Having a few chickens running around a back garden or property is great fun and if you have lots of kitchen scraps that need disposing of, chickens make great recycling bins, as long as they are safe to give to your hens that is. However, you need to understand the dietary needs of your hens so they stay nice and healthy because there are a few deficiencies that can make your birds very ill and could prove fatal if not treated sooner rather than later.
This is a condition that, luckily, is not that commonly seen in chickens but when evident, there are certain signs and symptoms to watch out for. Vitamin A deficiency typically affects chickens that were not fed enough of the vitamin between the ages of 1 to 7 weeks old. These days, most birds are fed specifically formulated food which means they are less at risk of suffering from this type of vitamin deficiency. The symptoms to watch out for include the following:
By adding a Vitamin A supplement to their water on a daily basis should solve the problem but you would need to discuss the condition of your chickens with a vet so they can advise on the type of diet you should be feeding your birds to avoid the same thing from happening again. Their diet should ideally include a specifically formulated feed together with good quality raw food which could include kitchen scraps which are safe for chickens to eat. Adding antioxidants to your chickens diet is also recommended should they be suffering from a Vitamin A deficiency.
Being water soluble, B vitamins cannot be stored in the body to any significant extent and therefore a continuous supply is needed to keep chickens nice and healthy. If hens suffer a Vitamin B deficiency, this can affect their eggs which may not hatch out due to the embryo not receiving enough of the vitamin as it develops in the shell.
The signs and symptoms to watch out for in Vitamin B deficiencies are quite numerous as it depends just which vitamin is lacking but are typically as follows:
Supplementing their water with the correct Vitamin B will normally resolve the problem pretty quickly as long as the chickens are still drinking that is. You can buy good quality multivitamin solutions from feed merchants but you would to read the instructions on the amount to give your birds very carefully and if in doubt consult your vet first.
Chickens suffering a Vitamin E deficiency are normally being feed a diet that's too high in fat or where feed is rancid with muscular dystrophy often being seen in mature birds whereas younger chickens suffer from Encephalomalacia and exudative diathesis if fed the same incorrect diet.
The signs and symptoms to watch out for include the following:
By supplementing your chicken's feed and water with Vitamin E and selenium, you can effectively help your birds recover. However, where serious skin lesions are a problem, a vet would normally recommend your chicken be put on a course of antibiotics which must be completed to be effective. When it comes to prevention, feeding a specifically formulated diet and good quality raw foods should help prevent any chickens from suffering from a vitamin E deficiency in the first place.
Luckily, since the advent of carefully formulated poultry feeds, biotin deficiency in chickens is far less common than it was in times past. However, this does not mean that birds don't still suffer from the condition if they are not fed correctly and very often biotin deficiency could lead to another condition known as fatty liver and kidney syndrome.
The symptoms and signs to watch our that a chicken may be suffering a deficiency of biotin include the following:
Just by adding a biotin supplement either in your chicken's feed or water will help restore the balance. Biotin is naturally present in a lot of foodstuffs but these typically have low bioavailability so it is far wiser to add it by way of a supplement which you can purchase from most feed merchants.