If you are a crazy chicken lady like I am then you can probably spot when something is off with one of your feathered friends. I spend a couple hours a day with my birds and observe their behaviors. Each bird has a name that fits their distinct personality. It’s good practice to spend time with your birds every day so if problem does arise, you can nip it in the butt before it gets worse, or worse than that… Before it spreads. Check ups will not only keep your bird happy and healthy, but will also maximize their productivity. It’s important when you are doing your fall check ups to pick up each bird and examine them. Is there excessive feather loss (not molting), are they comfortable, are they in pain?
When doing fall check ups you should start at the comb and work your way down.
- Comb should be a nice rosy red with no black spots. If the comb is a purple color that indicates that there could be some respitory problems that need to be addressed imediately by a vet. A pale comb could be a sign of heat exhaustion or could be that your hen just laid an egg. Keep an eye on her to see if the comb stays pale or goes back red.
- Eyes should be clear and bright. Watery eyes, coughing and sneezing could be signs of a respitory illness and you should seek veterinary assistance if the problem last more than a couple days. Cloudy eyes could mean conjunctivitis caused by ammonia build up in the bedding. Flush eyes with saline solution and clean bedding.
- Crop should be empty in the morning. If the crop is hard or mushy then you may have a case or impacted crop or sour crop. Immediate treatment is necessary.
- Breast bone should not protrude. If it does then you may need to put some more weight on your birds before the cold months come.
- Wings should be clean, be sure to look under wings for lice, ticks or mites. If you do find pests under the wings, soak the bird in warm water, salt and dish soap followed by a heavy dusting of Diatomaceous Earth. Add garlic to your hens diet to make they blood less appetizing to pests.
- Vent should be clean, moist and pink. A dry pale vent indicates that your hen is not laying. Remove any chicken poop from the area by soaking or trimming.
- Legs should be smooth and brightly colored(unless you have a dark legged breed like Marans). Scaly or raised scales on the legs are a sign of leg mites. Just to be safe you should rub your birds legs down every month or so with Vaseline or olive oil.
- Feet should be cool. If your birds feet feel warm and puffy then you should closely examine them for thorns or splinters. If you see black spots on the bottom of the foot that could indicate that you have a case of bumblefoot and it should be treated immediately.
- Feathers should be shiny and unbroken. If you notice your birds looking scraggly and breaking their feathers that could indicate there is a protein deficiency in your flock and you should boost the protein until you see the problem reverse. Broken feathers could also mean there are rodents getting in to the coop at night. Be sure your birds are tucked in safe at night and fill in any holes you may find. Broken and missing feathers could also be a sign of molt. During which time you should increase their protein intake.