Thursday, July 19, 2007

Plucked Chickens

We haven't been able to figure out why the younger Rhode Island Reds have bare backs. We thought it started when we still had a rooster, and when he disappeared, figured that their feathers would start to grow back. He's been gone for at least 3 months now and they still don't have feathers.

I sought some advice from online forums and from friends who also raise chickens, and decided that one possibility is that the follicle the feathers come out of could be damaged, although I don't think that would account for the complete lack of re-growth. Another possibility is that the older hens are simply being bossy. Or, because the plucked skin is pretty red from the sun, and chickens are attracted to the color red, the older hens, or even all of them, could be pecking at the bare skin.

So I decided that we needed to try two things simultaneously. First, we would put the older hens, except the other RIR, in a smaller "isolation" area, that has food, water, a perch, shade, etc, behind the main coop and within the fenced area. There are just no nesting boxes there, but hens will lay on the ground, too.

Second, I bought some Blu-Kote and sprayed the bare skin. This did two things for us. It turned the red skin purple (blue+red=purple, go figure!), which hopefully will deter the pecking. Plus we hope it will promote healing. It's a germicide/fungicide, antiseptic, protective wound dressing. Not specifically mentioned for chickens, it's for horses and dogs. It also says not to use on cats--maybe because they would ingest it, but I'm not sure, really.

I also had noticed that one of the older hens, a Dominique, has foot pads that are rather swollen-looking, although there is no apparent infection and nothing tied around the feet to cause swelling. So I sprayed her feet. We'll see if anything happens in either situation.

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Dana said...

Hope you can figure it out. I want chickens and I think it will be one of our first purchases if we ever do get the little piece of land we keep talking about.