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Foot Injuries in Chickens -Methods That Help Heal

foot injuries in chickens

Properly treating foot injuries in chickens is very important. Cleaning wounds and a bumble foot treatment plan should be started promptly. The chicken may not eat or drink enough if it has a foot injury. This will weaken the bird and could lead to infection and death

A good habit to get into is looking at each one of your animals every day. Learning on the homestead never stops. Every day there is a new issue to resolve or roadblock to scale. Knowing all of your animals, and what is normal behavior for each one, is important and can make a difference in their health or even survival. Keeping a good first aid kit helps you start a bumble foot treatment or clean an injury promptly.

foot injuries in chickens
Chickens are always on the move and need healthy, pain free feet to take them places.

Weird things can happen on a farm, especially when you throw animals into the mix. You may think your fences are pig tight, horse high, and bull strong, you may think that you have built the most secure pen or made the enclosed area extremely safe, but there is always that animal who manages to thwart your best efforts at keeping them safe and secure.

foot injuries in chickens

Most of the animal keepers I know just seem to have a sense of when things just aren’t right. For me, without even consciously thinking about it, I take a head count so to speak. I know my animals habits, behaviors, who hangs out with who, that sort of thing. And here is another example of why this is an important habit to get into.

Finding Foot Injuries in Chickens 

foot injuries in chickens

One evening, I noticed that Mr.Tweet was not walking normally. I went to pick him up and instead of trying to run away he just waited for me to lift him up. Animals know when they need help. This is what I found.

foot injuries in chickens

At first glance I was not sure if it was a wire or thread, but it turned out to be a long shredded piece of plastic from one of the shade covers over the run. It had probably only been on Mr.Tweet’s feet for that day. He had been acting normally the night before and had no signs of being picked on by the flock. But, in that short time, he had managed to wrap the thread of plastic very tightly around his feet and individual toes. This was going to take a few minutes to untangle.

Mr. Tweet and I left the coop area to get some help and to find some scissors.

Not As Bad As Expected

We soon had Mr. Tweet’s feet free from the tangled mess. The plastic had tightened so much in some areas that it was hard to get the scissors in to make a cut.

There was some mild swelling on some parts of his feet but nothing serious. I sprayed his feet with Vetrycin Wound Spray just to be safe. Having a good general purpose antiseptic spray on hand is the first step in treating foot injuries in chickens, or any wound for that matter. I am keeping a closer eye on his feet for now to make sure an abscess is not forming from the tight bands of plastic. I had a feeling he was a little hungry and thirsty since he was not able to run around freely as usual. So I gave him some time with just a few of the hens and some fresh food and water to enjoy without any of the alpha personalities being present.

Soon, he was enjoying the freedom of movement and was acting normally. He seemed ready to head in for the night so we put everyone to bed. In the morning, there were no further issues from the foot entanglement. We are keeping a close eye on his feet to make sure any small cut we may have missed, does not become infected.

DSC_0019

Other Foot Injuries in Chickens 

Bumble foot

Bumble foot is a staph infection of the foot. One of the first signs of this will be the chicken not willing to put it’s foot down or put pressure on the foot while walking. It may walk around a lot less or be hopping around on one leg. Mine often become depressed and just sit in one spot, in the cases I have had to treat. Bumble foot treatment is a specialized treatment plan and requires a good antiseptic wash, and antibiotic cream and lots of gauze and vet wrap to keep it clean.

Educate First

I suggest you find a few videos or articles on Bumble foot treatment before starting treatment. I have described our treatment plan in this article. Everyone has a slightly different method of removing the infection. The end result should be a removal of the abscess causing the pain, and a well healed chicken foot.

bumble foot treatment
a picture of a bumble foot abscess that is doing well healing.

(it’s hard to get a good picture of a bumble foot treatment when you are also holding the chicken!)

Splay Leg in Chicks

Splay leg or spraddle leg in chicks can often be repaired. There are a lot of videos on the internet with directions to make splints, and bandages to secure the legs while the hip joints grow. I liked this out of the box idea from The 104 Homestead using a drinking glass.

Another hatching issue causing foot injuries in chickens is crooked or bent toes at hatching. Forming a small support from a pipe cleaner and securing it to the chick’s foot is often suggested. Both Splay Leg and crooked toes can often be fixed and the chick will grow normally.

