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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:43 am 
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Hatchling
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Hi there!

Does anyone out there know any reason as to why chickens pluck their flock-mates? I have three Australorps that I have had to separate from the rest of my flock because they were not feathering out. Originally I thought it was a different hen plucking them in the flock but having separated them for nearly 6 weeks, I have begun to realise that it's these three who are the ones doing the plucking.

In the first 3 weeks of isolation they were going really well - little feathers starting to fill in their bald spots until one afternoon I found all 3 of them in the corner of the yard taking turns at pulling out each others new feathers and very willingly so! It took about 5mins of plucking to undo 3 weeks of beautiful feather growth and I was absolutely devastated!

They are on a balanced 'Red Hen' diet of grain and pellets so I'm assuming that it isn't protein deficiency. They've been wormed as of 2 weeks ago so the only thing I can maybe put it down to is just a bad habit? If so, any suggestions on how to snap them out of it because I'm worrying that they may never have their beautiful feathers back/pass their bad habits onto the main flock when they return.

Also, I believe that the habit may have started when there was a particularly aggressive Australorp Roo introduced into the flock. He wasn't the most gentlest of lovers and as a result a lot of my hens had bald backs. I did have them wearing saddles for a while but then it got too hot so I took them off. Most of the girls haven't really ever grown their feathers back since then and the rooster has been gone now for roughly 2 months.

Thanks to anyone who may have a suggestion!


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File comment: Another one of Jean. The third - Nancy was laying an egg at the time so I couldn't get a photo of her. Her feather condition probably is somewhere between that of Jean and Daphne though.
Jean.jpg
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File comment: This is Daphne. I think she is the ring leader of the three - hence why I think she has so many more feathers
Daphne.jpg
Daphne.jpg [ 2.41 MiB | Viewed 599 times ]
File comment: The one on the left - Jean, is the worst out of the three. I think she is at the bottom of the pecking order as I've seen the other two pick on her A LOT!
Jean & Daphne.jpg
Jean & Daphne.jpg [ 2.33 MiB | Viewed 599 times ]
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:14 am 
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Junior Champion Bird
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You say balanced diet, how much grain are they getting?

From memory Salt deficiency can lead to feather plucking in broilers. The pellet will be balanced but if they are eating a lot of grain they may not be getting enough salt.

I wouldn’t add any additional salt, I would just review how much grain they were getting and consider reducing it so they eat more pellets.

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Cheers, Milo.
I observe in fascination a worm move by peristaltic action through the freshly turned earth as I plant out my chilies. Grasping the Annelid I toss it to the waiting pack of beady-eyed vultures and watch the ensuing mayhem while laughing like a chook!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:16 am 
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Junior Champion Bird
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Found the reference

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2145FE2B-74EA-4D4A-9083-8266C9CEED6E.jpeg
2145FE2B-74EA-4D4A-9083-8266C9CEED6E.jpeg [ 236.07 KiB | Viewed 587 times ]

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Cheers, Milo.
I observe in fascination a worm move by peristaltic action through the freshly turned earth as I plant out my chilies. Grasping the Annelid I toss it to the waiting pack of beady-eyed vultures and watch the ensuing mayhem while laughing like a chook!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:41 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Try some environmental enrichment. I would give them some litter to scratch in. Put a 10-20cm deep layer of material in their pen/run - can be wood shavings, sugar cane mulch, leaves, fine wood chips or a mix of anything like the above. That’ll give them the opportunity to perform some natural behaviours (scratching and pecking in the litter) that might reduce the need to peck at eachother.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:42 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Ps. Scatter a bit of the grain through the litter to encourage them to scratch through it.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 11:00 am 
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Hatchling
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Thank you everyone for your replies!

After I mentioned about the food being balanced I realised that I was probably wrong about that. The girls do tend to go for the grain before they'll go for the pellets but unfortunately I have literally a tonne of the food which would be a GIGANTIC waste if I were to change it (it's a long story). I have been incorporating liquid supplements from Vetsense ('Avi-lyte' and 'Avi-vital') once a week which has improved the quality of their eggs I must say but the feather situation is still a mystery.

@70%cocoa - I have noticed that they do spend a lot of time in the a big pile of hay we have laying in their yard (the hay is for the sheep who share the same space as the girls). Would this count as an environmental enrichment? If so, I am still finding them plucking each other when they come together in the evenings for perching - they are three seriously stubborn ladies!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:47 am 
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Champion Bird
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I have 4 commercially bred australorp pullets that we got at 10 weeks, theyre now 6 months old laying well but have a similar issue with bad feather pecking around the back near the base of the tail, they were fine until 5 or 6 weeks ago when one was pecked so bad she ended up with an open wound and had to be separated, since then all but one have at least had one instance where they had to be isolated for the same reason, the more dominant one is the main culprit but aside from the lowest ranked one they are all doing it and are constantly agressive to each other, i have tried blue food dye over the bare patches to deter the pecking but it didnt stop them, currently i have 2 of them isolated by themselves til their wounds heal and am getting close to moving at least the main one on to a new home, they have a large coop and will be let out into a pretty large run during the day if i can ever get them all in there for 2 days without problems so they know where to go to roost. They have me very lost and frustrated as i dont like them suffering and have so far managed to prevent the wounds becoming infected but the warm weather has me worried about flies getting to the wounds. They were on peters free range poultry mix but are switching to layer pellets this week which im hoping will have some effect on the pecking.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:52 pm 
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Hatchling
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pariah92 It sounds suspiciously similar doesn't it? My girls are exactly the same. I hatched mine from eggs and up until around about the 6 month mark (like your girls) they started the aggression towards each other. Before then they had the most beautiful glossy black feathers that the Australorp breed is so well-known for! Like you, I also have a large run for them to occupy themselves with but the dominant two of my girls will literally hunt down the lower ranked hen and go to town on her back. The worst part is that she will just crouch down and take it - like she would if it were a rooster. Having so much space to roam in, it baffles me as to why she doesn't try to escape them...

I have heard that Australorps being a softer feathered breed are more prone to feather loss compared to other breeds but never did I think it would become such a problem. I am really starting to fear that if I do give them a different feed that supplies whatever it is that is lacking, they maybe too far into the routine of it that they'll do it out of habit regardless.

I have 5 other beautiful white Australorps that are nearing the 6 month old mark in a different run to these three. I am terrified that they may end up like the other girls if I can't figure out what to do to stop it. It would be such a shame because like pariah92 mentioned, it leaves me frustrated and lost as I absolutely hate seeing them hurting each other!

I guess the best course of action for me at least would be to swap their feed onto a full pellet mix so they can't be selective with the grain in their old food- as much as it pains me to have to potentially waste the 1 tonne bag of it!


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