Cuts and wounds
Hens make the best pets in the world. But show them red and they will peck!
If a hen injures herself in any way she must be removed from the flock as soon as you notice so that she can heal. The hen must not me put back in the coop whilst there is any blood visible. Hens can’t help themselves, they will peck anything red - even one of their own.
You can use a product call Gentian Violet
(or purple spray) this will hide the red part of the hen and any bleeding parts so it can be safely introduced back into the flock again. If there is a wound, get some antiseptic and bath the affected area, Use the Gentian Violet
on top of that.
If you hen has been attacked (by a fox or dog) she may be fine, but you have to bring her inside. All poultry in a stressful situation need TLC, (even if they are walking around) Their body temp can drop and they get cold. Make sure they are eating, drinking and pooing etc.
The pecking order, probably the most worried about happenings in the coop! It’s really not as bad as it sounds. Nine times out of 10, it’s a vocal hen making a noise for a couple of hours and then it all settles down.
There are ways to minimise the pecking order;
Firstly do not introduce birds that are not suitable to be with each other. i.e you would not put something younger than 14 weeks old with an adult flock, or a little polish with a group of RIR's. Always introduce at least two. Never one! - It always ends in tears. Your breeder should be available to assist you with what will go with your flock.
The easiest way to introduce hens is a separate coop whilst still being able to see each other. After two weeks, remove what is stopping them getting to each and all is fine! Put the new hens in in an evening (keep them in a dark box till this time) then they do not have time to confront each other and when they wake up they wonder how long the newbies have been there. If putting them in an evening is not an option throw them into the run whilst making sure there are lots of 'treats' available. Corn, veg etc. Also put out an extra feeder. The pecking order is always about ownership and the original girls see the new girls as a threat to their house and feeder. If you do see a hen pecking another, give the pecking hen a quick tap on her beak and this will make her think the hen being pecked has hit back at her, Worst comes to worst and you still have a hen being too bossy with your other girls. You would put her in a cage in view of the others for a good few days, and his way she will naturally fall down the pecking order.
Don't be afraid of trying a few remedies. Vaseline applied to the pecked hen will mean the culprit will not get hold of her again. An anti-pecking spray
will mean that they won't taste nice at all to the culprit (it’s a bit like nail-stop for those peeps who bite their nails)
I have found both ducks and geese to mingle fine, without a pecking order.
Like I said earlier, it sounds far worse than it actually is. It is us, (being the owners) who get more upset than the actual hens.
Eggs - oh so lovely eggs!
You will never buy shop eggs after tasting your own.
But....these hens and ducks work hard every day creating then laying these eggs.So below is a few egg issues and a quick fix to each one
Soft shelled egg. Add plenty of grit
to their diet. Ideally one third of their diet should be grit. They could also be moulting (see moulting) and this could lead to a few softies on a temporary basis. Be careful though, if you have a hen or duck doing this. These eggs are very difficult to pass and on rare occasions they can get stuck (see egg bound below)
Funny shaped eggs. As consumers we tend only buy things that look perfect, so now supermarkets only buy perfect items to sell to us. The odd and the misshaped eggs are normal - just not normal enough.
Prolapse. This is one the biggest problems. A hen can push so hard she pushes out her vent and inners. This is prolapsing. Her whole insides may hang out or just an inch or so will be seen. It’s same method to fix both. Firstly clean your hands and then the flesh/prolapse (if there is an egg within, remove) then using two fingers push gently back inside the hen. Chances are if you let her back with her friends it would just fall out. So, put her in a cardboard box (dark), either no food or water for 24 hours. This will hopefully knock her off lay so her body will have time to recover and strengthen back up. Keep an eye on her for a few days after, as there is a small chance of infection. If she does start to get warm or has an odour about her she'll need some antibiotics from the vets.
Egg bound. This is the most talked about egg issue.
It is not as common as it is made out to be. Sometimes an egg maybe a struggle to get out. Symptoms will be a swollen bottom area and her vent (bottom) will be going in and out. The egg could be larger than usual, or have no shell (so nothing to push against) or it may be her first egg of the year (so pelvic bones not quit open enough). Whatever the reason, you have to keep an eye on that hen. If you spot her struggling I would give her 24 hours before you intervene. The quick fixes are a warm bath and 20ml of castor oil
down her throat. This can be repeated several times and would normally do the trick. If not you have to fine someone who’s confident enough to try and move the egg themselves. I wouldn't attempt this if you have no experience in this. If you sense at all the hen's 'bottom' is over- warm she will need to see a vet and get antibiotics.
