Causes of Poor Feathering
The absence of feathers on birds can result from any of several causes and can be separated into two groups: 1) those birds that cannot grow feathers and 2) those birds that pull or break them off. Either situation can be reversed by correcting the problem's cause.
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 will most likely be methionine. An adequate level of methionine is required in the diet and a deficiency results in reduced growth and feather development. A methionine deficient bird will tend 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 must be added to the dietary mixture 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, then 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. Birds that frequently mate may 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 will 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 cause is most likely the presence of external parasites such as the northern fowl mite or poultry lice. Infestations of these pests can be controlled by regular sprayings of an approved pesticide like permethrin to the birds. The house and other structures that the birds frequently visit should also be sprayed. This will ensure the elimination of any pests that can reinfest the birds. Several applications at 2 to 3 week intervals will kill pests that hatch from eggs that have been deposited prior to the initial spraying. Consult the publication External Parasite Treatments for approved treatments used on poultry.
Tornadoes and damaging storms that swept through the state Easter Sunday afternoon and evening, killing 11 Mississippians also caused devastating losses to growers in the poultry industry.
The strict biosecurity measures already practiced in Mississippi’s $2.7 billion poultry industry allow this “essential critical infrastructure workforce” to continue business as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Necessary restrictions on travel and gatherings are affecting how the Mississippi State University Extension Service operates, but its ability to respond to the needs of its clients, the public and state agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic continues uninterrupted.
Extension’s roles during crises are many: emergency management, local level assistance, support for the state’s agricultural industry, and dissemination of public information and education.
In 2019, Mississippi’s agricultural industry faced the prospect of dipping below $7 billion for the first time in eight years, but federal payments pushed its value up enough to post a slight gain over 2018.
The estimated value of Mississippi agriculture in 2019 is $7.39 billion, a 0.2% gain from last year’s $7.37 billion. Included in the total is an estimated $628 million in government payments, the largest amount of federal assistance Mississippi producers have seen since 2006