Some of the most common chicken problems you will find raising backyard chickens
Most serious chicken problems occur when too many chickens are being kept together or you are not following the basic day-to-day and week-to-week care guidelines. However here are some of the most common chicken problems that chicken keepers face at some time when raising backyard chickens...
Keeping Chickens in Cold Weather
If this is your first winter keeping chickens you will need to know how to properly care for your hens when the temperature drops. Two of the most common problems you may have to cope with are a chicken with frostbite or a hen suffering from dehydration.
Red Mite is easily the most common problem you will come across when raising chickens at home. The red mites usually only live in wooden housing (moreso if you have a felt roof to your hen house) and are only active at night when the red mite crawl onto the birds from the crevices and cracks in the house and feed on their blood. If your chickens suddenly decide not to go into the hen house at night and look a bit pale around the head then you will most likely have a red mite infestation. This will reduce the number of eggs the hens lay and in very bad cases can kill the birds.
Lice are yellow about 3 mm long and live on the bird, they lay eggs near the base of the feathers mainly near the tail. A white build up around the feather base near the vent (in a bad case there could be a build up on feathers as well) is a sure sign of Lice - the whiteness is lice eggs. I would strongly recommend you use a red mite and louse powder at least once a month to prevent red mite and louse. Make sure you also sprinkle some in all the cracks and crevices inside the hen house too. Barrier Louse Powder is highly recommended its organic, it smells pleasant and is easy to use. It has certainly quickly cleared up a lice infestation in the chicken house for me.
Scaley leg mite is another common chicken problem and is caused by mites burrowing and living under the scales of the leg of the chicken which causes them much irritation and discomfort. You will notice scaley leg mite easily by the raised scales on the hen’s legs and they will look very rough and uncomfortable. If left for too long scaley leg mite can cause lameness in the chicken and can make it difficult for the hen to perch, it is also very contagious to other birds. Mild cases can be easily treated with the use of Vaseline or similar which suffocates the mites, you will need to repeat the treatment again after 7 days. Some breeders also suggest dipping the legs in surgical spirit once a week for 3 weeks. Whichever option you chose make sure treatment is given as soon as first symptoms of scaley leg mite appear.
Chickens with worms...
The most likely symptoms you will notice in chickens with worms is drop in egg production and an increased appetite and the hens may also have diarrhoea - although diarrhoea alone does not always mean worms are the culprit. It is always sensible to make sure you worm your chickens 2 or 3 times a year to avoid these chicken problems and to keep your hens in prime condition and keep egg production to a premium. The most common product purchased for treatment of worms in chickens and one I use for my own hens is a called Flubenvet.
Hen Pecking can be a major chicken problem even in a very small of flock of backyard chickens and can sometimes start when you introduce some new hens to the hen house. Hen pecking can also be due to overcrowding, the chickens have just get bored or more importantly it can be a lack of the protein, vitamins or minerals. If you are sure your hens have enough space, are getting a balanced diet of pellets or mash, you could try adding some extra items to the run to prevent the boredom and offer some distractions. A friend of mine recently hung some old CD’s in the run and added a hanging peck a block and it solved the problem. You can also try hanging a cabbage or other green in the run for them to peck and play with. If a chicken is consistently being picked on by the other hens and she is being badly 'hen pecked' drawing blood then she must be separated until her wounds are healed (the red colour of the blood will only encourage more hen pecking.) It is wise to apply a suitable antiseptic to her wounds as well. Do remember though Chickens do have a natural pecking order and it is only natural for them to remove the odd feather or two now and again. If all this fails there are a variety of anti peck products on the market that you can try to break the habbit which are applied directly onto the less dominent hen.
Blocked Crop or Sour Crop
The best cure for blocked crop is prevention so always make sure your chickens have access to a regular supply of poultry grit to help them digest their food and you do not let them have really long grass or overeat on greens in general which may cause a blockage. You will notice at the end of day when the chicken is full of food a swelling appears on her chest showing a full crop - if the swelling is still there in the morning it’s a sure sign she has a blocked crop another common chicken problem. You can try giving her some oil and a massage 2 or 3 times a day to help loosen the blockage and this will often do the trick. Alternatively both garlic and natural yoghurt are great aids to the natural digestive process and have worked well for this chicken problem on one of my hens.
A broody hen is a hen who refuses to leave the nest, she will just sit on the nest all day covering her clutch of eggs. A broody hen can sit in the nest box for up to a month still hoping her eggs will hatch. She will only probably get off the nest once a day only to eat and drink. If your hens go broody the only thing you can do is to try to break the habit. Firstly try removing any eggs from the nest box as soon as they are laid. If this doesn’t work you can try removing the hen from the nest and keep her away from returning for about 4-5 days. I have also known some people temporarily use nest inserts inside the nest egg boxes so that the eggs roll away from the hen as soon as they have laid the eggs. If none of these work the only alternative is to wait until the broody hen decides to get off the nest in her own time - but make sure she always has access to feed and water.