If you are reading this article you may already be lucky enough to own a collection of beautiful pet chickens. Is one of your hens not quite herself? This article will talk you through some common health problems in pet chickens. Don't worry, most of these are easy to fix and your chicken will be back to full health in no time. It's recognising the problem that can often be the hardest.
It's best to do a weekly chicken health check so you can spot the problem and treat it at an early stage.
If your chickens dust bathe and preen regularly, then lice won't be a problem.
Lice live on chickens, eat dead skin and feathers and lay eggs on the feather shafts. They are easy to spot and cure. Check the tail feathers around the vent. Can you see white stuff stuck to the feather shaft? These are lice eggs. Gently part the feathers on the chicken's back in a few different places. Did you glimpse a light brown or pale orange insect? That's a lice. A dusting of lice powder will cure the problem. Treat all your chickens at the same time.
Red mites are a common and annoying problem for chickens. They are a parasite and feed on the chickens' blood at night. They do not live on the chickens and tend to fall off when full and crawl into a crevice in the coop. In severe infestations, you may find them on the chicken.
It's possible to eradicate mites with a regular maintenance routine. But, how do you know if your chickens have red mites? The first sign of a sick chicken is a reduction in egg laying.
Other signs to look out for:
Is your hen looking pale? Her comb and wattles should be a deep red if she is laying eggs.
Is she listless?
Shaking its head, scratching a lot or being picked on by other hens?
- in severe cases of red mites they may stay on the bird in the daytime.
Have your hens recently stopped going into the coop at night? Do they come straight out again if you put them inside?
There are several ways of checking if your coop has mites living in it. The most common area is where the perch slots into the coop. Lift the perch out and look underneath it for tiny red mites. Look in the gap where the perch slots. Can you see any red dots or a large purple mass? Check around the inside of the coop, on each wall and especially in dark corners. If you can't see any mites, stick a piece of white tissue paper on the wall inside the coop and shine a torch on it in the early morning. The mites will stand out against the white of the paper and confirm if you have a problem. They are active at night and hide in crevices in the day.
Check your chicken by holding her firmly and parting the feathers near the base of the tail and head.
Now you know if there are red mites in the coop. There are a few ways to kill them, but be patient as it can take a few weeks or even months to be mite free. Your chickens should perk up quickly as you will have reduced the number of mites after the first treatment.
There are a variety of products available including DEFRA approved Poultry Shield. This non-toxic product works by breaking down the mites wax coat on contact. Diatom Powder is abrasive to the mite's waxy shell. If you have cats choose a spray that does not contain permethrin as this is toxic to cats. Keep your cats away when cleaning if possible. Wear old clothes and put them in the washing machine afterwards. They spread easily.
In severe cases of red mites, take apart the whole coop in order to get into all crevices. If this is not possible, add Poultry Shield to a pressure wash sprayer and spray into all the crevices. Another alternative is to use a plant sprayer or buy the product with the spray attachment. Allow the coop to dry and then puff diatom into all the cracks. It's also possible to create a slurry by mixing the two products together and pasting it into the coop.
Your chickens should perk up in the next few days as the amount of lice has reduced. Now it's time to control red mite. Clean out the coop weekly and follow the Poultry Shield and Diatom process. You may still see the occasional one or two mites under the perch, but wipe them off. Reduce the spraying to every two weeks at this stage.
Is your chicken egg bound? If your hen has not laid an egg for a few days, but constantly goes to the nest box and struggles to walk properly she may be egg bound.
Check for the following signs:
Fluffed up feathers
Sore, pulsating vent
Walking, stopping and straining
Drooping wings and sleeping more often
Look at your hens vent. Does it look sore, is it pulsating or is there any discharge? Can you see or feel the egg?
This might seem strange, but run your chicken a bath or fill a bucket with warm water. Hold your chickens wings so she cannot flap as you lower her into the water. She will enjoy her bath! Your hen will relax and might even sleep for a while. Leave her in the warm water for at least twenty minutes. Perhaps even change the water and give her a longer bath time.
Keep her warm, dry her with a towel and keep her in a box for a few hours. The warm water will have relaxed the vent and she may be able to pass the egg. You might find a soft-shelled egg in the box.
If any of these measures do not work, please take your hen to the vet. She may have an infection and need an antibiotic such as Baytril.
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