Things You'll Need
Straw or wood shavings
Chickens pull out the feathers of other members of their flocks for a variety of reasons, and roosters can be especially vicious with feather plucking. Some roosters will pluck all of the feathers off hens' tails, while also plucking their own feathers. In extreme cases, feather plucking can lead to infection and even cannibalism. With proper husbandry and careful protection of any hens who become injured as a result of feather plucking, it is possible to stop this problematic behavior.
Provide your flock with lots of space. Roosters who live in cramped cages or in overpopulated flocks are especially likely to pluck feathers. Chickens are active animals who need space in which to run around. If your chickens are kept in cages, let them out to run around for an hour at least twice a day. Overcrowding at feeding and watering areas is especially problematic. Provide several feed and water dishes so that animals don't cluster together and fight.
Feed your chickens an appropriate diet. Roosters pluck the feathers of other birds when they're suffering from nutritional deficiencies, and a lack of protein is especially likely to cause feather plucking. The ideal chicken diet contains at least 20% protein.Chicken mash is a better choice than pellets and can decrease feather plucking. Give both roosters and hens a chicken multivitamin.
House chickens on litter instead of bare wire floors. Chickens have a nesting instinct and, if not allowed to nest, will resort to plucking the feathers from other birds. Avoid using cat litter or sand. Chickens thrive in straw and wood shavings.
Add one tablespoon of salt to every gallon of the birds' water every three days for one week. Mineral deficiencies frequently cause feather pecking, and salt can remedy these deficits.
Remove any hens from the flock whose tails have been plucked till they bleed. Injuries can increase plucking behavior and may even lead to cannibalism.
- Robert Plamondon's Poultry Pages: Chicken Health Issues
- "Raising Chickens for Dummies"; Kimberly Lewis and Rob Ludlow; 2009
- "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, 3rd Edition"; Gail Damerow; 2010
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.