Just when everything settles down nicely, a new problem arises. A few days ago I noticed that when Bluebell stretched her neck she had a bare batch on her neck. I then noticed that when Dotty stretched her neck she too had a bare patch. Pepper was as fluffy as ever.
My husband then said he had seen Pepper pulling neck feathers from Bluebell and Dotty while they sat in front of her just letting her do it. Their bare patches were getting bigger and I then saw Pepper plucking feathers from them but only from the window and couldn’t catch her in the act which makes it difficult to do anything about it.
This morning however when doing my early morning clean up I saw the three of them sitting together under the bush and Pepper was plucking their necks. They just sat passively and let her do it. I told her off and pushed her away. This is so frustrating because they were all looking pristine and healthy and now Bluebell and Dotty are looking scruffy and bare in parts. Pepper has never ever pecked at Dotty (they were babies together and have always been tight) but this isn’t a bullying thing it’s more of a habit. They sit together as if Pepper is preening them. It’s difficult to stop her doing this because we can only stop her when we are with them.
I thought of using the blue spray on their necks but think it probably won’t make any difference as it’s not the bareness that’s attracting her but the feathers themselves. I know it’s not lack of protein (they can eat feathers for protein) because I give them plenty. As well as daily greens and some fruit I alternate between giving them scrambled egg, tuna, dried meal worms, sunflower hearts and digging them worms from the veg plot.
I have heard of this happening to others but I don’t know how to stop it. You can fit a chicken saddle or apron to protect a chicken if pecked on their backs but there isn’t anything to protect their necks. I can hardly give them a scarf or neckerchief. We have freezing temperatures at the moment too which isn’t a good time to be bare.
I have also read that when the feathers molt, new one grow back in but when feathers are plucked they don’t regrow until the next molt. They won’t molt until next autumn so that’s a long time to be bare.
I took these yesterday with difficulty because it’s hard to catch then stretching their necks. Every time me or my husband have been out to them this morning Pepper has been plucking them. I wonder how bare they will get before she stops. This is really upsetting. It has started since we lost Treacle and I don’t know if that has triggered it. Treacle was a more aggressive top hen than Pepper when it came to pecking the girl’s and showing who was boss but she never plucked feathers. I am finding this really sad to see.