Rhode Island Reds Tail feathers missing??

twonicklefarms(7)November 30, 2009

Hello all!

I'm new here so I hope someone can help??!! I just got 29 Rhode Island Red laying hens and noticed that many of their tail featheres were missing (over half)?? Is it possible that they are just moulting? The farmer I purchased them from told me they were about 40 weeks old and were good layers. I'm told they peak at about 35 weeks or so and then slowly decline in egg production from there, but produce well into their 2nd/3rd year. I've only got about 2 eggs a day from ALL 29! Could the stress of the move be effecting egg production? Any help would be appreciated.

Steve in NJ

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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Hi Steve, I'm no chicken expert, but I know that any type of stress will throw them off laying. How long have you had them? They will also slow down due to shorter days and weather change. Also, are you feeding the same feed as the guy you got them from? wouldn't worry too much about their tail feathers at this point. They should settle into their new surroundings and start laying soon. A light on a timer will help them, too. Good Luck.

Luke

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 5:35PM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Thanks Luke!

I have only had them 5 days. I didn't expect tons of eggs right away but I thought 1 or 2 a day was not much considering I have 29 chickens. We got two today. The light on a timer, should that be outside or in the coop?

Thanks for the reply!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 7:00PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Put it inside where they are laying. If you can, hardwire a light fixture. If you use a wall plug, I suggest that you use a GFCI outlet, a little more expensive, but it's cheap insurance. Let us know when egg production picks up. Just a thought, do you have enough floor and nesting space?

Luke

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 8:33PM
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prmsdlndfrm

It is expected that when hens are moved that they will cease to lay for about a week or so. Also losing feathers, as the new surroundings and such messed up there pecking order, so pecking, feather pulling and fighting will ensue. Your lucky to have gotten a couple eggs. Seeing how its been 5 days givem a couple more. Put some gatorade in thier water, add some milk to thier feed. They will settle down. Give 1 nest per 5-7 hens and youll do fine. Enjoy, youll soon be getting 10-15 eggs a day. And follow the light program the fellow before sugested.
Josh

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 9:29PM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Thanks EVERYBODY for the advice. To update you on some of your questions. Luke: I am feeding them what they were getting (DuMor Crumbles) out of gravity feeder and cracked corn sprinkled in their run once a day. Also plenty of fresh water out of 3 and 1/2 gallon waterer.
Luke and Josh: They have approx 6' x 10' coop with 8 nesting boxes. I installed a couple perches last night. I will hard wire a fixture in the coop and run power from a GFCI circuit and try the Gatorade and milk.

THANKS
Steve

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 7:02AM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Steve, Sounds a bit crowded. I think that about 4 sq ft per bird is the recommendation. Also, another stress factor for them is not enough roosting area, they are constantly jockeying for position, especially if they were roosting in the past. This is certainly your call, but you may want to consider fewer chickens. It has been my experience to get almost 90% production when they are laying well and at times
go down to 40%. Just to give you an idea on how many eggs that you can expect. There are many factors that cause this fluxuation, that's just the way it is. With winter coming on, this is a tough time of year to get started with chickens. Remember, you want this to be an enjoyable experience. Don't mean to preach.

Luke

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 8:10AM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Thanks again Luke. Please.....preach away. So basically I should have about 15 hens in this amount of space and add more roosting space?? I failed to mention that I have a 10 X 20 run attached (fenced in). I'd like to keep the birds I have so I'll build another coop.

As you can probably tell, I'm new at this. We purchased a small farm (10 acres) in August and are just starting out. We figured we would start with chickens because I don't have the equipment needed to farm the ground. Considering letting a neighboring farmer farm some of it?? Don't want to lose my farm assessment for tax purposes.

Anyway, any and all advice is welcome. Preach it Brother!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 8:27AM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Is coop size effected in any way based on wether the chickens are free range, Coop + run or just cooped? Right now I'm not letting them free range for a couple reasons. 1. I was told to wait at least a week so they know where their coop is. 2. We have a lot of hawks and OPEN ground. The do have a 10 X 20 fenced run attached to the coop and covered with poultry net.

