Endell Veterinary Group

Mon to Fri

8:30am - 6:00pm

Saturday

8:30am - 12:00pm

Chicken Care

Chickens are fast becoming a more and more popular pet and many people now keep them, not only to produce good quality, fresh free-range eggs at home but also for many other reasons: to create interest in the garden, as a hobby for children and to create a learning experience for the family, for manure for the garden or simply just because they look attractive! With appropriate diet, housing and general health care backyard poultry can be very rewarding pets to own. However, they also have their own special health considerations to bear in mind and can from time to time require veterinary attention and finding a "chicken vet" can be quite tricky!

Here at Endell Veterinary Group we are a “chicken friendly” practice. We are always ready to help with any concerns or queries you may have regarding your birds, and have a range of products to help solve most problems.

We offer full consultation, preventative health care plans, red mite and worming advice and are ready to provide medical and surgical treatment when necessary. Even if you are just thinking about getting some feathered friends and would like some advice on where to go and how to set up, please come in for a chat with one of our vets.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to worm my birds?

Yes. Many animals suffer from worms and chickens are no exception. These parasites can live in the guts and even respiratory airways of chickens, and birds can easily become infected. Once infection has been established this can cause weight loss, ill-thrift and general poor condition. Some birds may even become anaemic, showing pale wattles and rough feathers. We recommend worming your flock every three months; plus worm all new birds that join the flock. If possible also try to prevent build up of worm burdens in the environment by always feeding from feeders rather than directly on the ground, moving your poultry to clean grass on a regular basis, avoiding muddy areas by putting down pea-shingle and keeping grass short to expose worm eggs to sunlight that will destroy them. Recommended wormers are available from Reception.

I think my chickens have diarrhoea. What should I do?

Ask yourself is one bird affected only, or is it a whole flock problem? Have you wormed the birds recently? There are many possible causes of diarrhoea in backyard poultry including worms, coccidiosis, bacterial gut infections, being egg bound etc. Occasionally it is possible that with supportive electrolyte treatments [available from Reception] that the birds normal gut flora can reestablish and the bird will return to normal, however it is advisable to get your bird checked out by a vet just in case additional treatment with antibiotics is indicated.

Why are my chickens feather pecking?

This can be due to cramped conditions, stress, nutritional deficiency, boredom, or a combination of factors. We have many products available to help counter these factors.

My chicken looks very moth-eaten. Is something seriously wrong?

Possibly. However she may just be going through a moult. This is a normal process and generally occurs once a year, after a lay and can last up to two months. Egg laying usually stops in order to give the bird a rest and allow the body to regenerate. Often the appearance of your bird can look unthrifty and disease resistance at this time is weakened. Consider using a tonic at this time, which you can purchase from Reception.

My chicken is eating her own eggs. What should i do?

Egg eating can be a problematic habit that birds can develop. It can start if a bird breaks an egg accidentally and then gets a liking for the taste. Birds will naturally want to clear the nest to keep clean. As with many things: prevention is better than cure... so provide plenty of nest boxes and ensure they are nice and dark. If raised above the birds eye level, this will prevent them spotting the eggs in the first place. Once habit has set in, using china or rubber eggs or even a ping-pong ball in the nest may help as birds will get fed up from endless pecking but with no reward.

I have a broody hen. What should I do?

Unfortunately broodiness is a natural thing and there is very little you can do. It can occur any time from spring right through to autumn and your bird’s behaviour may dramatically alter. It can even be reported that it appears that the chicken has had a stroke or fit! Recommendation for a broody hen is to remove her from the flock and provide plenty of food and water. She will be a very dedicated hen for the first two weeks, though will gradually become more active with time. Remember: if you don’t want the eggs to hatch you must remove them from the nest!

My chicken is sneezing and has a runny discharge from its nose. What could this be?

Respiratory disease is relatively common in backyard flocks and this can often be due to outside “visiting” birds, new additions to the flock or poor housing and ventilation. Assess your chicken house for airflow and ask yourself how secure it is from wild birds? There are many diseases that can cause respiratory problems; bacteria, viruses and mycoplasma. Sometimes these can be the primary reason for disease, or sometimes these jump in as secondary infections when the bird is debilitated in other ways. Consider the general health status of your birds. If clinical signs are mild then no treatment may be necessary and simply providing supportive care and TLC may be all that is indicated. Using supplement at this time will ensure that the bird is provided with pre-biotics, vitamins and electrolytes during this time of sickness and these are available from our Reception. However if signs are severe antibiotic therapy is likely to be needed and therefore an appointment with the vet is necessary. It may be that there are other underlying problems with your bird that allowed it to succumb in the first place.

As a preventative measure, consider quarantine of all new birds for 3 weeks before introduction to your existing birds and try to purchase birds only from disease free flocks.

What should I do if I think my birds have red mites?

Red mites can cause a range of clinical signs: from restlessness, loss of condition and drop in egg production through to anaemia and even death. Sometimes you can actually visualise presence of grey/red mites up to 0.7mm around the vent and in the housing. BEWARE: Red mites can also cause itching in humans.

It is essential that BOTH the bird and the environment is treated. Please ask to speak to one of the chicken vets at the practice to discuss these treatments.

I’ve heard chickens can get problems with their crop. What is the crop and what problems can the get?

The crop is a part of the oesophagus where the initial stages of digestion can occur. The crop can become impacted either due to a foreign body obstruction, or as a result of a poorly functioning muscular wall. You will be able to obviously feel the distended crop and often your bird will be dull and off its food. The best treatment for this is a simple surgery that is usually performed with the bird conscious and using local anaesthetic. Aftercare of the bird is important and we have a range of supportive products to use to aid recovery of the chicken.

Sour crop is caused by a disruption of the normal crop flora with the result being an overgrowth of a yeast called Candidia. Contrary to crop impaction the crop feels fluidy and often the bird will have foul smelling breath. This condition will also cause your bird to go off its food and seem generally under the weather. Treatment of this must involve draining of the crop. Some people report to achieving this by turning the bird upside down. However, we would strongly NOT recommend this as there is a real risk of choking the bird. It would be advisable to arrange an appointment with one of the chicken vets at the practice in order to drain the crop in a safer way. Follow up care must include using appropriate products to replace the normal crop flora which can be purchased from Reception.

Why do some chickens get egg bound whereas others don’t? What should I do if my chicken starts straining unproductively?

The exact cause of this problem has not yet been determined however stress, obesity and calcium imbalances have all be implicated. If you suspect your chicken is egg bound it is advisable to bring her in to be checked over as sometimes this can progress to full blown peritonitis with nasty consequences. Often placing the bird in a dark quiet area and using KY jelly to lubricate the vent can help, though the lodged egg is known to irritate the lining of the oviduct and can result in a bacterial infection. This requires appropriate antibiotics. Bursting the egg may work though there is great risk of sharp shell fragments lacerating an already inflamed oviduct lining. Ensuring appropriate diet and environmental conditions are in place should help prevent recurrence.