PET CARE Happy chickens are healthy chickens

Outdoor Living
Chickens

Happy chickens are healthy chickens



Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen


More and more people nowadays are keeping hens in the back yard. It is a great way to get your daily amount of fresh eggs. Chickens also make lovely pets: They are fun to watch and are very easy to tame. Children love them and keeping chickens as pets can make children aware of where the eggs and meat come from.
To maintain a good chicken health is vitally important. A chicken can go down hill fast when it gets sick, and because there are often a few chickens in one pen, diseases can spread very quickly. Therefore it is best to try to prevent diseases as much as possible. In order to do so you need to keep your chickens happy ’cause happy chickens are generally healthy chickens.
To keep your chickens happy a high level of husbandry is vital: Your chickens need dry, spacious, secure, well-ventilated and clean housing. This will prevent stress and stress results in lowered resistance against diseases. They also need good-quality feed and plenty of fresh water to drink.
It is very important to keep the chickens under close observation. Watch their behaviour and habits every day. This way you will find out what is normal behaviour for your chickens, and when a chicken is out of sorts – for example, not eating, being bullied, losing weight or has diarrhoea – you’ll notice it straight away. The quicker you react the more chance that your hen will get better.
Lift the chickens up one by one and give them a good check up on a regular basis. Watch out for parasites under the feathers and under the scales on the legs. Make sure that there is no diarrhoea around the bottom of the hen.
Remember that in most of the cases you won’t be able to find worms in the droppings. The worms are in the digestive tract of the chicken and are not visible on the outside. That’s why I recommend to worm chickens at least twice a year. This is best done with a wormer with no egg withdrawal so you don’t need to throw the eggs away.
Mites are not always on the chickens when you inspect them. They hide in the nooks and crannies of the housing and come out at night to attack the chickens and take a blood meal. Therefore, it’s a good idea to treat the chickens’ housing on a regular basis. An excellent, safe and organic way to get rid of mites is to introduce predator mites, which you can order on the internet. Always have a sand bath available for your chickens. This is an excellent way for the chickens to ‘wash’ and rid themselves of unwanted creepy crawlies.
When a chicken is sick, separate it from the other hens straight away and bring it to the vet. If one chicken is sick, the other ones often follow soon afterwards, so make sure to treat the whole flock.

Esther Van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. Feel free to contact her with any of your small-animal concerns on 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.