Monday, December 20, 2010

Preventing feather loss

Feather loss is a natural process with all birds. It is also an indicator that there may be problems in the management of your flock. This could be due to nutrition, the environment, social issues or for many other reasons. Most feather loss remedies require changes to the  management of your birds. Feather loss results in increased food consumption and less egg production. An improvement in feather condition brings economic value to the owner. Listed below are various reasons of feather loss. Keep in mind that lack of food or water is the most frequent stress causing feather loss.

    •     Moulting - This is a physiological phenomenon, which consists of the shedding of feathers, followed by replacement with new feather growth. It is usually accompanied   by a reduction in egg production or even a complete halt.

    •    Feather-pecking - Feather loss can be caused by vices such as feather-pecking. Once established it is difficult to control and prevention is the best remedy. Social order pecking occurs primarily at the head and is not severe. Severe feather pecking due to overcrowding, lighting problems, unbalanced diets and boredom will injure your birds.

    •    Cannibalism - With feather-pecking any subsequent injury with drawing of blood will attract further pecking leading to cannibalism. To prevent cannibalism it is best to isolate the sick or victim bird from the flock or cage. The injured bird should have cuts treated with antiseptic powder and the wound should covered with Stockholm tar or " NO PICK " to reduce further pecking attacks. Once healed, the bird can be carefully reintroduced to the flock and monitored to ensure pecking is not repeated. 

    •    Abrasion - Feather loss is also caused by rubbing against other birds or surroundings, particularly if the birds are closely confined. To reduce feather loss, avoid overcrowding  and eliminate all sharp and rough surfaces. Alternative cage materials may also assist, as feathers wear away at different rates when rubbed against different types of cage materials.

    •    Mating - During mating the hen may lose feathers by the rooster treading the hen. The feathers are torn from the hen's back by the rooster's claws. To reduce this feather loss, the rooster's claws need to be trimmed with nail clippers. 

    •    Stress - A number of factors lead to stress, which can contribute to a reduction in egg production and the onset of a moult. Generally a lack of food or water is the most frequent stress causing feather loss. Poorly balanced diets or mouldy feed can also bring on moulting. Lack of cool, clean water, even for a short time, can cause birds to moult. 

    •    Other - Feather loss can also be caused by chilling, overheating and poor ventilation. A good housing environment will eliminate temperature extremes and still provide good ventilation for the birds. Ill-health either from injury, disease, parasites or bullying may also contribute to moulting. Regular monitoring of your birds will minimize stress and reduce further feather loss.

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