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Hen Health

Chickens are usually healthy and good husbandry will prevent many problems. Our hens are vaccinated against many serious illnesses, however from time to time  you may be faced with a sick hen.  I am an experienced chicken keeper and have written this guide to symptoms, treatments and prevention of chicken illnesses to help when you have a poorly chicken. If you are still not sure what is wrong with your hen or she is very ill, please consult a vet who specialises in poultry.  As I have provided this health care tool free of charge, I would be grateful if you could support our business by buying your poultry health care products from us either from our ONLINE SHOP or from our premises.

Margaret Manchester, Owner, Durham Hens

 


Symptom Checker

Use this list of symptoms to find out what may be wrong with your hen, then simply scroll down the page to the black text to find an alphabetical list of problems and their treatments:

Bald Patches - see Feather Pecking, Moulting, Lice, Fleas, Red Mite

Blood in droppings
- see Coccidiosis, Worms

Chicks
Blood in Stools - see Coccidiosis,
Lame
- see Splayed leg
Huddled together
- too cold (increase temperature)
Noisy
- hungry/thirsty (have feed/water available at all times) or cold/hot (adjust temperature)
Spread out at edges of brooder
- too hot (reduce temperature)

Comb:
Orange
- see Anaemia
Pink
- normal for young pullet - see Anaemia
Pale
- sign of illness, look for other symptoms - see Anaemia
Purple
- not enough oxygen in blood (heart or respiratory problem)
Black
- normal skin colour for some breeds - see Frostbite
Scabby
- see Bullying, Northern Mite
Small
- normal for young pullet and some types of hen - see Anaemia

Coughing
- see Respiratory Problems

Crop:
Crop feels like water balloon
- see Sour Crop
Hard lump in crop
- see Impacted Crop

Diarrhoea - see Diet, Worms, Coccidiosis

Droppings
- there are a huge range of chicken droppings, click on this link for more information: http://www.chat.allotment.org.uk/ind...?topic=17568.0

Eggs:
Drop in production -
see Diet, Worms, Fleas, Red Mite, Egg Peritonitis, common in older hens
Stopped laying -
see Diet, Moulting, Egg Bound, Worms, Egg Peritonitis, common in older hens
Thin shells -
see Diet, Egg Peritonitis, also give Shell Aid and
Mixed Grit, add Apple Cider Vinegar or Tonic to water, common in older hens
Powdery shells -
extra calcium on shell, can be caused by stress or too much calcium in the diet
Blood spots
- less common in free-range hens and those on grass, eggs OK to eat
Watery eggs -
common in older hens

Eye:
Swollen -
see Injury Eye, Sinus Infection
Closed
most of the time - this is general sign of illness so look for other symptoms, they also do this when it's windy and they nap during the day
Bleeding
- Injury, pecked by other hens, preditor attack

Face:
Swollen -
Sinus Infection

Feathers:
Fluffed up:
general sign of illness if hen is hunched up, if reluctant to leave nest box see Broody
Loosing:
see Feather Pecking, Moulting, Lice, Fleas, Red Mite

Gasping for air - see Respiratory Diseases, Gapeworm

Head shaking
- see Sinus Infection, Respiratory Disease, Fleas

Legs:
Lame
- see Injury, Mareks Disease, Bumblefoot
Scaly
-see Scaly Leg Mite, can be a sign old age

Scratching - see Fleas, Lice, Red Mite

Sneezing - see Sinus Infection, Respiratory Diseases
 
Staying out at night -
see Red Mites

Straining
- see Egg Bound, Egg Peritonitis

Sudden Death
- see Heart Attack, preditor attack, injury

Wheezy Chest - see Respiratory Diseases

Wing Hanging Down - see Injury, Mareks disease

Chicken Problems and Their Treatments


Anaemia
Symptoms: Pale comb and wattles, often caused by parasites
Treatment: Tonic in water, apply Diatom powder to the hen, clean the coop with Poultry Shield.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.

