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...Poultry - Health...

  1. How can I tell if my chicken is healthy? Are there any obvious signs?
  2. How do I inspect a chicken for health problems?
  3. I have one hen with feather loss around her neck. Could this be pecking related?
  4. What is Bird Flu?
  5. How do I stop feather picking?
  6. I am getting shell-less eggs. What do I do?
  7. How often do hens need to be treated for worms?
  8. My chickens have black spots on their crowns, What kind of disease is this?
  9. How do you tell the difference between moulting and feather pecking?
  10. Should I wash dirty eggs?
  11. What is the best way to store eggs?
  12. Should I vaccinate my chicks?
  13. How can I test if an egg is fresh?

1. How can I tell if my chicken is healthy? Are there any obvious signs? Page Top
Positive signs of healthare a bright eye, red comb, dry nostrils, shiny feathers (with most of them there), a good weight, clean feathers under the tail, and an alert and active manner.
Lack of feathers could be due to the annual moult (late summer/autumn) on any part of the body. Missing feathers at the tail could be due to other hens pulling them out due to mineral deficiency or stress.
Lack of feathers on the neck sides may be due to the other hens or the de-pluming mite.
Broken and/or missing feathers on the back of the neck and back of the females may be due to over/vigorous attention from the male bird.
2. How do I inspect a chicken for health problems? Page Top
Hold the bird so that it is balanced by resting its weight on your left forearm, its head under your left arm, its legs held between the fingers of your left hand with its tail pointed away from you.
This leaves your right hand free to inspect the bird for positive signs of health, and lice or mites.
3. I have one hen with feather loss around her neck. Could this be pecking related? Page Top
She might just be molting. When chickens molt it sometimes starts on the neck and tails.
Chickens will pick and eat feathers if they need extra protein. Try feeding some rainworms or cat food about 2-3 times week until they finish their molt. Also use dye on her to disguise the blood.
4. What is Bird Flu? Page Top
Bird flu or avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds ranging from mild to severe form of illness.
All birds are thought to be susceptible to bird flu, though some species are more resistant to infection than others. Some forms of bird flu can cause illness to humans.
5. How do I stop feather picking? Page Top
The tendency for feather picking varies widely among different breeds of chickens. Commercial flocks generally use beak-trimming to reduce the birds' ability to harm one another.
Feather picking is increased by: overcrowding; malnutrition; and, inadequate feeder and water container space.
Giving the birds access to free range space usually prevents feather picking.
Note: Mysterious feather loss is usually caused by molting or, if it's concentrated on the backs of hens, by roosters during mating. It may also be caused by feather lice.
Molting is the natural process of replacing old feathers with new ones, and can also be triggered by stress.
Stockholm Tar is an old fashioned product which can be effective as a treatment against feather pecking.
6. I am getting shell-less eggs. What do I do? Page Top
Shell-less eggs are held together by the membranes alone. This may be related to a lack of calcium or vitamin D. Hens synthesize vitamin D from sunlight so this will not be a problem if they are free-range.
Eggshells require a lot of calcium. A feeder full of ground oystershells can provide the calcium they need.
7. How often do hens need to be treated for worms? Page Top
Hens should be wormed at least twice a year.
The most common licensed product for worming poultry is Flubenvet. You can only buy a 240 gram tub.
8. My chickens have black spots on their crowns, What kind of disease is this? Page Top
Any loss of colour on the comb usually indicates a circulatory problem, possibly heart disease.
Blackness indicates dead tissue due to loss of blood supply or dried blood (try washing it off).
It could also be frostbite or damage from fighting.
If it is Fowl Pox there are 2 types:
The dry form is very common and does not really cause any damage unless the pox forms right beside the eyes. The dry pox will go through a flock in about two weeks and then it is over.
The wet form can be a serous problem and it is where the pox forms down their throats. If you have a wet form of the pox you can vaccinate your flock to stop it from spreading.
9. How do you tell the difference between moulting and feather pecking? Page Top
When chickens are moulting you tend to see a collection of feathers in the coop. Their comb may be paler too.
With moulting there is no apparent bald patch. In a partial moult it is mainly neck and a few tail feathers. In a full moult they look generally scruffy and you will see a lot of feathers around.
10. Should I wash dirty eggs? Page Top
Brush eggs or wipe clean with a damp cloth when dirty.
The shell of an egg is semi-porous. The membrane around the egg is the main protective element and whilst intact prevents bacteria.
11. What is the best way to store eggs? Page Top
Store eggs in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge.
Although it is unnecessary to put freshly-laid eggs in the fridge for the first two weeks, unless you are giving away or selling the eggs, it is best to keep them in the fridge at all times.
Do not put fouled eggs in the refrigerator as this is introducing bacteria to what should be a clean environment.
Store eggs away from other foods. It is a good idea to use the egg tray in the fridge, if you have one, because this helps to keep eggs separate.
Eat dishes containing eggs as soon as possible after you have prepared them, but if you are not planning to eat them straight away, cool them quickly and then keep them in the fridge.
Do not use eggs after their best before date for the safest choice.
Do not use eggs with damaged shells, because dirt or bacteria might have got inside them.
12. Should I vaccinate my chicks? Page Top
Commercial hybrids are vaccinated for the serious poultry viruses, whereas generally, most pure breeds are not.
Home poultry keepers generally rely on natural immunity, and the fact that the notifiable viruses are a relatively rare occurence these days.
13. How can I test if an egg is fresh? Page Top
Immerse the eggs in a bowl of tepid water. A fresh egg will lay almost flat on the bottom of the bowl.
As the egg gets older, the fat end will start to bob up. If it is just bobbing off the bottom the egg is still fine to eat. The higher up the end bobs, the older the egg.
Eggs that are bobbing off the bottom will still be fine for cakes etc, but you probably do not want it for your breakfast.
If the egg stands upright on the pointy end, it should not be used. If it floats on the top it is very old and will smell.

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