French Copper Blue Marans.

 

Last day of the month tomorrow and it’s been really mild up until now. I gave the grass a final cut yesterday and I hope, being as the ground temperature is still high enough for the grass to grow, it will re-flush giving another feed or two for the birds.

Over the last few weeks I have fed bucketfuls of windfall apples which are sliced up and dropped for the birds to get at the sweet flesh inside the skin. This and large amounts of Swiss Chard (bright lights) has kept them all busy and working.

I still have chicks from late sitters, bit of a pain this time of year and these growers will take much longer to mature as there is much less daylight for them to feed. All 4 lots of chicks will be kept on chick crumbs until spring now, as it’s higher in protein and it will take them longer to fill their crops and hopefully keep them out of mischief such as feather pecking.

 

Feather pecking is a habit that once it has started is very difficult to stop. It usually starts with a grower losing a feather, almost always from a cockerel and more often than not when the birds are crowding around a freshly filled feeder. A bird climbing on top of another will dislodge a new feather and another will grab it as a trophy and eat it.

Overcrowding and boredom along with ammonia soaked litter will trigger an outbreak and before you spot the signs you have a number of birds pecking the feathers out of other birds. Left untreated it will result in the drawing of blood and cannibalism.

If your spending time within earshot of the growers you will hear the squawk of pain and distress the victim makes.This squawk is slightly different to the noise the birds make if they have just had a peck from a higher up the order in the flock. You will hear the same bird regularly making the same sound, remove the victim and if possible the main antagonist and pen separately. I had 2 Wyandotte bantam pullets take this habit up and to break it I penned with the very large Marans rooster in the first photograph. It stopped the problem, but created another, the now almost mature pullets follow him around everywhere and will not return to their own hatch group.

There is no way of stopping them when they start, except removing the culprit and victim. If it has got to the stage where more than 1 bird is pecking, if you don’t take out the bird that has been attacked the others carry on attacking it. It can and will result in an horrific death and once they have tasted blood they will find another victim.

Give the as much space as you can as over crowding does’t give the birds room to get away from the attackers. You can try anti-peck and Stockholm tar, but it rarely works. The bird supposedly gets iodine from the feathers along with other minerals. A varied diet and greens give the birds something to work on other than each other. I use clover and lawn clippings.

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