Chicken diet/ Feather loss question.

jenica(7B)March 3, 2009

Hi everyone,

I have two separate but related questions. My first concerns feather loss. I have 20 laying hens about half RIR and the other half Americaunas, plus two Americauna roosters. 4 of the RIRs have been bald on their saddles for about 6 months now and I don't know what else to do for them. 2 of them are even missing feathers on their wings. The feathers they have are dull and look pretty ratty and the ones on the wings are split. The RIRs are a little over 1 1/2 years old. Now some of the Americaunas are starting to lose feathers on their saddles. I'm positive they are being offered plenty of protein although that doesn't necessarily mean they're eating it, more on this later. I thought it might be a vitamin deficiency or that the roosters where tearing them out and the ones with the missing feathers were just favorites. Any ideas?

My second is on diet. I started mixing my own feed this fall because I had access to really cheap raw ingredients and I wanted to avoid byproducts anyway. I read up and found out about Pearson's Square which lets you calculate total protein. My feed formula is 8 2/3 parts wheat, 8 2/3 parts cracked corn, 4 1/3 parts oat, and one part soybean meal. If I figured this out right that should give them 17% protein. The reason why I'm sure they are being offered enough protein is because I misremembered the formula and have accidentally been giving them 4 parts soybean meal (I'm going to be using the correct formula from now on). I also give them a vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte supplement called Vi-tal in their water and oyster shell free choice. So my questions are, does this sound like a good diet for the birds? Could I add something that would help with the feather loss? Because the soybean meal is a powder and the rest of the feed is bigger pieces could they be picking out the grain and therefore not be getting enough protein?

Thanks for any help.

Jenica

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fancifowl(5Pa)

Mixing your own feed is not as simple as most think it is. we fed an all whole grain diet for a few years but its too much trouble to get right. Some meat products would be good for them. generally you will get out of them what you put intio them. remove the males for 6 weeks and see if that doesnt allow some feather regrowth. I would bet they are tread by the cocks.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 2:31PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Watch the birds for a bit--are they pecking each other and yanking feathers? Are they picking themselves? Do you find feathers on the ground, or none? If a bird does yank a feather, does it then eat it or spit it out? How is their skin--dry and itchy?

Eating feathers can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency, usually protein. Overcrowding and boredom can lead to pecking and picking in general. Since you say the feathers are dull (dry skin can go along with this), you might try adding some oils to their diet--pet stores sell some feed supplement oils for birds that you can mix into their daily feed ration, or set some vitamin E capsules and mix a few capsules contents into the daily ration. Don't mix it into the feed barrel itself, you don't want it to spoil and go rancid.

Try changing up their diet a bit-- offer some table scraps once in a while, live mealworms, fresh greens--chickens are omnivores, like you and I, and like you and I, don't thrive on just one type of food.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 1:09AM
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jenica(7B)

I forgot to mention that they free-range all over the place during the day. So they do get plenty of greens and during the winter they have access to the garden where they seem to eat plenty of worms. They also find lots of treats in my compost bin aka the chickens treat bin.

They don't pick at each other too much just the occasional peck to establish order but if anyone looses a down feather they eat that. They don't eat the top feathers though. A couple of the blond Americaunas were in the habit of pecking when they were chicks and were confined but I haven't seen them do it since I started letting them loose. They could be doing it when I'm not watching though.

I didn't think about the dry skin and I have some flax oil that I bought for my dog and he won't eat so I think I'll give that a try.

I'm wondering if clipping my roosters' nails would help if it is them causing the feather loss. I'd hate to keep them locked away.

Thanks for the help

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 10:46AM
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