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dislaney

Strange feather damage - any clues?

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Hi all - I recently added two Copper Black Marans Maisie and Daisy to my ever expanding flock of 24 girls. The breeder said that they were around 6 months old and both were laying. They settled in really well with the group, and starting laying little dark eggs straight away. I noticed on arrival that they appeared to have some broken or missing feathers in the 'small of their back', just before the tail feathers which were more fanlike than on my other Cuckoo Marans. I didn't think that this was a problem, and they had been sprayed for 'critters' like all my new girls before adding to the flock.

 

They've now been with me for about 8 weeks, and the feather damage is quite strange. It looks as if all the feathers at the base of the tail along the back are broken off close to the skin, and a few more of the tail feathers are also snapped half way down. Maisie has a damaged wing feather too - it's easy to spot the broken ones as the white of the quill stands out immediately against their lovely black plumage. I can't spot any crawlies on them, there are no missing feathers elsewhere on either of them and the rest of the flock don't have any missing or damaged feathers anywhere. They aren't scratching themselves, or overly attentive on the grooming front. They are in good health, still in lay, and not being bullied as far as I can tell. The flock is in a huge enclosed grass run out in our field.

 

Having said all of that, it also looks as if there is some new feather growth coming through too - fluffy down feathers around the base of the tail, and longer glossy feathers on the middle of the back starting to grow down towards the tail. They are also growing some new feathers on their heads.

 

So I'm really puzzled - they seem too young to be moulting, and the feathers are damaged anyway rather than falling out. Any clues please? Is it a health or breed related issue?

 

Thanks in advance! :)

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I would say you have a feather pecker. I have this with two frizzled Polish bantams and the culprit is Madonna, a smooth feathered Polish who keeps herself pristine. I've seen her at it, and so know it is her! She does it in the summer although this year, it has not been so pronounced. Nothing works except allowing them as much free range time as possible so I think there is a boredom element in it.

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Could they be pecking each other then? Because they came to me like this, and I don't think I have another feather pecker in the group otherwise more hens would be damaged.

 

Or perhaps they were in with a feather pecker before they came to me, and it's just taking time for the damaged feathers to grow out?

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Did the breeder have a cockerel? It sounds like damage from being tread, my girls have the same from where Lucky has got 'lucky'! If this is the case they'll grow back eventually.

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I think she did have a cockerel! And having Googled 'cockerel feather damage hens', a lot of the photos look very similar to poor Maisie and Daisy ... But some of the feather loss looks more recent, and I've read that some hens can aggressively mount other hens, so I'll keep an eye on the situation and perhaps separate them for a bit if necessary. I've got some ex-bats refeathering in the garden and didn't want to put Maisie and Daisy in with them if they were feather-pluckers (for obvious reasons!), but it might make sense to put them in with them so they can get the benefits of the ex-bat feed and drink supplements for a bit ...

 

Hmmm! Thanks for your help. :)

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That sounds like classic feather pecking damage to me, cockerel damage is usually at the back of the head and on the 'shoulders' of the wings. With the correct nutrition and care, they should re-feather soon enough.

 

If they haven't been wormed since you got them, then worm them with Flubenvet, add a good poultry tonic to the water (NetTex and Life-Guard are both good) and ensure that they have a diet of mainly layers feed with a few mealworms to add extra protein to help them grow new feathers.

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If only confined to that area and not their bottoms too I would say its cockerel damage

 

You'll soon know if it's feather pecking as it will normally spread to other areas, further towards their heads between the wings is a prime spot for pecking as are bottoms.

 

The area will stay damaged fir a while but should come back normally after their moult

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Bottoms are lovely and fluffy and no sign of pecking! Ditto shoulder blades, and backs of heads although Maisie had a few new feathers coming through right near her comb, but not covering any bald patch at all. I have a little bantam Amanda with a bald patch from coming to us from an over-enthusiastic cockerel, so I already know what that looks like!

 

Both girls have a good layers pellet diet and plenty of mealworms every day already. I'll start putting a tonic in their water too, and perhaps put them in with the last two ex-bats who haven't fully refeathered if they need a little boost in a week's time.

 

My money now would be on the cockerel damage because of where the missing feathers are, and because there is no other sign of pecking. Could be wrong - but will keep you posted!

 

Thank you. :D

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