Ask the Expert – Special Issue – Comb to Tail Health
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Chicken Pecking Feathers
Hi! My chicken is being treated for worms and she’s feeling better. However, she seems to be pecking her feathers, particularly on her breast area. She is two years old and hasn’t molted yet. Just not sure why she’s doing this. Any insight would be great. Thank you!
Since it seems to be on her breast: is there any chance she is broody? Often, hens pull out feathers in the breast and underside so they can better incubate the eggs. And if not, have you considered lice or mites as an issue?
I have a few nine-week-old pullets that have odd wounds at the point where their comb meets their beak. They have been out in the yard with our 13 other hens, but the big girls are fine with them and from what I have seen peck them very little. There are occasional pecks from the other pullets, but none do any harm. My Buff Orpington and Salmon Faverolles have it the worst. I have been applying an ointment that I found on Amazon, but I lost it a while ago and cannot recall its name. Is there anything I can do? Can you diagnose it?
Is it possible that the chickens have been trying to reach through wire or fencing to get at food on the other side? That looks like an abrasion where the beak scraped against something. It would also be a pecking injury, but those would happen more often on a comb. I would continue putting an ointment on it, and the beak will probably toughen up as they get older.
Thanks for the advice. Their coop does have some small wire, so I guess it could have been that.
Pure Breeds and Production
Hello. I am from Mauritius island. Do pure breeds produce more eggs and meat compared to hybrid? Can you advise if a hybrid is better and what breed to cross to better layer, better meat, etc?
It’s less about purebred vs hybrid and more about that specific breed. While purebred Australorps and Rhode Island Reds are great egg producers, hybrid sex-links like ISA Brown and Black Star are also amazing at producing eggs. One of the best meat chickens is a hybrid Cornish cross, but that breed usually doesn’t even live long enough to produce eggs and, if it does, they are few and far between. My recommendation, since you live in Mauritius Island, is to see what breeds are available in your area then cross-check them with some good resources. Here is a great one that summarizes 10 amazing egg-laying breeds:
Coop Floor Material
For the floor of a coop, is wire better than wood? This is a coop used for overnight, feeding, and nesting. Otherwise, the birds have free range.
While wire sounds like it would have great benefits of allowing ventilation into the coop and allowing the feces to drop out, it doesn’t quite work that way. Healthy chicken poo isn’t liquid and would soon clog up the wire, and it would be difficult to wash off unless you used a hose with some water pressure. Wood is easier to scrape off or to sprinkle with bedding so you can remove it altogether. Some chicken owners do use wire but install a catch layer above it, so they can remove that layer, shake/wash off the droppings, and reinstall it. Overall, it depends on how you like to clean your coop. If spraying it down would cause problems due to too much moisture, I recommend wood.
We have 15 chickens, two of which are roosters. Recently our two roosters, Rowley and Tigress (my three-year-old brother named him after his favorite show), got into a fight. Rowley basically surrendered and left the flock. His beak got injured during the fight and the whole top part fell off. He lost one of his spurs, too. His beak makes it hard for him to eat and so we’ve been feeding him mainly soft foods. He won’t go anywhere near the rest of the chickens now. He sleeps in a separate cage and we feed him on our porch. Every time he sees Tigress he takes off. It’s really sad.
My dad’s worried that we don’t have enough hens for two roosters and that the only solution would be to get rid of one of the roosters. I would never dream of giving away one of my chickens. I love them all so much, but at the same time, I want what’s best for them. So, is the only answer to get rid of one of the roosters? If not, how do we make peace between the two boys? And lastly, how do we return Rowley to perfect health? I have heard that it’s safe to only have 15 hens per rooster.
There is no specific rooster-to-hen ratio because what works for one breed, or pair of roosters, doesn’t work for another. These roosters have proven that they just won’t get along, and that Tigress is boss, even with six-ish hens per rooster. You could add more hens, but if you do this, then I recommend allowing Rowley to have his own space with his hens, where he doesn’t have to confront Tigress. And if you don’t have space for more hens, and Rowley is unhappy being alone, then I do recommend rehoming him to a flock that currently only has hens.
Regarding how to return Rowley to perfect health, I recommend giving this story a read: backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/chicken-husbandry-five-welfare-needs/
It addresses housing and behaviors, which includes allowing the chickens to group together in ways that maintain the most harmony. Rowley needs all of these factors, from healthy food to a coop that allows him to live out all of these healthy behaviors to good companionship.
I hope this helps!
Originally published in the Backyard Poultry Special Subscriber 2020 issue — Comb to Tail Health — and regularly vetted for accuracy.