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CHARACTERISTICS | Feather pecking

Feather pecking actually does not or rarely occurs in the wild. Unfortunately, feather pecking is fairly common in animal husbandry. In this blog we would like to tell you more about feather pecking, the environmental factors, but also the genetic predisposition for feather pecking.

Feather pecking usually arises from boredom. In bearded breeds, the rooster is usually the victim. A genetic component also plays a role in feather pecking. Namely, it can be passed on to the offspring.

What actually causes feather pecking?

There are actually several factors causing feather pecking. These include environmental factors, but also worms, deficiencies or necrotic enteritis. In addition, hereditary predisposition is also decisive. Indeed, there are clear differences between ”calm” and ”nervous” breeds. By nervous breeds you can think of Leghorns, Friesian fowl but also Australorps. Miniature fowl breeds are also known as the more restless chickens. The Wyandotte, the North Holland Blue and the Cochin are breeds that are a bit calmer.

There are several causes:

Deficiencies of vitamins in the diet
Deficiencies of minerals in the diet
Blood lice infestation
Deficiencies of mainly animal proteins in the diet.
Disorders of the intestinal wall due to diseases such as coccidiosis or worm infections
Shortage of stomach grit for digestion in the stomach
Stress due to too few distractions, boredom in the coop or too many chickens in the coops
Improper lighting

How can you prevent feather pecking?

You can start by adding extra fish meal, whey powder or dog or cat food to the poultry feed. It may also be possible that they are deficient in calcium and phosphate. This can be solved by feeding extra calcium stones or shell grit. To minimize boredom, you can regularly give them some grain or other food such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc. During the afternoon hours, chickens naturally search for food. This can increase pecking behavior around noon. You can also give some roughage such as alfalfa, a lime sandstone or a mineral pecking stone. This will provide distractions, causing the roosters to tread more often and, as a result, the number of fertilized eggs will be higher. It is important to provide a good climate without pests and a proper light schedule. For determining the mutual order of rank, for pecking seen as natural behavior. Usually this is hardly harmful to the chickens themselves.

If you choose to add a new chicken or one of a different color, feather pecking can get out of hand. The victim will be cornered and continuously pecked on the head. The chicken surrenders with all its consequences. Large wounds on the head followed by blood and loose skin. This can then lead to cannibalism.

During treading, hens are pecked in the neck by the rooster to get a better grip. Many feathers are lost in the process.

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