I held off the other hens until the egg was laid and they all went back to eating, drinking and scratching in the dirt. Then I went in the house to google "feather pecking". I decided:
- My hens are probably bored
- I might not have enough nest boxes
- The nest boxes aren't private enough
First I tried to put plantain salve on the hen's back. I know that if the other hens see red, they will continue to peck at her relentlessly. The salve wouldn't "stick" to her feathers though and it didn't help. I sprayed iodine on the wound, hoping that it would turn it brown instead of red. Google had recommended Blu-Kote spray but I don't have any.
I did realize that the two affected hens have spots, one of the Dominiques and one of the specked Sussex. I think this might explain why they began pecking: a chicken will peck at a bug on another chicken, or at a speck of feed, a dot of light on a wall, and so on. They probably started by pecking at a spot. Unfortunately I can't fix that, other than giving them more stimulation or enrichment. So now I'm enriching my chickens' environment. Oh my.
Some of the information I'd read suggested that feather pecking (or feather picking) might be related to diet, so I gave them a bowl of spinach, leftover rice, a handful of dry cat food, a banana peel, and a couple spoonfuls of yogurt. I hadn't given them a lot of "snacks" before so they were interested but not eager. Still, it kept them busy for a bit.
I also gave them some suet "muffins". When I have a bit of leftover meat after a meal, I put it in a zip bag in the freezer. It doesn't matter what kind of meat it is because I'm making dog food, or in this case, chicken treats. When I have enough scraps saved up, I put the meat in muffin tins and add melted fat (left over from cooking hamburgers, bacon, etc.) to the tins. Once the fat hardens I put these muffins in the freezer. I give them to the outside dogs on cold, raw winter days, but I gave the last two to the chickens, wrapped in a chicken wire "cage" and nailed to the wall of the coop.
I'll tell you why my coop was pretty "plain Jane" before this: snakes. I dislike giving snakes a place to hide. I really dislike finding a snake behind a board or in a corner. Ick. I guess I'll have to remember to be cautious once the weather warms up.
How do you provide "enrichment" for your hens?
NOTE: Be sure to read the great suggestions in the comments section below!
You might also enjoy:
Chicken Coop - my Pinterest board
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We're So Egg-Cited
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