Hen missing feathers at head & rear

by Becki Thomas
(Duvall, WA, USA)


Hen missing feathers at head & rear: I have a flock of 20 chickens ranging from 1-5 yrs old.

My 2 yr old Aracauna hen started loosing/plucking feathers from around her head and rear a couple months ago.

Several of the other chickens were molting at
the time so I wasn't too concerned. Her behavior seemed normal so I've been watching her but didn't worry too much about it.

Then one evening when she didn't come in to roost, I found her standing outside not moving. I picked her up and she didn't protest (very unusual for her!).

Her comb and bare bottom had both turned a dark purple red. I put her in the "chick tank" (away from the others) with fresh water & food.

She was drinking water when I left her, but when I came out to check on her in the morning,
she was dead :-(

Any ideas? None of my other chickens are plucking their feathers however, all but 3 have completely stopped laying and now I'm wondering if it's somehow related?

The purple color in the comb and vent area would probably be due to lack of oxygen in her blood, or possibly poor circulation due to being cold.

Chickens generally aren’t able to pluck feathers near their own head. It’s usually other chickens that do this and quite often other chickens will
pluck the rump and vent area feathers from a chicken that is acting weak.

Weak or sick chickens pose a threat to the rest of the flock, as they can attract predators, or infect the others with disease.

It’s not unusual for the weaker chickens to be kept from food by being pecked at by more dominant
chickens, when they try to eat.

By the time a chicken is acting sick it has been in failing health for some time.

They try to hide signs of weakness and illness so they don’t attract predators and negative attention from the flock.

It would be so hard to know what went wrong that ultimately ended in this one’s death.

She may have had parasites, become too weak to fight disease, been old, or possibly egg bound. It’s normal for hens to take breaks in laying, but not usually all at once, and often when they go broody.

Often Production Bred hens only live about 2 years, have health problems at that time, including laying irregularity.

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