Loss of down feathers in domestic chickens

by Romey
(Mcdonough GA)


Loss of down feathers in domestic chickens. I have six chickens in a well-lit clean coop.

During the last three months, four of them have progressively lost their down feathers - at the base of their tails, the tops of their legs and around the vent areas (the other two a Sussex and a ginger bantam hen look fine).

I have cleaned the coop out completely, spread a sulphur insecticide powder through the litter and replaced all straw and oat chaff.

I have also sprayed down the coop with kerosene; then a day later with insecticide, a day later with sulphur-water mix and lastly a day later with a tea tree oil/water mix.

I then dunked all birds completely in a sulphur/mitecide/water bath on a nice hot day so they could dry quickly.

Despite all this, the problem still exists, although the chickens seemed better for a week or so after wards.

The chickens look quite mangy but their combs are red, they lay 4 to 5 good eggs almost daily, they have good food and greens; they have shell grit and good fresh water that is supplemented with soluble vitamins.

The hens are all wormed with a solution in their drinking water every six months as well.

The coop is filled with two foot deep straw and chaff litter. It is large, bright and airy and set on the sunny edge of a large fernery that is cool and sheltered from wind.

Generally speaking, they are very well treated and kept happy.

I would very much appreciate any help and advice that you may be able to offer. Our local produce/livestock just scratch their heads and say they have never heard of anything like it.

Nothing like this has every happened in my 30 years of keeping chickens.

None of our locals seem to have an answer; I have run out of ideas and I am keen to get the hens back to tip top condition.

It is obvious that you take very good care of your chickens. Take a hard look at the roosting perches.

Are they smooth and free from anything that might be splintering and poking at the hens? Oftentimes, chickens will pull out their own down feathers if they are consistently being poked by something.

It would be similar to a human having to scratch a bug bite although we know it isn’t a good thing to do.

You mentioned that you dunked the birds in a sulphur mitecide solution. Many solutions need to be rinsed off within ten minutes of the dip.

I would forego the dips and use a powder. It is actually better for the birds.

When cleaning the chicken coop, use old fashioned bleach and water. Be sure to keep the chickens out of the coop until the smell of bleach has dissipated and the floor is dry.

It is also important to make sure that the bedding is not moldy. Moldy bedding can actually cause the hens to pull their own feathers out.

The thick bedding could possibly be raking out the soft down feathers on your hens.

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