I can assure you that it really is our preference to indulge you with beautiful and funny photos of our chickens and rooster. It’s all part of the great fun of chicken-keeping, if you ask me! And in fact that’s about all we’ve done since we’ve gotten our chickens, such as this post, that you really want to take a peak at first; Flock Photography Fun! However, that’s not what our post is about today. Because with keeping chickens, we knew, eventually comes a few chicken troubles! Such as….chickens feather-picking. < Deep sigh. >
Considering the incredibly brutal winter we have had here this year, we’d say our rooster and chickens have faired pretty well! There was bit of a battle with frostbite on crowns and jowls. We did our best to protect them from that, with great coop ventilation, and applying some virgin coconut oil as we could. But Weymouth had the hardest time keeping his jowls from falling into the water when he drank. But anyway, little bits of frostbite were our biggest problem we had run into all winter long. Until……the chickens feather-picking began to happen.
I told you that this post isn’t about pretty photos. I’ll just fore-warn you that this first one is the least pleasant; and then most are pretty enjoyable, if not informative. But we just want to give you the visual of the scope of the problem we had on our hands. It’s not awful, or terribly hard to see, we don’t think. But, just not pretty.
Ok, you may wince a little.
Weymouth, our Welsummer rooster, appeared to be in pretty rough shape! It kind of went from bad to worse, fast! It first appeared on his side, and then down his leg and across his chest. We knew the chickens, (most especially a guilty-few), were always pecking at Weymouth, plucking his feathers out with their beaks, and consuming them. We watched it happen most every time we glanced over at them, and it frustrated us all, to no end! We couldn’t figure out for the life of us, why the rooster would let his girls do this to him! He is a very good rooster otherwise; very protective and commanding of his girls.
So of course, being the new chicken-keepers that we are, we got researching. Some of the most common causes were listed as lack of protein, overcrowding, mites, overheated coops/lack of ventilation, or boredom, to name a few.
In our case, discrediting all other possibilities with confidence, we were certain it was possibly a little lack of protein, but most likely, plain old winter boredom. With the incredible amount of snow we have had, they have been rather confined to the run, because the snow had been too deep venture out in. Thus resulting in the girls plucking feathers from Weymouth, I guess. If not resolved, chicken feather picking can lead to chicken-problems we don’t even want to think about! But anyway, our greatest motivation to fix this problem was because we love our chickens, of course, and want nothing less than health and happiness for them.
So, we started giving them a can of tuna a couple of times a week, to start. And Michael would give them a hay bale with buried meal worms, for them to tear apart, and seek and find the worms, as a boredom buster. Those things did seem to help a little bit. But not enough. The girls continued to peck at Weymouth, and since separating them was really not an option yet, we needed to find another solution.
So with that, I turned to my favorite chicken-keepers forum, and after a long thread of discussion, we decided that pin-less peepers might be the help we needed to get through this winter.
(Pin-less peepers are essentially blinders, that prevent the bird from seeing forward, directly in front of them.
Thus, making it difficult to eye a feather they want to grasp with their beak, and pluck.)
A fellow chicken-keeper on the forum was even so kind to mail us a handful, as they were ‘going to town in the next few hours to the post office anyway’. And so, we had pinless peepers in no time, and got educated on how to use them, in as much time.
To show you what pin-less peepers look like, here is Kingston, sporting hers.
Kingston, the Buff Orpington, was up first, because she is Michael’s love-chicken, and she always runs right up to him when he goes up there. These two are so cute with each other.
Who would think a chicken could love a man so much? Or vice versa, for that matter.
Little did she know what she was in for though, on this day.
Here she is, all done. It really is painless for them; the application and the wearing of them.
Michael went up to get another chicken.
Next up was Westfield; the Red Star/ Golden Comet.
Here is a look at a pin-less peeper. You just spread them open with some snap-ring pliers, and apply it over the chicken’s beak.
The pins actually hook into the chicken’s nostrils. They are called pin-less because….there are peepers that have a pin that actually pierces through the bird’s septum. We did not want those!
Every chicken was very cooperative. It doesn’t hurt at all. And it appeared each one rather enjoyed the momentary hugs, all wrapped up in the towel.
It is easiest as a 2 person job though; one to hold the chicken, and one to put the peeper on. So one of the kids helped assist Michael, as I was taking photos, too.
The procedure was as simple as wrapping the chicken comfortably in a towel, just to help hold her wings down…..
….and holding her nice and snug, so the peepers can be put on quickly on, without any harm or fuss.
This is Duxbury; our Silver-Laced Wyandotte, ready to go.
Here in the photo above is a look of how the pin hooks right into the nostril.
While it isn’t painful, I am sure there is a momentary level of discomfort, just from the pressure.
