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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.

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News

A close up of white eggs stacked in a bowl with other white eggs.
Filed Under: Poultry April 13, 2018

RAYMOND, Miss. -- With low feed prices and healthy demand for broilers and eggs, the Mississippi poultry industry is poised for another productive year.

Filed Under: Commercial Fruit and Nuts, Green Industry, Organic Fruit and Vegetables, Other Vegetables, Corn, Cotton, Nuts, Peanuts, Soybeans, Equine, Goats and Sheep, Poultry, Lawn and Garden, Forestry, Seafood Economics, Seafood Harvesting and Processing March 7, 2018

ELLISVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State University representatives met with agricultural clients in Ellisville recently to discuss research and education needs for 2018. More than 115 individuals attended this year's event.

Scores of chickens are seen inside a poultry house.
Filed Under: Agricultural Economics, Poultry December 19, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The poultry industry is the giant in the state’s agricultural economy, as its estimated 2017 production value of $2.8 billion nearly doubles the value of forestry.

Early figures from the Mississippi State University Extension Service show the industry grew at an estimated 13.4 percent from the 2016 value. Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said higher broiler prices are responsible for the value increase.

Dressed in a pink T-shirt and blue jeans, broiler grower Teresa Dyess stands next to two wagon wheels in front of a barn on her family farm.
Filed Under: Women for Agriculture, Poultry October 20, 2017

In three days, Teresa Dyess shifted her business focus from produce to poultry.

The change began two years ago with an offhand remark from her husband, Joe Dyess.

 “He told a broiler grower in Wayne County we wouldn’t mind building pullet houses because we wanted to diversify our farm,” she said. “We didn’t think any more about it, and then the next day a poultry processor called and offered us a contract. A banker came the next day, and everything fell into place.”

Lanette Crocker, coordinator for the MSU Extension Service in Wayne County, said Teresa Dyess’ adaptability has helped her maintain success through the farm’s transition.

Hen flock inventories grew after the poultry industry recovered from the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, increasing the number of eggs on the market and driving down the price. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Poultry August 4, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Mississippi's poultry industry remains healthy with a strong demand for broilers and a positive outlook for the remainder of 2017.

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