Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feather Picking and Pinless Peepers

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by Karla T.

I’m sharing my experience here because it took me a while and a lot of worrying before I found this product.  I hope this will be helpful to others in the same predicament.
Chickens will sometimes pluck each other’s feathers out.  There are many theories regarding why chickens do this.  Some of the suggested reasons are not enough protein in their diet, stress, boredom, and cramped quarters.  Apparently some breeds are more likely to pick then others.  In our case we believe the picking was caused by boredom from being cooped up during a very cold winter and the breed of half of our chickens (Rhode Island Red). 
By the time Spring rolled around my chickens were bare!  They had no feathers on their backs, tails or rears.  They looked awful and I felt awful about it.  I tried different remedies that I read about and nothing worked.  Then I heard about Pinless Peepers and I felt that it might be the answer to my problem.
They are basically little blinders that keep a chicken from looking straight ahead.  The chicken can still look down to eat, to the sides, and up to fly to its roost but it doesn’t see the tantalizing chicken feathers right in front of its eyes.  The blinders are made of plastic and attached to the chicken by two small prongs that enter the chicken’s nostrils. 
The Pinless Peepers are available for sale online.  I tried local feed and farm supply stores but was not able to find any in stock.  There are also special pliers available to help attach them.  The pliers were a bit pricey and are not strictly necessary.  Other types of pliers can be purchased for much less that will work as well.  Some people place them without tools but I have not tried that. My husband had some pliers on hand so we were all set.
Application was definitely a two person job.  We went out at night in the hopes that the chickens would be less excitable.  That worked fairly well but since we had to use a flashlight to see, I don’t think the trade off was worth it.  I picked up and held each bird under one arm and held its head with my other hand.  My husband used the special pliers to spread each blinder apart and place it on the bird’s beak.  Then we released the bird and moved on to the next.  Their reaction was fairly mild.  They squawked and shook their heads for a minute then hopped up on their roosts and went back to sleep. 
The best news is that it worked!  The chickens quickly began regrowing their feathers and within about 3 to 4 weeks were fully feathered.  I was hugely relieved and the chickens seemed to enjoy having fluffy butts again. : )
Please leave a comment if you have any questions.  I’ll do my best to answer them.


12 comments:

  1. I am so glad you posted about this. I was very curious about the little green sunglasses your chickens were wearing!

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  2. Very interesting article. Good info to know in case that problem ever arises! I love your photos of the mother hen and her chicks--kind of makes me want to get a rooster :)

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  3. I've been debating about using these. Do you always keep them on or is there a time you can remove them? Thanks!

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  4. Good morning,

    Nice article about peepers. I have 11 hens, half of which are Red crosses and mine also started picking last winter. I applied peepers to all of them but two (the worst-picked ones, never see them picking anyone else) and the feathers have gotten much nicer. I have one evil chicken, Matilda, who can still pick a little, even with the peepers on. She's very bright and can calculate where to pull feathers, even though she can't see straight ahead. The peepers were far more successful than ANY of the other methods of getting them to stop. I still provide extra protein (sunflower seed and cottage cheese daily) and lots of things to do, though, to prevent boredom. Thanks for the nice article.

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  5. I too would like to know if you keep them on all the time?

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  6. I have left them on the chickens that were a problem, but have not put them on the new chickens that I introduced to the coop.

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  7. Karla, Do you have to keep these on them all the time or just during molting season or if they are pecking a lot or...? Also does it hurt the chickens when they are put on or wearing them? I would not want to purposely want to hurt my chickens for any reason. I read where you lost a hen shortly after putting these on her. I guess it could have been a fluke or something. I am really interested in this product. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the other readers, it was great.

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  8. Sorry, I missed this question. I do not believe that it hurts the chickens at all, the holders go into the the nasal hole on their beaks. They did not react as though there was any pain. However, even if there was an initial pain or discomfort, it'd have to be far milder than being plucked bare and living w/o feathers.

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  9. does this interfere with them flying up to roost?

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  10. No they had no problem with roosting

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  11. Does it affect their breathing? How is it working out as of now? Thank you.

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  12. We just put these on 8 of ours last week, and the chickens who were getting picked on are quite relieved. I was just wondering, also, how long the blinders should stay on.

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