The Secret of Feather Feeding: How to Stop Chickens Eating Feathers

Inside: Explore the curious phenomenon of chickens eating feathers in our article, uncovering the reasons behind this intriguing behavior.

Chickens are fascinating creatures, known for their quirky behaviors and peculiar habits. One such behavior that often leaves people scratching their heads is their apparent love for eating feathers. Observing chickens pecking at and consuming feathers can be perplexing, but there are several reasons behind this seemingly unusual behavior.

chickens missing feathers with How to Stop Chickens Eating Feathers text overlay

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Why Do Chickens Love Eating Feathers?

So let's figure out your chickens' feather-eating habits and explore the potential benefits and drawbacks associated with this behavior. I mean, who wants featherless chickens?

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Natural Instincts and Foraging Behavior

Chickens, like many other birds, are natural foragers.

When free-ranging, their diet consists of a diverse range of foods, including seeds, insects, small invertebrates, and yes, even feathers.

Feathers are a rich source of protein and are not only an attractive treat for chickens but also contribute to their overall nutritional intake.

Brahma Buddy - Bantam Brahma Rooster

Nutritional Benefits of Feathers

Feathers are composed primarily of keratin, a protein that also makes up the bulk of a chicken's feathers, beak, and claws.

While keratin itself is not a direct source of nutrition, the act of consuming feathers may provide some nutritional benefits to chickens. Feathers can act as a natural source of dietary fiber, aiding in the digestive process and promoting gut health. And the protein content in feathers could supplement the chicken's overall protein intake, contributing to feather growth and maintenance.

hen and chicks

Calcium Intake

Feathers also contain traces of calcium, an essential mineral for the development and maintenance of a chicken's bones and eggshells.

Calcium is crucial for the formation of strong eggshells, and chickens may instinctively seek out additional sources of this mineral when needed.

Key to Strong and Healthy Quails: When Quail Need More Calcium

chicken compost

Environmental Stimuli and Stress

While nutritional factors play a role in feather-eating behavior, environmental stimuli, and stress can also be contributing factors.

Chickens may engage in feather pecking and eating as a coping mechanism in response to stressors within their environment.

Overcrowded conditions, lack of proper enrichment, or social hierarchy issues within a flock can lead to stress among chickens, prompting them to engage in abnormal behaviors such as feather eating.

Sometimes you just have a mean chicken that likes to pluck. I had a barnyard mix chicken in with my Bantam Brahmas for a couple of years. They were all brooder mates, but she would pluck the beautiful tail feathers of the Brahmas. Just because she wasn't so nice.

the best Chicken Breeds for beginners - two bantam brahma hens

Preventing Feather Pecking

Feather-eating behavior can become problematic, especially in domesticated settings, as it may lead to issues such as

  • feather loss
  • aggression among flock members
  • even cannibalism

Chickens can be downright mean!

To prevent or address feather pecking, chicken keepers should ensure their birds have:

  • a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs
  • adequate space
  • environmental enrichment
  • opportunities for natural foraging

Anti-Plucking Sprays

I didn't know that was a thing! Oh, the things we learn as chicken owners.

There are sprays that you can buy on Amazon, or at your local feed stores. It reduces picking and cannibalism in chickens. Contains tea tree oil, hemp seed oil, and other essential oils.

While it may seem odd to us, feather consumption is deeply rooted in the evolutionary history of chickens and serves various purposes in the wild.

Understanding the reasons behind this behavior is essential for chicken keepers to ensure the well-being of their flocks and address any potential issues that may arise.

A suitable environment, a balanced diet, and addressing stressors, chicken enthusiasts can create a harmonious and healthy living space for their feathered friends.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why does my chicken eat feathers? Feather eating can be the result of a dietary deficiency so you may find that feeding the hens hard-boiled eggs, or live mealworms can help as these are rich in protein and may help if they are suffering from a dietary imbalance.

    How do I stop hens from pecking out feathers? No Pick'n for Chickens hydrogel spray with tea tree oil, hemp seed oil & other essential oils is used to reduce pecking and cannibalism in chickens.

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