We have recently updated this site to improve security. As a result you may need to reset your password next time you log in. Simply click the Reset Password link and follow the instructions. Sorry for any inconvenience.

feather pecking

susansusan Junior Member
edited January 2007 in Poultry Health and Welfare
Hi, one of our copper marans has taken to feather pecking our other maran and 2 speckledys. The speckledys have come off worse and have now lost feathers under their beaks. Have tried spray and a veternary spray but it dosen't seem to deter her. Have also hung up cabbage etc. Have now separated her by alternating the time they spend in our secondary run. Obviously I have only one hen house so they have to all roost together. How long can I expect to have to separate them? Please help!


  • SandySandy Senior Member
    edited January 2007
    You need to separate the feather pecker... or she will soon start on the vents of the other birds and you will have dead birds... and she will be the only one alive

    Here is some information on Cannibalism and Feather pecking

    Have a read.. very interesting

    Feather picking

    Feather picking is the pecking of a bird's feathers by another bird. It may range from simple nibbling, with no apparent feather damage, to the persistent picking at the veins of feathers leaving ragged looking shafts, to the complete removal of feathers.

    Feather removal is the most serious because: the skin is exposed to physical injury
    the bird loses more heat than is normal and therefore has to eat more feed and blood may be drawn, particularly if new feather buds are removed, which in turn will lead to cannibalism.

    Feather picking is habit forming; birds will instil this characteristic in others and soon the whole flock will be affected. Once cannibalism breaks out, immediate action must be taken to prevent serious injuries and mortality.

    Feather picking may be directed to the plumage on any part of the body, with the back, rump and tail being the usual targets. It resembles feed pecking or exploratory pecking, which is usually directed toward the head.
    Birds can begin to peck each other at any age, but the periods of greatest risk are 3 to 6 weeks of age and 12 weeks of age to the point of lay.

    Young chicks tend to toe pick, while layers tend toward head picking and vent picking. Head picking is the picking of injured combs or wattles. If vent picking is not stopped, "blow-outs" will occur.

    This happens when vent picking affects the muscular elasticity of the vent area and with consequent egg passage "blow-outs" occur. Vent picking usually occurs in layers that have had a history of some other picking problem.
    The first signs of feather picking are uneasiness in the flock and a shyness in some birds that appear to be non-layers. There is a positive correlation between the amount of feather picking damage sustained and fearfulness.

    Causes of Feather Picking
    Feather picking is usually caused by a combination of one or more of the following:
    • Deficiencies in Nutrition
    • dietary imbalances, including
    • inadequate diet
    • lack of fiber in the diet
    • excess corn in the ration
    • mineral deficiencies
    • excess salt
    • lack of feed and water space
    • lack of feed and feeding time
    • feeding pelleted or compressed feeds
    • cafeteria-style feeding
    • Deficiencies in Management
    • Certain strains of birds are more susceptible
    • Social stresses:
    • overcrowding
    • insufficient nests
    • boredom
    • Environmental stresses
    • poor ventilation
    • high temperature and humidity
    • bright lighting
    • Health stresses
    • injuries
    • external parasites - lice and mites
    When any or a combination of these stresses are applied to the bird there is usually some type of reaction which, in most cases, comes as an abnormal behaviour such as feather picking.

    Preventing Feather Picking

    Once started, feather picking is extremely difficult to stop; therefore, its prevention is more important than its cure. Prevention takes a good sound poultry management program, such as the following:

    Supply a proper and well-balanced ration bird, based on age.
    Use a proper feeding system that provides lots of space and lots of feed.
    Oats in the ration will increase the needed fiber.
    Ensure proper salt levels in the ration.
    Birds take a longer time to eat mash rations, having less time to be bored.


    Don't choose a bird with a bad reputation for pecking.
    Social Structure
    supply adequate space, floor, nest
    reduce boredom
    keep birds eating
    re-bed or add new litter
    keep cage numbers small (3-4)
    keep birds calm
    steady noise, such as radios or buzzers, habituates birds to noises and movements.


    Supply adequate ventilation to remove stale air and bring in fresh air.
    Birds are most comfortable at a temperature of 60 to 70 F.
    Dim lights using dimmer switches down to .25 - 1.0 foot candle.


    Treat parasites immediately
    Remove injured birds promptly

    Beak Trimming

    The purpose is to remove the sharp point of the beak.
    Age : Trim at one day old or 7-10 days old; if necessary, touch-up at 10-12 weeks of age.


    Trimming takes a maximum of 2 days/pen.
    Use blade temperature of 1500 F (812ºC) (dark cherry red color).
    Use a sharp blade.
    Cauterization time of 2-25 seconds
    Hold birds so tongue is not burnt.
    Use clean and properly adjusted equipment.
    Feeders and waterers should be full for ease of feeding.
    Use a vitamin, electrolyte mix in the water.
    Use skilled personnel.
    Don't debeak sick or over-stressed birds.

    The prevention and control of feather picking and cannibalism relies on a sound poultry management program. Problems with feather picking can be quickly altered, but only as soon as the stress has been identified and the step in prevention and control has been taken.
    P. Hunton, 1982 Leaflet 480, Min. of Ag.
    Written by Alex Oderkirk, Poultry Specialist, Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing, PO Box 550, Truro, NS, B2N 5E3, February 10, 1986 references: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsaf/elibrary/archive/index.htm
Sign In or Register to comment.