Broody
Symptoms: Hen sat on nest box, feathers fluffed out, aggressive behaviour
Treatment: All hens can go broody although some breeds are more likely to. If you want her to produce chicks, let her sit on fertilised eggs. If you don't, remove her from the nest as often as possible until she gives up. It may be advisable to wear gloves! Block the nest box(es) off at night.

Bullying
Symptoms: Feathers missing, wounds, weight loss, reluctance to leave coop, usually soon after getting hens home or adding new hens to a flock
Treatment: Remove from flock if there are any open wounds, Gentian violet to treat wounds, anti-pecking spray, ensure they get food - some bullied hens will give up trying to eat and simply waste away!  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.

Bumblefoot
Symptoms: Lameness, swellings on feet, infection occuring after injury
Treatment: Antibiotic from vet

Coccidiosis
Symptoms: diarrhoea often with blood or mucus, most commonly found in chicks but not exclusively, can result in death or leave permanent damage to the gut
Treatment:
Coxoid in drinking water as soon as possible, followed by a multi-vitamin tonic. Use  Bi-oo-cyst to kill oocysts in coop/brooder and on drinkers, feeders etc. Herb 'n' Thrive can be used as an organic alternative.
Prevention: Vaccination, chick crumb containing a coccidiostat, good hygiene

Dehydration
Symptoms: Hen looks unsteady on her feet
Treatment: Provide fresh clean water, if not drinking use dropper to drip water into her tongue. Don't force water down her throat as she may drown. Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens. This may be a symptom of another condition - look for other symptoms.

Diarrhoea
Symptoms: Runny droppings, dirty feathers around bottom
Treatment: Ensure plenty of clean drinking water is available. Feed only layers pellets or mash, with a little corn if it's winter, until the problem improves. Do not give greens or kitchen scraps.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens. A Tonic will help if the problem has been long lasting. If you haven't wormed the flock recently, treat with Wormer.

 
Diet - see  Keeping Chickens: Beginner's Guide

Egg Bound
Symptoms: Hen looks like she is straining with her bottom close to the ground
Treatment: Difficult to treat, oil (vegetable/baby) around the vent may help, if the egg is broken there is severe risk of infection so please see a vet. Can lead to Prolapse.

Egg Peritonitis
Symptoms: Swollen abdomen, loss of weight, laying soft shelled or no eggs, generally looks unwell, if severe can cause respiratory distress
Treatment: Antibiotics if diagnosed early

Feather Pecking
Symptoms: Feathers missing, bloody wound if severe, can occur when new hens are introduced to a flock or if hens are over-crowded, bored hens can even peck their own feathers out!
Treatment:
Gentian Violet Spray for open wounds
Prevention:
Anti-pecking spray on new hens, prevent hens becoming bored (more space to forage, perches in run, peck blocks etc).

Fleas
Symptoms: Small insects that jump, reduction in egg production, anaemia, scratching.
Treatment: Apply Diatom directly onto the hen, especially under the wings and around the bottom, clean the coop with Poultry Shield. Also Tonic in water.
Prevention: Use Diatom regularly inside the coop and on your hens.

Frostbite
Symptoms: Comb turns black especially at the tips, the tips may fall off if severe, can be fatal. Cockerels are more likely to be affected than hens.
Prevention: Rub Vaseline on comb during cold spells

Gapeworms
Symptoms: Gasping, head shaking, neck stretching, gurgling sound (easily confused with respiratory diseases)
Treatment: Worm with Flubenvet

Heart Attacks
Symptoms: Sudden death, usually in older or overweight chickens, often as a result of stress.

Impacted Crop
Symptoms: Hard lump in the crop, watery droppings, fluid from mouth
Treatment: Drip oil (olive, vegetable) onto the tongue, don't force liquids down her throat or she may drown. Once in the crop and try to massage the lump so it breaks up and can be passed through the digestive system. If this does not work, see your vet.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.
Prevention: Use wood shavings instead of straw/hay for bedding and do not pick long grass for them to eat.

