Feather Picking/Feather Eating
« Thread started on: Mar 3rd, 2007, 01:34am »
http://www.msstate.edu/dept/poultry/faq-ans.htm (excerpt) "The most common reason that feathers do not develop is a deficiency of a critical protein constituent (amino acid) from the diet of the birds. The feathers of birds contain high levels of a subunit of proteins called "methionine". Methionine is one of only a few amino acids that contain sulfur, and sulfur is a major constituent of feathers. If bird diets are deficient in any single amino acid, it is probably methionine. An adequate level of methionine is required in the diet and a deficiency reduces growth and feather development. A methionine deficient bird tends to eat feathers in an attempt to satisfy a craving for this amino acid. A bird may even pull them from its own body. Few ingredients used in making poultry diets contain adequate amounts of methionine, so manufactured methionine is added to dietary mixtures to ensure that the birds receive an adequate amount. All quality poultry feeds are designed to contain adequate methionine and prevent reduced body growth and feather development. However, if additional grains (such as corn) are fed with the complete feed, the amount of methionine consumed by the bird can be inadequate for providing growth and feather development. Feeding of additional grains with complete poultry feeds is not recommended.
If feathers are developed but are pulled or broken off, the cause is usually management related. Frequently mating birds often have an absence of feathers, especially on the backs and heads of hens. The males may also have feathers missing from the breast area. These feathers grow back after the breeding season is completed. Consult the publication Solutions for Poultry for recommendations for the supplementation of methionine when feeding methionine deficient diets.
If feathers are missing from the abdominal and vent area, the frequent cause is the presence of external parasites like the northern fowl mite or poultry lice. Pest infestations are controlled by regular sprayings of the birds with an approved pesticide like permethrin. The house and other structures that birds frequently visit must also be sprayed. This ensures the elimination of any pests that can reinfest the birds. Several applications at two to three week intervals kill pests that hatch from eggs that were deposited prior to the initial spraying. Consult the publication Pesticides Used for Control of Poultry Insect Pests for approved treatments used on poultry."