Happy Peeps

May 22, 2011

Ducks Gotta Go

The two ducks that we raised along with the chicks, were cute at first and we just loved them. But when they became a few months old, they started picking on the hens -- the meat ones. Those hens, I am told, were bred to gain weight 2 or 3 times faster than the other chickens, and they have, weighing out now at 9 lbs. The other chickens are half that weight, if that. Well, a 9 lb chicken is, in my opinion, the couch potato of the poultry world. Even their legs are fat! They have trouble getting up and moving about, but manage to get the feeder. So, these slow, ungainly chickens, caught the eye of the ducks, who became fond of pulling their feathers. At first it was just one or two here and there and we thought they were bored, which is when the building of the hen house began in earnest. By the time they were installed in their new digs and had been there for a week, it was obvious the pecking and pulling wasn't going to stop. I was getting pretty darn mad about it, but I noticed that the hens (two of the five) weren't complaining much, so I thought, maybe this is something that happens with the "pecking order" and I'll have to ignore it. Until today.

Today, I went out to change the water at around noon time, and spread some new straw. As I was putting the waterer down, I turned and saw, to my utter dismay, that the poor hen not only had her back almost entirely feather-free, but her back had an open wound and I could see her innards! I quickly grabbed her and ran to the house, calling for Joe. Long story short, we cleaned and dressed the wound, and moved her back into a new box in the basement, along with a friend who they had just begun to pull the feathers from. There are three more of these hens outside and tomorrow we will be watching, and any more feather pulling and those are coming inside also. We have no choice.  The ducks will most likely be going to a kind lady on a farm south of here. I had no idea that ducks would do this, nor did I think they were capable. I've never witnessed the other chickens pecking at these white hens (Cornish Rocks) so I don't think it was them; although they could have contributed toward the end. I'm sure once it was an open wound, it would be very hard for them to keep away from it.

Word to the wise:  carefully watch your poultry for "fowl" play, and don't think that this feather-pulling behavior can't or won't turn into something serious.

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