Injury:
Open wound

Symptoms: Bleeding
Treatment: If severe apply pressure to stop the blood flow, see vet if it needs stitches, if just a graze clean the wound, apply
Gentian Violet Spray. Remove from flock until healed.
Muscle/Soft Tissue
Symptoms: Limping
Treatment: Limit hen's movement to rest the damaged area, make sure she can reach food and water easily, should heal itself in time.
Eye
Symptoms: Bleeding, swelling. Can be caused by pecking, accident, foreign object in the eye, sometimes the eye can be missing altogether.
Treatment: Bathe the eye area carefully to see the damage, remove foreign object if present, she may need anti-bacterial eye drops from your vet, if the eye is absent see your vet.

Lice
Symptoms: small insects (1-4mm) crawling on the hen's skin, white spots at the base of the feather are eggs, reduction in egg production, anaemia, scratching.
Treatment: Apply Diatom directly onto the hen, especially under the wings and around the bottom, clean the coop with Poultry Shield.
Prevention: Use Diatom regularly inside the coop and on your hens.

Marek's Disease
Symptoms: Common viral infection causing paralysis of one leg and/or one wing, loss of mobility, death. Usually occurs in birds between 12 and 30 weeks old.
Treatment: None
Prevention: Vaccination as a very young chick, all the hens and chicks sold by Durham Hens are vaccinated against Mareks.

Moulting
Symptoms: Loosing feathers, not laying
Treatment: Natural process occurring once a year,
Poultry Spice can help hens recover quickly

Northern Mite
Symptoms: small insects (less than 1mm) crawling on the hens, anaemia, scratching, reduction in egg production
Treatment: Apply
Diatom directly onto the hen, especially under the wings and around the bottom, clean the coop with Poultry Shield. Also Tonic in water.
Prevention: Use
Diatom regularly inside the coop and on your hens.

Prolapse
Symptoms: Internal tissues sticking out of the vent, hen distressed.
Treatment: See your vet

Red Mite

Symptoms: Anaemia, scratching, reluctance to go into the coop and/or lay in nest boxes
Detection: Use Red Mite Alert to detect the presence of red mite in your coop.
Treatment: Tonic in water, thoroughly clean the coop with Poultry Shield, apply Diatom regularly to the hens.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.
Prevention: Dust Diatom regularly inside the coop and on your hens. Clean the coop with Poultry Shield.

Respiratory Diseases (many with similar symptoms/treatments)
Symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, wheezy chest, head shaking, discharge from nostrils
Treatment: Separate hen from flock, give
Herb 'n' Thrive, Respite or antibiotics from your vet.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.

Scaly Leg Mite
Symptoms: Scales lifted on legs
Treatment: Apply Scaly Leg Spray or Vaseline.

Sinus Infection
Symptoms: Swollen patch below the eye on one or both sides, if severe the eye area may be swollen too, also water/pus from eye/nostril.
Treatment: Separate hen from flock,
Herb 'n' Thrive or antibiotic from your vet.  Nutri-drops can help to revive poorly hens.

Sour Crop
Symptoms: The crop will feel like a water balloon, soft and squishy.
Treatment: Caused by a fungal infection. Tip the hen forward to let the fluid pour out of the crop through her mouth (CAUTION: do not hold her like this for more than a few seconds as she needs to breathe!) Feed natural yoghurt. If it doesn't improve quickly see your vet.

Splayed leg
Symptoms: In newly hatched chicks, one leg sticks out awkwardly, unable to walk/stand.
Treatment: Tie a piece of wool around one leg at about knee height, leave about 2cm loose between the legs and then tie to the other leg at the same height. This will act like a splint and keep the legs in the correct position. Remove after 2 days or when the chick can walk unaided.

Worms
Symptoms: diarrhoea, blood in droppings
Treatment: worm regularly with
Wormer


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