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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 19668
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Good morning I have a hen who has lost its feathers on its

Resolved Question:

Good morning I have a hen who has lost its feathers on its back near its tail and gets pecked a lot by the other hens she has been like this for while and the patch is quiet red which attracts the other hens is there coloured spray or cream I could use to avoid the attraction to her bald patch ?
Colin
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, Colin. I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Can you tell me if the skin is just red or if there is any sign of skin trauma, ulcers or sores in this patch?

Are you seeing an unusual number of feathers laying around the chicken's area?

Is she the only hen affected? Does it appear she may be being bullied?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

the skin is just red and there no feathers around and she is the only one affected she has been like this for awhile

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you Colin,

First, I am glad that you are not seeing any open wounds. If we were, then that would be a red flag to isolate her away from the flock for treatment and to give her a break from the other ladies. This still may be the best course of action for this lass but without an open would we can try to focus on potential deterrents (though we'd want to isolate her if the others are continuing to bully her), also focus on the ladies' motivations, and take steps to try to reduce the behavior itself.

First, her sore backside. In regards ***** ***** the wound, I would suggest cleansing the areas with iodine (diluted to the color of weak tea). This will help prevent local skin bacteria causing infection via any breeches that may be in the skin (including the microtrauma). This can also help take some of the redness away to reduce that red flag inviting the others to peck her more. Further to this, depending on the exact location of the wound, you could cover this area with a square of t-shirt material (secured on with first aid tape). This would allow the wound some protection from attack but would let it breathe and dry out (where bandages may lock in moisture and let the infection fester). In regards ***** ***** creams, in the UK we will be a bit limited and it will depend what your local feed store carries. We can use livestock blue spray, but you do need to take care as it can be stingy for some birds. Otherwise, we will use Furox spray (yellow powder, furoxazone), Anti-Pick lotions or sprays (example).

From there, it is a case of getting to the bottom of what is driving the ladies to bother this poor lass. We can see bullying and behaviors of this nature arise when the target bird is unwell (thus vulnerable), when birds have too low a protein or trace nutrients level in their diet (which is a concern since you are not seeing feathers around --which means the others are likely eating them), too little space, too much light/heat (these are difficult to control), or not enough activity to divert their attention from beating up this submissive bird. Therefore, you do want to evaluate each of these issues for your flock.

First, we have to consider her health and it would be worth checking your bird over. It is not uncommon for the other hens to know when a bird is unwell before the humans that own them do. Therefore, you will want to check her feet, eyes, undercarriage, crop and bottom to make sure everything is normal. This will let you assess the state of her at this time. Depending on your findings, you will be able to determine if something is amiss with her or if she has any secondary issues from the aggressive pecking. Of course, do be careful when handling your birds, and do not handle her if new feathers (quills or pins) are coming in, applying pressure to the nerve endings and blood vessels near the surface of her skin will cause her pain). If you do find anything amiss, then of course this will need to be addressed for her.

Next, you want to review their diet. Ideally, they should be on a feed that contains adequate amounts of proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. We also need to make sure they aren’t being fed too low sodium, high zinc, high corn or wheat or diets that are low in calorie. It is not unusual to trace a feathering problem in a backyard flock to inadequate feeding. Therefore, it would be prudent to double check the pellets they are on and make sure it is well balanced and formulated for their age group, and laying status, as these will play a significant role in determining their needs. Ideal nutrition will also be the most important factor to achieving regrowth of her feathers. While doing this, you can try to break their habit in the short term by offering a handful of dry cat food to the flock (it will give them something to hunt around for and the increased protein may help allay some low protein issues while you look into your diet and compare it with others to find the ideal choice).

Following this, you do want to review your set-up with this flock. This includes light, temperature, and space. If you have a high stocking density (too many birds for your sized yard), then you may need to think about more space for them or less birds.

Otherwise, as I noted before, we can see pecking be an outlet for boredom in birds. So, it is important to make sure the girls have appropriate mental stimulation (aka keeping their brains occupied on something other then entertaining themselves at the expense of the pecked hen). Therefore, I would suggest again reviewing what you have for them and consider some toys/etc to keep their active minds engaged. Now rather then write you a long list of items, I'd advise a wee peek HERE for suggestions (they even have videos of the hens at play-- so cute :) ) So just like toddlers, if we divert their energy into non-harming activities, we can keep them from doing those things (like pecking) that we don't want to see.

Overall, treating this poor lass is important but the pecking is part of a bigger issue. Therefore, do treat her as I have outlined above but also consider those underlying triggers for pecking. If they are actively attacking her now, you might consider separating her while you review your set up. Do have a good examination of all your birds and review the above issues/suggestions. If you can get to the bottom of the underlying cause or able to amend their environment to decrease their fixation on her, then you can likely reintroduce her in the future and avoid her being their victim again.

And just in case you don't have a specialist avian vet and do need one at any point, you can check where you can find one at near you at the RCVS Register (HERE), http://www.aav.org/search/, http://poultrykeeper.com/poultry-vets, or Avian web (LINK).

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )

Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 19668
Experience: General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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