Here we go again

My most hated problem is back. Speckles is being plucked. I delayed mentioning this because it has taken a while for us to catch the culprits. It seems that Peaches and Barley are methodically plucking her.

The worst thing is that it’s not just her bottom but it’s all over. I posted a while back that she had pins on her bottom and was nearly fully feathered again. Soon after that post we noticed that those pins had disappeared and they have since started to come through again and have been pulled again.

I then noticed some feathers missing from her head. After that feathers were missing from her back. Next feathers were missing from her throat. Over the last few days more feathers have gone from her head leaving her bald on the left side of her head.

Speckles has a bare bottom once more

She is missing feathers from the right side of her head

The left side of her head is bare of feathers

She is missing neck feathers and some from her back too

She has a bare neck but it can only be seen when she lifts her head up and she has a triangular patch of missing feathers from her back but they can only be noticed from certain angles.

The back of her head is missing feathers

She spends a lot of time sitting in a corner looking sad

She spends time in corners or on top of the chicken shelter. I think she tries to keep herself out of the way but I have seen Peaches go up to her in the corner and pick at her head.

Last year I re homed Butterscotch with Moira at Whitehouse farm because she was getting her head plucked whenever she was broody and I didn’t feel I could part with Peaches and Barley who I have had since they were chicks. I hoped that removing Butterscotch would remove the problem.

Sadly it seems that they have just moved on to the next most vulnerable victim. Last year Butterscotch, this year Speckles. Despite the spats between Peaches and Emerald, Emerald has remained top girl and gives Peaches an occasional peck to show her. I think this means they leave Emerald alone and concentrate all their efforts on poor Speckles.

I feel absolutely torn about what to do here. I feel I can’t keep re homing girls and yet I really don’t want plucking in my flock. I am realising that Peaches and Barley will probably just keep finding a new victim to pluck and I worry about the habit spreading or the little girls getting plucked.

Peaches and Barley have also become very noisy since we have had the little girls. They spend a lot of time making mournful cries and they chase the the little girls mercilessly.

They have been with me for three years now and since they were only six weeks old. They have always been a tight pair and are inquisitive and endearing and still like to jump on my back. I am not sure if I can give them up and yet I can’t bear to see plucking and want to wipe it out from my flock.

I hate seeing Speckles head becoming more and more stripped each day. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should re home them or wait until next year and see if it happens again then. I am going to have keep thinking about this for a while. It’s just too hard a decision to make.

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21 Responses to Here we go again

  1. Dave Hanson says:

    They are probably bored out of their minds in a dry mudded run with no greenery/grass etc so turning to plucking.

    • Carol says:

      Our garden is not safe for chickens without keeping them in a predator proof run. They have a very large run for their small bantam size. They do have large shrubs in their run but inevitably they have eaten all the green to the level they can easily eat.

      I give them greens every day, usually spinach but add cabbage, broccoli stalks and many other greens including a turf sometimes and they have their own dandelion patch. They have fruit to peck at in the afternoons, apples, pears, melon or grapes. They have sweetcorn sometimes and treats of sunflower hearts or corn.

      They have ladders and perches and wooden shelters and I dig for worms with them all following my fork on a regular basis. I do everything I can to keep their lives as enriched as possible.

      Peaches and Barley are the only two girls doing this and with this pair what one of them does the other copies. They are also only targeting one girl.

      It seems that what may have triggered this was the girls being confined to half the run while I was integrating new girls which took longer than it ever has before.

      I intend to see how this continues and may wait to see if it happens again next year before deciding if Peaches and Barley would be better with my friend on her free range farm. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  2. Carol says:

    Carol, I’m so sorry. My little Jenni got plucked at night around her neck. Jamie likes to be first on the roost, Jenni usually is second. I have coated her head and neck with blukote and it helps. Jenni is very slow to regrow feathers. The feathers on her underside (she plucked from herself when she went broody for a few days) have yet to even begin to grow back. Good luck. It’s heartbreaking.

    • Carol says:

      Oh dear, I am not alone with this. It is heartbreaking. It’s the thing I hate to see most of all. I have tried the blue or purple stuff before without much success. I particularly hate it when it’s head feathers.

  3. Marion Pharo says:

    Sorry to hear this, I can’t see you can do much more than what you do, do.
    They are such well looked after girls.

    • I have bought them a cabbage in the hope that it will take longer to devour than the spinach but you are right that there isn’t much more I can do. I think what I will do is leave it until next year and see how it goes. If it doesn’t happen next year that would be great and if it does happen again next year then I will consider re homing Peaches and Barley with Moira. This will also give me the chance to chat about it with Moira when I next see her.

  4. Amy Sanchez says:

    Oh, I am sorry. I know how you’ve struggled with this. It’s such a naughty habit.

    • It breaks my heart. Last year Peaches and Barley were doing this to Butterscotch but I couldn’t bear to part with them so I removed Butterscotch from the equation instead in the hope that it would stop there. I should have realised that removing the victim instead of the perpetrators was always going to be a gamble. However, I am clinging to the thought that the stress of recent integrations may have been the catalyst and if it doesn’t happen next year we are home and dry but if it does happen next year it will probably always happen until I take action once more. These are such awful decisions to have to make and mull over.

  5. Jenny says:

    Would you consider splitting the run and keeping Peaches and Barley separate from the others?

  6. David Anderson says:

    It’s an invidious situation to be in, Carol, but you’re right not to knee-jerk into any decisions. I am having some similar problems, unfortunately. However, remember the Hen Cam: Terry’s birds were feather-pecking badly last year and yet they look much better this year.

  7. Sophie says:

    Gosh Carol I can’t believe the first comment……no-one can do more for their chickens than you do! I hope it works out.

    • Dave Hanson says:

      But if they’re in a barren lifeless enclosure they’ll get butted.

      They’re exceptionally well looked after, but I’ve been following on here for a long time and I suspect they’re just a tad bored.

      • I have tried my best to get green into their run but everything I have planted, even when I have protected it at first, gets stripped to the height they can reach. I do bring in greens every day and do what I can to occupy the girls. I give them piles of leaves in autumn and plants dug out of the garden in summer and turfs when available. Today they are having whole cabbage to keep them pecking at it.

    • I found it harsh too but everyone has a right to their opinion and I have a right to reply as best I can. I also have to report everything to keep my blog honest. I have to show the bad along with the good.

  8. Lucy says:

    Oh how dismaying. And frustrating. Wish there was a way to communicate to them what a wonderful life they have and for them to behave and enjoy. And a way to console and cheer poor Speckles.

    • It is frustrating. Speckles has always been bottom of the bigger girls and I always feel sorry for the bottom girl but I know there has to be a bottom girl. Cinnamon is bottom of the little girls and I feel sorry for her too as she gets chased by both the bigger girls and Rusty and Freckles.

  9. Marion Pharo says:

    As I said before I think you could not do much more for your girls.

    • Thank you, I don’t think there is much more I can do. I am giving them extra greens at the moment. I am missing greens from Jackie’s allotment this year so I am giving them spring cabbage which keeps them pecking at the stalks to get all the green.

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