feather loss

The Ragged Feathers of Summer: 7 causes

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The Ragged Feathers of Summer: 7 causes
When your day old baby chick feathers in for the first time at 12 weeks old or so with her complete juvenile plumage, there's almost nothing quite as beautiful. Each feather is shiny and new. And a perfectly-frocked, robin-sized bird that runs to you for affection is more exciting than most of us would care to admit (in public). Those perfect feathers don't always stay perfect, though. Soon will come the ragged feathers of summer! There are a few common causes of missing or ragged feathers, many of which are more of an issue in the summer. If you're seeing problems, take a few moments to review what may be happening to see if it needs to be addressed.

7 causes of ragged feathers in summer

(1) Mites, lice, and external parasites are often more active in warmer weather. Such parasites can cause feather loss or breakage from overpreening. You'll need to deal with lice and mites if they are a problem in your flock. (2) Internal parasites can be more active as well; nutritional deficiencies  caused by worms are more common in warm weather, too, and this can lead to ragged feather issues, or to feather loss. Deal with worms if your flock is infested. (3) Having too many roosters in the flock (leading to too-frequent breeding and wear on back feathers) can be more of an issue in summer, too. Obviously, you're not going to magically have twice as many roosters in osummer than you do at other times of year--it's not that kind of seasonal issue! However, the breeding behavior of your roosters increases in spring... so by summer time, your hens' back will have seen a good deal of wear and those ragged feathers could become a problem. (4) In addition, if your hen's diet has been too low in protein, it means your her feathers will not be able to take much wear to begin with. This is often a problem with those who want to spoil their hens with too much scratch, which is quite low in protein. It can also be a particular problem in summer if your hens have access to ripe, windfall fruit or berries from your yard, or if you offer your flock excess zucchini or corn from your garden. Treats are great in moderation, but hens need a high protein diet to maintain feather quality and to lay. (5) This means also that your best layers will often have worn, broken or ragged feathers; they're more prone to dedicate nutritional resources to egg production than breeds that lay less well. (6) Of course, the heat of summer can increase irritability and cause hens to be more prone to pecking one another and picking feathers... in addition, the long hours of bright light, just in itself, can encourage aggressive picking, particularly if your flock doesn't have sufficient space to forage, or if the run they have is bare of grass. (7) Finally, late in the summer or early in autumn, molting begins. Molting is when your bird sheds her old feathers to grow new ones, and is, of course, not a health or management issue! It's a natural part of her cycle. But keep in mind: this period is the most important time to provide a good quality, high protein diet for your flock, as this is when they'll be growing in their new plumage for the following year. Want to do your best to avoid ragged feathers next year? Make sure they have sufficient protein and that their feed is nutritionally balanced year round... but particularly during the annual molt.

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