Tuesday 25 June 2013

Aggressive Hen

Options for an Aggressive Hen

I contacted our Vet to ask about options to deal with an aggressive hen after our buff Pekin hen Holly, went a bit feral recently and pulled several hundred feathers from her sister Alice's neck and back of head.  Holly was at the very end of her feather cycle, on the cusp of a full molt and became very aggressive in the last couple of weeks. 

We ended up separating Alice and keeping her in her own hutch inside for the week to break Holly out of her feather plucking behaviour.  Putting Holly inside would have been a disaster as she was so wound up and kooky that she would have run riot and screamed all day.  I do admit to love having my Alice in the house as she is such a sociable and sweet, little hen.  She chats away and comes into the kitchen to preen and watch us making breakfast.  If we move away she calls non stop until we come back to her.  But back in the hutch she settles in beautifully and relaxes completely. 

Hormone Therapy

So anyway, I was worried that if Holly did not calm down that Alice would be permanently needing her own bedroom.  I called the Vet and got some really interesting news about an option for Holly - a hormone implant.  Basically Holly could have a series of fortnightly injections or a one off implant placed under the skin between the tops of her wings (near the base of her neck).  It would be effective for between 3 - 6 months.  I figured it was definitely worth a go if Holly did not start molting and calm down. 

In the mean time we assigned Holly to our Jack Russell to keep her behaviour in check. 

However in less than a week Holly started molting.  She lost so many feathers she was shaking in a puffed up ball and looking miserable.  As Holly definitely has the ILT virus, she has been brought inside to keep her warm and well fed.  The worst thing for a hen with ILT is to be skinny, cold, losing weight and stuck out in Winter weather.  She was miserable and not eating for several days and then when her feathers stopped falling out, her appetite began to return.  She's stopped attacking Alice who comes inside for sleepovers and has gone from a 10 to a 2 on the crazy-ometer.  Just crazy enough to be her usual, slightly obsessive self. 

If anyone has tried the hormone implant for their hen I'd surely be enormously interested to find out the results.  

Holly, this morning - keeping warm, suburbhen style. 
 That's love by the way, I don't spoil my chickens...much. 

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Feather Picking

Feather Picking in Chickens

Seems we have a feather picker in the flock.  When the girls came out of the sleeping hutch on Tuesday morning, I noticed that Alice's head was much lighter in appearance and upon inspection found that someone had plucked a large amount of feathers off her head and neck. 

Alice is a really gentle and submissive hen.  I have noticed our Silkie hen Farrah pecking away at her face whilst Alice just submits, frozen on the spot.  So to prevent us coming home to a bald birdie, we put Alice in a hutch in the lounge for the day until we could work out what was going on.

Yesterday Alice went out in to the garden with the other hens and took herself back into the pen after a few hours and settled in.  I watched her for a while and her sister Holly sidled up.  Holly loomed over the top of Alice, whilst Alice froze underneath.  Sure enough, Holly began to pull at Alice's neck feathers until she soon pulled one out.

Straight into the pen and I picked up Alice and took her back inside.  The problem I have is that Alice does quite well inside, settles into her hutch happily and loves pottering around the kitchen.  Where as Holly freaks out and demands to be released from the hutch by calling loudly and consistently and then poos everywhere out of anxiety.  With Alice inside, when she does go out with the other girls for some garden time, the rest of the flock act aggressively towards her to punish her for disappearing. 

The other issue with Holly is she is fairly single minded, predictable and very one directional in her orientation.  She is very focussed and not easily distracted, so she thinks it's just weird when I move her away from something I don't want her to be involved in and she just tries to go straight back to what she was doing in the first place.  Holly is also a bit aggressive at present, as she seems to be at the peak of her health and could do with a good feather moult and a drop in her crazy-cuckoo hormones.  We are thinking we may take her to the Vet for a hormone injection to chill her out if she does not start to moult in the next week or two. 

This is a real frustration as the girls have masses of space (usually feather picking is prompted by confined living conditions) and with the girls in good health at the moment, we really thought we could just enjoy them and not have to nurse anyone back in the house. 

Here you can see Alice's neck all exposed.  The back of her head has been thinned out and in doing so exposed some ingrown feathers which I teased out with my fingers.  That would be the only positive I can see from Holly's bad behaviour so far.  Having said that it is lovely to have our little girl in the house again.  We keep looking in the hutch and seeing Alice preening and bustling about and it is so heart warming.  Loving have her in the kitchen in the morning.  We had Rosie in last night for a sleep over with her.  It's unlimited gorgeousness.