black droppings on the eggs. When they appear, check the undersides of the nest box lids, among the litter and in crevices. Small clusters of the insects may be exposed that scatter when disturbed. Their droppings show up clearly against dark woodwork. Examine the birds at night time when the mites feed."

Hope this is some use.
-------------------------------
EDIT: Sorry, Judith, our posts must have crossed.

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Two other chickens now going bald underneath. I'm wondering whether they could be RUBBING the feathers out? They have made a dust bath in rather damp soil which has gone down to some tree roots, which are raised compared to the base of the dust bath.

Could frequent rubbing on these and against the damp sticky soil be causing their feathers to come out? I will fill the dustbath in and put a rock on it, just in case.

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I wouldn't stop your chooks dustbathing - its their way of handling parasites and they do seem to enjoy it too.
If they are spending a lot of time dustbathing and this is causing the feathers to fall out, then rather than removing the dustbath - which probably is giving them some relief - I think you need to look again for what is making them itch. Perhaps check the henhouse again for mites?
Alternatively you could give them a box of wood ashes to bathe in. That should help if it is a parasite problem, and shouldn't generate quite so much friction.

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I wasn't thinking of stopping them dusbathing, I just don't want them to do it over the tree roots, in case it's this that's rubbing the feathers off. They make new ones in different places all the time, particularly when the soil is dry.

I've checked and double-checked the hen house, but not at night yet. I'll do this tonight, just in case. I replaced the litter very recently, and gave everything a good sweep out, and there was no sign of anything untoward then.

If the feathers were falling out on their own, wouldn't it happen mostly while they were preening, (which they mostly seem to do when they roost for the night)? But there are no feathers in the house, only near the dustbathing area, or blowing around loose. I should think it would be the same if they were pulling them out because they were uncomfortable.

There's no sign on their skin that they might be sore or itchy; the bald areas on all three birds were quite easy to see when I examined them, and I could see no sign of anything sore or itchy, on any of them, though some of the feathers were a bit muddy where they've been wriggling around on the damp earth.

They're not showing any sign of being uncomfortable. No extra preening or fidgeting, or extra dustbathing either, which, with the healthy looking skin, makes me think it might be the tree roots.

I'll use a mild barrier cream to stop their skin getting dry in the cold weather, and see if I can get hold of some dry sand for them to bathe in instead.

Meanwhile, I'll keep on checking for bugs.

Can anyone tell me how long it should take for feathers lost in this way to grow back? - providing there is no underlying bug problem, of course.

Thank goodness it is more or less Spring.

Bugs



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 10744

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Marigold123 wrote:
Meanwhile, I'll keep on checking for bugs.


Why do I get the blame for *everything*

It does seem odd for her to lose many feathers *before* going broody, normally, ours seem to start pulling them out once they are sitting, to line the nest and get closer to those non-existent eggs.

Having been lucky enough not to have any nasty bugs (just me and I'm well-meaning if clumsy ) I can't offer anything useful than echoing the other comments above.

I'm fairly sure it wasn't me though

Marigold123



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

So THAT's what those funny noises were in the henhouse these last couple of nights!

I thought those muffled shouts of 'Arrgh! Get off you b*gger!' didn't sound like their usual sleepy chicken sounds.

Treacodactyl
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Joined: 28 Oct 2004
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Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

How many feathers have they lost? Our hens look very fluffy, but if you pick them up and have a rummage they don't have many underneath anyway. Between their legs towards their crop is often quite bare on ours after a season.

Did you say they are one year old birds that have not had a full moult?

judith



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 05 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Could possibly be the roots then. Unfortunately the feathers won't grow back until they moult, so it is going to be difficult to prove conclusively one way or the other. I suppose if they are otherwise happy and behaving normally and the feather loss doesn't get worse when you cover over that spot, then you may have solved the problem.

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