CAN FOOD QUALITY & STRESS AFFECT FEATHER GROWTH?

by Sharon
(Hampden, MA)

My Rhode Island Reds lost their feathers on the front side of their necks, and at the base of their tailfeathers on back. The tailfeathers grew back, but the neck feathers will not grow back. I have tried mite control, ointments, and "feather fix", nothing seems to help.


What could be the problem?

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NO NECK FEATHERS ON RIRS
by: sharon

I wish I could just answer your question, but I have a few before I can understand the problem. But I will give you some general answers.

Is your entire flock like this or are there some in the flock not like this? Did they lose the feathers normally during the Fall molt, or did this start at some other time? How long has this been going on? Have you had time to watch the flock and see if you have any aggressive birds that pluck feathers from others? How old are they? Do you have roosters?


In my own flocks I've had chickens that were slow to regrow their feathers after a molt. My flocks have always been a mix of breeds and different ages. There is such a thing as a hard molt where chickens can look pretty awful for a while. That molt doesn't usually happen every year. A more common molt isn't seen on the chickens as much as the floor of the coop and in the yard - feathers everywhere, but the chickens look fair.

Totally bald areas are a sign of a hard molt, but they usually fill in pretty quickly with quills/blood feathers, that grow out into full feathers pretty quickly,too.

Many things affect regrowth of feather from weather to laying, to diet, stress, parasites, and general health. When my chickens are molting I like to up the protein in their diet. I like whole seeds like black oil sunflower and safflower, that also provide good oils. Hi-Pro feeds can help too.

I had one hen one year go through a hard molt and she was the only one that grew in no back feathers by Winter. I bought her a little fleece lined chicken saddle to make sure she stayed warm. By Spring, when I removed the saddle, she still hadn't grown the feathers in, but quickly did in the warmth and sunshine of Spring. I have no idea why that happened. She was the only one of over 20 in the flock that this happened to.

I'm not familiar with different mite and parasite treatments. I always use Ivermectin topically or orally if I see signs of parasites. I try to keep my eggs organic so avoid chemicals at all costs, unless there is no other way. I like to use Diatomaceous earth in feed, in the chickens' dust bath and sprinkled on the coop floor and nests. It helps prevent external parasites if they show up.

It sounds like you've done the process of elimination on the treatments you've tried. When I have a mysterious situation in the chicken house I just sit and watch them to see if they will give me clues.

I've watched chickens pluck feathers out of other chickens and gobble the feathers right down. I take this as a sign that they need more protein.

In my experience, once the stressfulness of a cold Winter is over, life returns to normal in the chicken house. Providing foods with good quality raw vegetable fats are excellent calories to help chickens deal with the cold. High sugar and starch food, like corn, is OK for the calories, but not as good as healthy fats. Fats/oils in the diet will help keep skin supple and allow new feathers to grow in more easily, plus delivering a more stable source of energy.

Not knowing the specifics of your flock, I hope I've covered enough areas to give you some new ideas that might help.

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