They tend to get disorientated for a bit, and annoyed because they are blinded from seeing straight-forward. So many of them tried to get it off with their foot, or shake their head, trying to get rid of it. But they get over it. I’ve read some chickens can take up to a day to get used to it, but ours adjusted within a matter of a minute or two! We just stayed with each one and comforted them until they seemed to get used to it.
See? All better. Daddy’s Little Feathered-Girl.
Each of them got a treat of cracked-corn, after their little procedure.
And then ventured over to enjoy the winter sun, and some sunflower seed remnants on the ground, that fell from the wild bird feeder.
And one by one, they came down, until we were finished.
Plymouth; our White Plymouth Rock.
She was the last done.
We let them play and free-range for awhile, and they seemed to be all managing fine.
They even all waddled back up to their coop run, without our assistance.
Hey pretty Girl! Coming out to join the party?
We were relieved to see that they all could get their feed from their feeders just fine, as well.
The girls’ peepers were put on at the end of February, and it is now near the end of March. I’m happy to report that they have worked out well! The feather-picking stopped as far as we have noticed, and Weymouth’s feathers are growing back in very nicely. He should be a pretty-boy again, quite soon.
Spring is just around the corner, and just as soon as those warmer days get here, the snow melts, and the girl’s can get out a lot more, we’ll take their peepers off. They will be so busy free-ranging, scratching, finding delectable treats beneath sticks and leaves, and generally being completely content again, that all will be well. And our chicken-problems will be as forgotten as this long-hard winter.
Spring is going to be a beautiful and very welcome season!
Thank you for doing this tutorial, I could NOT find anything that explained how to do these properly, lots of pictures but the peepers themselves just arrived in a bag, NO explanation and I did NOT want to hurt any of them.
Our hens are not the problem. The problems are three beautiful Barred Rock roosters who have bullied a fourth to the extent that he only comes down on the floor when I am in the coop twice a day because he knows I will keep them off long enough for him to grab some food and water. He has lived on TOP of the nesting box since September poor thing.
So tomorrow I will install these on the three roosters that are the problem and let the rookie roam around to see what it is like to be free.
We are so glad our post was helpful to you. We hope you were successful with putting on those peepers!
Very interesting story you have there! Amazing that you’ve managed to have 4 roosters living together at all! We hope the rookie has enjoyed his taste of freedom.
Best wishes to you and thanks again for the comment.
– Family at the House of Joyful Noise blog
By chance are your other hens named Cohasset, HINGHAM and Quincy? I read the story about Pembroke, and wondered if they were south shore chickens… then read this article. We are in Cohasset and just lost our Black Australorpe “Aretha” , to a coyote in a similar incident. Heartbreaking. She was a singer too (hence, Aretha). Love your chicken naming method!
Hey Trish!! They actually ARE South Shore chickens! Ha haha! No chickens named Cohasset, Hingham or Quincy. But we do have Plymouth, Kingston, Hanover, Duxbury, Tremont (a street in Duxbury as offspring of that town chicken)….and then representing western MA we have Westfield (the city where I grew up), and her offspring Princeton (the street.) The great Welsummer rooster we had that passed away was named Weymouth, and a beautiful other rooster we had to give away was named Boston. He was the coolest bird ever…he looked like a gorgeous hawk. But he was aggressive with the girls way early. (Mating.)
– Sorry to hear about Aretha! I’ll have to tell Shane about her, and how she was another singer. We don’t seem to have a coyote problem here, yet. I hear about coyotes in neighboring areas but…not here yet, and hopefully never.
It is fun to name chickens. We’re not quite sure if we’ll always stick with the towns theme.
Thanks SO much for coming by and chatting! Very interesting connections we have!
The Richard Family / House of Joyful Noise blog
Poor Weymouth! I hope he recovers soon. I’m getting my first chicks in just over a month, and there is just SO much to learn that it makes my head spin. Pin-less peepers? Who would have thought!? Thanks for having such a great resource and GORGEOUS photos!! xx
I will admit this made me giggle a little bit. Your chickens look like they are wearing Elton John glasses! I love the *idea* of backyard chickens but reality is I would not put the work into keeping them healthy, etc. Plus my beagle, pitt bull and cat would think of the chickens as lunch.
I don’t blame you a bit, for giggling, Elizabeth! YES! Elton John is a GREAT likeness! Sadly, one of my first thoughts was, “but these blue things are going to ruin my perfect chicken photos!” But then I came to my sense and realized….their wellness comes first. And who am I kidding, anyway? I am not out there taking photos of them in this cold, much! The glasses ARE coming off as soon as spring hits, though! And I’ll be back to my photography-fun.
Honestly though, keeping chickens is not much work at all! They are quite easy to keep, comparatively, many other animals. But yeah, your dogs and cat might pose a problem. On the other hand, many use their dogs as guard dogs, for the chickens. Like a shepard of sheep, but different.
Anyway….thanks so much for the visit, and sharing a giggle with us. 🙂
Laura / House of Joyful Noise blog