Impacted Crop / Sour Crop in Chickens
If your hen has a very enlarged crop, far bigger than a tennis ball, the chances are that she has a problem. Syringe 10-20ml of castor oil
down her throat and massage it. Once the crop has softened turn the hen upside down and hold her by her legs. Squeeze the contents of the crop back out through her mouth. You may have to do this several times until you get to the root of the problem. i.e a ball of grass or piece of string.
Do not leave her upside down too long, as she will need to catch her breath. I would put her on a 'liquid/soft' diet for a day or two after this. Try yoghurt, cucumber etc. This will reduce the risk of the crop swelling again soon afterwards and will mean it has chance to properly empty.
Lice and mites
Red mite, lice and other creepy crawlies are a very unwelcome addition to your coop areas but without care and attention these visitors can over run your coop causing illness and distress to your birds. Your egg production will also drop and especially in the case of ex battery hens, a weakened bird due to red mite infestation may prove fatal. Paragon
is a preventative powder for dusting the backs of your girls and the nooks and crannies of your coop area. Remember, red mite are usually nocturnal so just because you cannot see them does not mean you do not have them. Prevention is better than cure!
If you find lice mites, the quickest and most efficient way to get rid is to dust your hens every three days for 2-3 weeks. Dusting does not have to mean you pick up your hens. You simply need to open up their house in the evening when the hens are all sleeping and perching and shake the powder over them, creating a dusty atmosphere. They won't even realise this is happening and are unlikely to be disturbed.
Problems with feet or legs
There is a mite that effects the legs and cannot be seen initially to the naked eye. Their presence can only be seen many weeks/months afterwards when the scales on the legs of your hens are raised and after a further amount of time will appear to be covered in 'plaster of paris'. These are quite difficult of get rid of (but far from impossible) The easiest option is to buy a Scaly leg spray
and when they are perching in the evening spray their legs. Make sure you do the whole flock even if only one is affected as it’s highly contagious.
The other more tradition option is to dip the legs into surgical spirit
and then apply a layer of Vaseline on their legs. Once the mites have been killed, it will still take time for the legs to look normal again. You can help this process by using a tooth brush to rub the area and encourage the dead scales to fall off.
Hens and ducks go on adventures all day in different parts of you garden and can sometimes stand on the odd thing which may infect their feet. Bumble foot is not serious but does need treatment. Bumble foot always has the same symptoms. You may firstly see your bird limping and when inspecting the foot you will see the tell-tale black spot and a swelling. You can either try bathing the area every day with surgical spirit
or if you are experienced with animals/livestock you can try lancing the area and removing the infection.
Like us, hens and ducks can have minor aches and sprains and the best way to help in this situation is to put the bird in a small area so she is forced to rest. Then, in time (a few days at least) they will gain strength and recover.
Be careful of over feeding though. Generally hens won't over feed, but ducks can and the most common symptom (apart from a very fat duck) is a limping duck. Our hens have 24 hr ad lib feed, yet the ducks only have food till lunchtime, after which they graze on the grass.
Loss of weight and or Diarrhoea
Hens are not the best at showing signs of illness. The symptom you may see is some funny poos. It’s only then when you pick her up you may notice the weight loss. A hen’s weight is well hidden by her feathers. Weight loss is always a concern and the first thing you would do is bring her in and 'feed her up' with high proteins foods such as tuna and scrambled eggs.
Questions to ask yourself are?
When did you last worm the flock? (see next section on worms)
Have you got any new plants or changed your supplier of bark etc.
Could there be a source of bacteria in the garden (i.e a dead frog??)
Coccidiosis is a bacteria disease, normally cause from the hens digesting a source of bacteria. The symptoms are white runny poo (or blood in the poo) and severe loss of weight. Feeding the hens live yoghurt can help the symptoms or a trip to the vets might be in order. Chicks are quite prone to this as they poo in their own drinkers! Always use a chicks crumbs that contains an anti-cocciostat to prevent this.
Poisoning. Most Hens and ducks have the sense to avoid anything that is poisonous. You wouldn’t want to position their coop under a tree that is known to be harmful though, as they would not be able to resist the odd peck.
Obviously, whilst you have hens, ducks or any animals wandering around your garden, you wouldn't be wanting to use any chemicals in that area such as slug pellets, weed and feed or rat poison.
Moulting Loss of feathers
Hens and ducks will do this every year and it can be a worrying time. You would think with evolution that they would now moult in the summer, but no, most hens are bare breasted and looking oven ready in the winter.
Don't run out and heat the coop in a panic when you see feathers on the floor. They are hardy enough to handle the moult. Just add plenty of bedding to their house and make sure you increase their vitamins in the form of fruit and veg peelings or you could try Poultry Spice
which is great at increasing new feather growth