HOW TO CONTROL FEATHER PICKING

(Extracted from the book "BANTAM CHICKENS" author Fred P. Jeffrey page 118)

It must be recognised that modern commercial feeds, with all their good points, do not control feather picking. An alert grower can pretty well control feather picking, although there are always surprises and one keeps learning all the time. Some suggestions are:-

 

  1. Keep your eye open every day as you do the chores --particularly when chicks are young. Feather picking can be well established by the time chicks are 2 weeks of age. The most critical ages are from three to ten weeks.
  2. If feather picking is well established, that is almost all the birds are picked to some degree, it is best to tip the upper beak of all the birds in the flock (affected group). For this purpose a small wire-cutter is excellent. One need not cut back the upper beak more than the tip and in some cases will draw blood but this is nothing to worry about. Slight debeaking of this magnitude will completely control feather picking and by the time the beak grows back to its' full length, most flocks will be in full feather. The upper beak will become normal in length in four to six weeks and one would never know that debeaking had ever taken place.
  3. If feather picking is detected early, it is possible to identify and debeak the ring leaders and thus control it.
  4. It is helpful if the victims -- at least the ones picked the most -- could be put together in a small pen so that they can feather out, and then in three to four weeks be returned to their flock. As further insurance, these picked birds should also get the debeaking treatment even though they themselves were probably not doing the picking.

During the growing period, which may be defined as the ages of six weeks until sexual maturity, the diet should be closely related to the type of management program being followed. If reared in confinement or have access to a yard devoid of green feed, it is as well to feed a higher concentration of mash or pellets than one would do when the birds are on a grassy back yard or range. As a matter of fact it is probably best not to feed scratch grains at all to them -- give them nothing but the complete diet.

 

Sanderlin (1975) writes on the control of feather picking:

"From my grandfather I got a great remedy for the cannabalism in chicks -- Vicks Vap-O-Rub -- as good and cheaper than many commercial preparations. I keep a jar on hand during colds season for my children and one during the brooding period for the chicks and it works well on both, although neither like it very much."