Hens are funny creatures, and just like us they can have little problems or blips in their health. Here are the most common problems you may come across
My coop is covered in red mite and I cannot seem to get rid of them!
Redmite are common and are not a sign of bad hen keeping or husbandry. They affect many hens and are transmitted from wild birds. They have a breeding cycle of 3 days, so any treatment you apply to your house needs to be done every three days. I would recommend the following procedure: Remove all hens, bedding etc from the house and clean thoroughly with a poultry disinfectant such as Smite or Poultry Shield. Wash off the coop with a pressure washer and leave to dry in the sun. Once dry, powder all the nooks, crannies and crevices of the hen house (under the perches especially) with diatom. Repeat this every three days for at least 12 days. Other methods include blowtorching the redmite and smoke bombs. All are effective, as long as the process is repeated every three days.
My chickens are feather pecking one another, what should I do?
Pecking is usually a sign of boredom or lack of space. It is also an indication of lack of protein. Firstly ensure the hens are getting a well balanced diet of layer pellets or mash and additional proteins such as mealworms. Try moving their run or putting toys up such as cabbages, CDs, mirrors, flowerpots to jump on and off; to alleviate the boredom. There are a number of anti-pecking sprays available, we stock the Nettex brand, which can be sprayed on to the hens that are being pecked. It has a disgusting taste which usually puts off the hens that are doing the pecking. Before applying the peck spray, make sure the pecked hen has no open wounds and apply some Gentian violet spray which works as an antiseptic. If this doesnít work, it usually tends to be one bird in particular who is the bully, you can try separating her from the others for at least a week. Not everyone has the space to do this, so if not, we recommend fitting a beak bit or bumper bit. They really do the job! The fit into the henís nostrils and then into her beak and prevent her from being able to close her beak enough to peck out a feather. She can still eat (pellets, not mash) and this will sort the pecking out. It wonít be very comfortable for her for the first half an hour and she will shake her head trying to get it off. Bear with it though; she will get used to it and it wonít bother her at all after the first few days.
My chicken has runny poo, is this normal?
ĎNormalí chicken poo is hard to define as there are so many variations. Typically, poo should be medium brown with a white tip, but there are other variations that are quite normal. Once every 7-8 poos, your chicken will empty her caecel gland, and this poo will be runnier than normal. If the poo is constantly runny, very pale yellow, very dark brown and sticky, or contains a lot of blood, then alarm bells should ring. Runny poo is often a sign of worms, so make sure your hens are wormed every 4-6 months with licensed wormer Flubenvet. To promote a healthy gut, use Verm-X natural wormer every month for three days, and Orego Stim, a liquid supplement which is particularly good for clearing up diarrhoea. If they symptoms persist and blood is present, this could be coccidiosis so a trip to the vet with a poo sample may be called for.
My hens havenít laid for a long time is something wrong?
Egg production will decrease and possibly even stop over the winter months, once the hen reaches about three years old. This is completely normal, she can only lay so many eggs in her lifetime and during the winter her energies go towards keeping herself warm instead of laying eggs. Hens will also only lay in daylight, so as the nights draw in, egg production will decrease. Make sure she is getting a balanced diet; not too many kitchen scraps or corn, but 90% layers pellets or mash. We would also recommend adding a good supplement such as Life Guard to their water to help them absorb the nutrients in the food better. Another good tip to make sure they are getting enough calcium to form eggs shells is, as well as ensuring they have access to grit, add some cod liver oil to their feed, which will help them absorb the calcium more. You can also add limestone flour to the feed which helps harden shells. The important thing to remember is although your hens are meant to lay eggs, they are not machines and you are not keeping them in intensive conditions. As long as they look happy and healthy and you are feeding them correctly, I wouldnít worry.
My chicken seems lethargic and un well, what could be wrong with her?
A difficult question to answer thoroughly without seeing the bird or being veterinary trained. My first question would be; "when was she wormed?" If it is recently, with Flubenvet, it is unlikely to be a worm problem. If she has any nasal discharge or is sneezing, this could be a respiratory infection, which can be quite common and is usually cleared up with antibiotics from the vet. If you do not want a vet trip, I would suggest a course of Nutri-drops, which instantly vitalises weak birds, followed by a protein heavy diet Ė mealworms, layers pellets, cod liver oil and yoghurt, mixed with garlic or seaweed. And a couple of syringe fulls of apple cider vinegar; this is a great gut cleanser and something that we add to our henís water for one week out of four as routine. In sever cases a 1ml syringe of neat ACV a couple of times a day often works a treat. If it is cold, consider bringing her inside or into the garage overnight in a cat crate with plenty of straw and shavings to keep her warm.
My hen has a big bulge in her crop, what is this?
When a hen eats, her food is stored in her crop before being digested fully. This normally takes a couple of hours, so after sheís eaten a little bulge is normal. If the bulge is hard and doesnít seem to be decreasing, this could be a crop impaction. This is usually caused from eating long grass, hay or her body not digesting her food properly. Syringe some sunflower oil down her throat and massage her crop for about fifteen minutes. You will need to do this about three times a day. If the ball is still hard, consider buying and feeding your hen live maggots (I know this is horrible!) the maggots will eat away at the impaction and will not cause harm to your hen. If her crop is squashy and saggy and she has bad breath; you have a case of sour crop. This is when undigested food goes stale inside her. This is often cured by live yoghurt, which balances out the bad enzymes and is good for yeast infections and gentle massaging. Often making the hen sick removes the mouldy food, but you should only do this if you are 100% confident as doing it incorrectly can cause death.
Iím addicted to chickens and I want to add some more to my flock, how can I do it?
Firstly we would suggest doing it on an even ratio. For example 4 existing to 4 new ones, we would never allow a single bird to be mixed into an existing group as it is likely she would get picked on. In an ideal situation, you would need to keep both groups separate for a couple of weeks. They should be able to see one another, but not touch. This way, they get familiar with one another and when you put them together it often goes un-noticed. Whilst this isnít possible for everyone, I would suggest letting your old hens into the garden whilst the new ones go into the coop and run. (NEW! At WCC, we now run a 'Hire a Coop' Service' to help with introductions) At bedtime, they can all roost together and hopefully make friends over night. If necessary, separate them again into garden and run and repeat the process. It will settle down, but the first few days can often be quite tough. Keep an eye out and make sure one hen in particular isnít bullying or being picked on too much and make sure they have plenty of space to run away from one another. You will also need to buy a separate feeder and drinker as your old hens will be protective of theirs.