Thanks
Steve

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 8:40AM
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prmsdlndfrm

coop size is affected by the fact of wether or not they have access to outside. When I began I had a small chicken coop 4x8. I ran 30 hens out of it for a couple years no problems. But they were let out at dawn every morning. But they do need to be kept in till they know were home is. But in the long run free range birds need about 2-4 square feet of coop space, it just gives you a little elbow room, if you will, for health and hygeine. When our coop was that small it was a headache as far as keeping it clean, they had more of a tendancy to want to roost on the nest, dirty eggs etc.
Josh

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 6:57PM
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posy_pet(z6Mo.)

Sounds to me like they are moulting.Mine are and out of 12 hens I am only getting 1 or 2 eggs a day and those are small from my broody forever banties.They raised chicks all summer so should be able to lay now!Google moulting and you can see the sequence of feather loss.A few of my hens lost all their tail feathers at once.Posy_Pet

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 8:53PM
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mikes100acdreamfarm

Hi Steve

All the advise above sound pretty good. Molting is a good possibility. Also were you there when he caught them. We use a leg catch for our chickens and turkeys when we catch them to sell but the Guineas are a different story. Feathers get left behind every time with them. Another thought besides the molting. possibly lice came with them. Try some Sevin dust especially if there is a lot of the vent and tail fluff showing. If itÂs the actual tail feathers it can still be lice. ItÂs probably pretty cold in NJ and the Rhodes are a heavy bird that will fluctuate a lot in the winter but will continue to lay. After the girls are settled in if they still arenÂt laying as much as you think they should (and remember they will back off substantially in the winter) then try some red pepper flakes sprinkled free choice on their feed ration. It gets the blood moving and warms them up and also helps with internal parasites. Hope you have buyers lined up for the Spring.
Mike

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 11:55PM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to give everybody an update. The Hens laid 4 eggs yesterday. I started to build the floor of a bigger coop. I'm going 8' X 12' right next to the exising coop and will still utilize that one. In addition to that I'm expanding their run upon completion of the new coop. Going to try letting them free range this weekend. They will have been at my property for 10 days then. A couple managed to get out yesterday and they stayed pretty close to the existing coop so I think they will be OK. We do have red tailed hawk in the area so I'll keep an eye on the count.

Thanks again for eveyones input. Hope I can return the favor some day!

Steve

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 6:57AM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Steve, Sounds like a good plan. Good luck to you.

Luke

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 8:43AM
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twonicklefarms(7)

OK, we are up to 6 eggs a day. I have expanded their run and added more roost space. Still working on the additional coop. Tail feathers starting to come back in, best I can tell. Weather has been really bad. Loving every minute of it. Plan on adding to the flock in the spring so I'm making the new coop large enough to accomodate the extra hens. Thinking about going with Buff Orpingtons?? Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 8:36AM
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prmsdlndfrm

Buff Orpingtons are great birds, good layers, good mothers, and good eating. Fairly disease resistant and calm.
josh

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 3:34PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Steve, I have 9 Buff Orpingtons for all of the reasons that Josh mentioned, except eating...never ate one of my hens. They are also easier to keep in cold weather do to extra feathering. They are my bird of choice. Which hatchery do you plan to get them from?

Luke

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 10:50AM
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twonicklefarms(7)

I was looking at Murray McMurray. Any other suggestions?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 2:44PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Meyer Hatchery in Poe,OH. is within 1/2 hour from my house. I have always got good chicks from them. It's a top notch operation. Check out their web page and request a catalog. Check their web site frequently as they have specials from time to time. I got my Buffs for 1/2 price. Most of their chicks are hatched on Mondays and you might call them and ask if they have any overages. Pretty easy to deal with.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 7:19PM
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twonicklefarms(7)

Great Thanks!! I ordered the catalog and will give them a call. Thanks again.

Steve

    Bookmark   December 11, 2009 at 2:56PM
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