Why do chickens eat feathers? Simple Solutions!

Raising chicken is indeed a profitable business. Do you think raising chicken is a piece of cake? From investing to withdrawing profit, the chicken firm demands a lot of hard work. Meanwhile, you may encounter some unusual chicken health issues. Among those most common are eating feathers or eggs. 

Although those issues aren’t unexpected, but they will lessen your profit and even lose the investment. 

So, why do chickens eat feathers? The reason behind those issues isn’t special; instead, lack of proper care. If you can ensure an adequate amount of protein in your chicken’s diet, your chicken starts eating feathers. Feather has a rich amount of protein which makes it an excellent source to fulfill protein deficiency. 

So, when you face such an issue, you have to ensure sufficient protein in your chicken’s diet.

Note: You can provide a quality layer pellet (should contain 16% protein). It may be labelled like Garvo Alfamix for Chickens or the Smallholder Layers Pellets range.

Hope that you come here to get in-depth knowledge. Without further ado, let’s continue. 

The reasons for feather pecking

baby chickens feather picking

Chick vent pecking is an abnormal behaviour among commercial egg-laying hens. Let’s see feather pecking in poultry due to.

  • Stress is a trigger of feather pecking problems. When a chicken coop becomes too hot, it will increase your chicken’s stress level. Also, the boredom develops chicken peaking problems. 
  • The next reason that may cause feather pecking is separation or isolation from the mates. Separation or isolation will increase your chicken’s boredom, anxiety, and loneliness which will grow such behaviour in your chicken. 
  • Overcrowding in a chicken coop is another reason for feather pecking. When the number of chickens becomes higher than average, they will fight each other for food and water. Then the dominant chicken keeps the weak or underweight chicken away from the food and water. The weak bird (underweight) becomes the victim of feather pecking. 
  • The long light hour in winter makes the chicken more aggressive and stressed among each other. It will be better to avoid over 15 hours of light daily.
  • Insufficient space and bright lighting in the nest may cause feather pecking problems. Moreover, the dark nest is considered a safe place for laying the egg. Learn more about when do chickens start laying eggs?

Why do chickens eat their eggs?

So, you already know, “why do chickens eat their own feathers,” now see the reason behind eating their eggs. 

Egg eating is a common problem for chickens, but it can negatively affect your egg-selling business. That’s why farmers need to give special attention to avoid such issues. So, what is the reason for eating eggs? Typically, the lack of calcium level is the trigger of this issue. 

When you can’t ensure a sufficient amount of calcium, your chicken starts looking for alternative sources, and the eggshell is available for them. You may know the eggshell has a rich amount of calcium. 

Another reason is the accidental discovery. If you make the chicken coop crowded, the chicken may break their egg accidentally. Then the chicken may start eating that broken egg. 

When the chicken develops a taste for an egg, eating egg becomes normal for them. That behaviour may spread in other chickens and decrease the egg collection. 

How to stop chickens from pecking each other’s feathers out?

why do chickens eat feathers

Are you looking for the answer to “how do you stop chickens from eating feathers”? Here are 6 easy home remedies for chicken pecking.

01. Lessen boredom: 

When a bird becomes bored, it may easily engage in eating feathers. You can hang an apple or cabbage on a nice surface or around the run, making them busy searching for worms and thus alleviating boredom. 

Also, you can change the environment, which also lessens stress. 

02. Maintain a healthy amount in the chicken coop: 

Overcrowded in the chicken coop may develop the feather pecking tendency. Moreover, when the chicken becomes overcrowded, they compete with each other for water and feed. 

To get rid of it, you have to ensure a sufficient amount of food and water. You have to change the floor space based on age, such as

Chicken AgeFloor space
2 weeks¼ sq. ft.
3 to 8 weeks¾ sq. ft.
8 to 16 weeks 1.5 sq. ft.
16 weeks2 sq.ft.

You have better avoid keeping different sizes, ages, and feather colours flock together.

03. Ensure comfortable temperature:

Overheating is another trigger of feather pecking. Our suggestion is for the 1st week after hatching tries to keep the temperature at 95ºF. Then reduce the amount by 5ºF per week until it becomes 70ºF to adjust the outside temperature. 

04. Separation: 

Identify the worst picker and separate it for some days, hopefully bringing harmony to the flock. 

05. Pinless peepers: 

Pinless peepers help to block the chicken’s vision and retard them from pecking each other. 

06. Anti feather pecking spray

This type of spray is another instrument that seems to fight well against pecking habits. You need to apply this spray to the victim chicken; therefore a foul taste in the perpetrators mouth will be created. Thus, retard them from the pecking-related problem. 

Some cheap protein for chickens

Here we enlist some excellent protein sources for chicken. That food will help to lessen chickens picking at themselves.

Meal WormsBlack Soldier Fly LarvaEarthworms & SuchFish & Fish Guts
Animal MeatNuts & SeedsSprouted legumesBugs
Sea kelpEggsPumpkin and pumpkin seedsWheat or Bean Sprouts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is it normal for chickens to eat feathers?

While searching online, I found that eating chicken feathers isn’t a normal phenomenon. When a chicken is suffering from protein deficiency, it may start eating feathers. 

Note: Chicken feather has a good amount of protein. 

Can chickens digest feathers?

Until the eating feathers become excess, it won’t create any problem. In the feather, you will find a bit of tissue and some blood, I think the feather isn’t digestible (no evidence found). 

When the feather eating becomes excess, it may cause proventriculus, crop, intestinal impaction, and/or gizzard.

How do you know if your chickens have mites?

The following symptoms indicate your chicken is infected with mites, such as

01. If you find scabs near the vent.
02. Eggs are found in the feather and feather shafts.
03. The infected area of the feather becomes dirty. 

The severe mite infestation may cause anemia or lead them to death. 

What to give a chicken that won’t eat?

When my chicken doesn’t eat independently, I will use a dropper, tube, spoon, or syringe to feed them liquid items. 

What can I put on chickens for mites?

Garlic is considered the best ingredient to fight against parasites. So, I will provide garlic or garlic juice in your chicken’s diet. Alternatively, I will make a solution using water, garlic juice, and lavender and spray it directly on my chickens and around coops

Conclusion

Eating own/other’s feathers is a common problem that every firm owner typically faces. The expert doesn’t consider those as a severe health issue; instead, it may welcome other serious issues. 

However, you definitely want to generate profit from your firm, so, you have better know all types of possible health issues of chicken. 

Therefore, you can take effective precautions and avoid those easily, when it comes to the question, Why do chickens eat feathers?. 
Hopefully, that issue won’t be a headache for you.

Joy Dolcini

Hello! I am Joy Dolcini. I have been working in poultry farming for a long time. Being an optimistic and successful poultry farmer. From my passion and experience, I tried to share knowledge of farming by writing. The sole intention of my writing is to help farmers to enhance farming skills and learn essential techniques. Read More

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