Feather Picking - let experience be the teacher!

This contribution by Peter Shands


I hold the vision of my beautiful Campines so firmly in my mind that I only see perfection ... a vision that is very simply shattered for me if I discover the onset of feather picking in any of my pens. This rapid decline from such great beauty is more than superficial, it also means a change to management of the flock.


In the book "BANTAM CHICKENS" by Fred P. Jeffrey 0n Page 117 the Author describes feather picking as follows:-


"Feather picking is a vice of confinement -- it is virtualluy unknown in birds in the wild or in chicks cared for by a mother hen. It is rare in birds which are not crowded in confinement and it is practically unknown in growing birds which have free range. Birds like to eat feathers -- perhaps it is a craving for fibre. Some factors related to feather picking are these:

  1. Slow-feathering varieties,such as Rhode Island Reds, when reared with fast-feathering birds are more apt to have their feathers picked.
  2. Males feather out more slowly than femalesand.therfore,are more apt to get featherpicked than their female mates.
  3. Chicks with bright or contrasting plumage colors are more likely to e vitims if reared with varieties of uniform or drab color.
  4. Growing birds, when strecthed outfor sunning, expose their less feathered areas -- along the sides and edges of back --and become targets for those birds whhich like to pull feathers.
  5. Feather picking is more likely to start when birds are on a feed which is marginal in protein. As pointed out above, ... (During the first 3 weeks of life it is best to keep the chicks on a standard starting mash or crumbles. If chick grains are fed it will be found that chicks prefer them to mash. Supplementing with chick grains will retard body growth and also help in preventing pasting-up but if overdone may encourage feather picking because total protein intake may become too low.) ... heavy feeding of scratch grains early in life encourages feather picking. Birds on such a diet have a craving for protein and growing feathers with their pulpy ends are greatly relished.
  6. Close confinement is the most important pre-disposing  factor -- whether birds are fed a complete or restricted diet. Under commercial conditions it is a common sight to observe heavily picked birds on a complete diet but being reared under crowded conditions.

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