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Chicken Head

Cockerel with Bright Red CombPhysical defects in Poultry

There is plenty of useful information to be gathered from a careful visual inspection.

Eyes should be bright with that all important spark of life. Eyes that appear small or sunken can be a sign of dehydration. If there is any sign around the eyes and nostrils of water discharge the bird could have respiratory problems such as Mycoplasma.

Combs should be bright red and free from scabs and discolouration. Combs come in a variety of different types (e.g. single, triple, rose, pea, walnut) and the comb should be genuinely representative of the breed.

Wattles. Damage to the wattles can mean the bird has been fighting.

Twisted beak. A deformity that can give a bird serious eating difficulties. The upper and lower parts of the beak do not align correctly. This tends to be an inherited problem.

Plumage. Condition of plumage should be good, with tight-fitting and clean sleek feathers (unless the bird is moulting). Bird should appear active and alert.

Vent area. A mucky backside can be a sign of problems. Check around the vent area for parasite investation.

Knock knees. Birds with leggs that bend inwards at the knee joint, when viewed from the front. This can be a key pointer to the bird having a poor body structure (confirmation). It is likely that such birds will be poor specimens that will not lay well or develop satisfactorily.

Pigeon toe. This condition is recognised by inwardly-facing feet. This can be a genetic problem.

Twisted toes. A condition where one or more toes grows at a strange angle. This can be inherited or it can develop with birds reared on wire mesh.

Wry tail. A condition that is characterised by a tail that is carried off centre, when viewed from above. Generally this problem is caused by a genetic disorder. This does not affect the ability of the bird to lay.

Squirrel tail. A condition where the tail feathers curve forward towards the head of the bird, instead of being more vertical or facing to the rear. Generally this problem is caused by a genetic disorder.

Legs. Condition of legs is important, Scaly leg mite is an infectious nuisance. Watch out for rough and raised scales.

Breast bone. Check for breast bone straightness and the presence of abscesses or other swellings.

Wings. Check shape and condition of flight feathers. Another favourite place for parasites to gather is under the wing.

Droppings. Faecal condition can be revealing as far as general health is concerned. Droppings should be predominantly dark-coloured with a white cap and a generally firm consistency. Any blood can indicate the presence of coccidioses, as can a runny consistency or an unnaturally green colour. Diarrhoea can also be caused by worms.

Cockerel at a Poultry Show
Leghorn Bantam Chicks
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