Scaly Leg Mites

The tiny mite, Cnemidocoptes Mutans, is the cause behind scaly leg mite. You will first notice that the scales on your birds feet look raised. This escalates until the foot and leg are covered in raised scales and white dusty patches. The mite harbors in the damp chicken litter or bedding and burrows into the wood of the roost bars, waiting for a nice soft chicken foot to happen by.

scaly leg mite

Treatment involves soaking the feet and legs, loosening the scales with a soft brush, and coating the legs and feet in coconut oil or olive oil a few times a week for four weeks. Dust bathes with added wood ash help eliminate scaley leg mites too. You can read more about treating scaly leg mites in this post.

Overgrown Spurs

Now, you might wonder how I could possibly miss this issue. Aren’t spurs fairly visible? Most times the answer is yes, the intimidating spurs are very apparent. However, some of our Brahma and Cochin roosters have had heavily feathered bodies and legs. The spurs have grown undetected until they are interfering with natural walking for the bird.

When spurs need to be trimmed, grab some garden pruners or hoof trimmer shears. Work slowly taking off small increments of the spur at a time. The closer you get to the leg, the closer you also are to the quick. If you cut the quick, bleeding will occur. It is always good to have a blood stop powder ready. See more on that in the next section.

With light colored chicken legs, the “live” portion of the spur is easier to see. I take small portions off at time, so that the spur no longer hampers walking. If additional trims are needed, repeat in a few days.

Broken Toes and Toenail Injuries

Broken toes may need to be splinted. A pipe cleaner, vet wrap and electric tape may be all you need in this case. Watch for pieces of exposed chicken wire where your chicken may get it’s toe trapped and need to struggle to be free. Also, if your chickens are very friendly and used to being underfoot while you feed and clean, you could accidentally step on a foot and break a bone.

healthy chicken foot and leg
healthy chicken foot and leg

Cuts and other open wounds can potentially lead to serious infections. Clean the wound with sterile saline, apply a wound dressing and antibiotic ointment. Keep a close eye on it. If it is getting worse instead of better, then a Veterinarian may need to be called for a stronger antibiotic. Keeping the wound clean and dry will go a long way towards not having to call the vet.

Broken toenails and spurs also can lead to limping and further infection. And bleeding can invite pecking at the wound from the flock, since chickens are attracted to the red blood. We use cornstarch to stop bleeding but there are commercial products such as Wonderdust available also. Once the bleeding has stopped, treat the wound as mentioned above. You may need to isolate the injured bird if the injury is more severe and the bleeding recurs.

foot injuries in chickens

Steps You Can Take When Discovering Foot Injuries in Chickens

  • Prepare the materials and first aid products before you catch the chicken. Removing the chicken from the flock causes stress. Reduce the amount of time you will be working on the bird by being prepared.
  • Have a first aid kit ready!
  • Know your individual flock members. You don’t have to pick up each chicken every day to observe for odd behavior that may be the result of a foot injuries in chickens scenario.
  • Stay calm. Your stress and panic will transfer to your chicken. If others around you are not able to stay calm and quiet, move to a more secluded location.
  • Isolate any cases of foot injuries in chickens if the bird is being bullied, picked on or not able to get to food and water.
  • Clean dressings and wounds daily. Wear disposable gloves to protect yourself as some infections are transmissible to humans.
  • Keep products on hand that help with your bumble foot treatment plan

For more information on preparing a first aid kit for your farm check out this post.




Why Keep the Rooster with Your Flock?

Why would you keep the rooster? The general feeling from most chicken keepers seems to be just the opposite. Rightly so in the case of neighborhood rules, or possibly having small children around. But in many cases, if you keep the rooster, your flock will benefit from a good leader.

When you picked up your chicks this year, the little fluffy balls of fun were so cute! No doubt one was your favorite. Now that the chicks are reaching 10 to 12 weeks of age, you have begun to notice something a little different about your favorite chick. It may be slightly bigger, stand a little taller, have bigger feet and it may be growing a slightly more noticeable comb or wattles. You may have a rooster! But will you keep the rooster?

Sexing Chicks is Rarely 100% Correct

Before you get upset and jump to possibilities and options, lets explore some reasons why you might want to keep the rooster. If you can legally keep the rooster in your neighborhood or town, there are some good reasons to have one around. You may have heard that a rooster is mean, ornery, and dangerous. These reasons can be true but they are not always the case. (Read more about Cranky Roosters in this post.)  I am not advocating keeping an overly aggressive rooster.

I find the roosters are a great addition to our flock. We currently have fourteen roosters. Before you make a move to have my sanity checked, let me tell you that we generally do keep quite a few roosters. They work hard every day, keeping the hens safe. Let me explain a few reasons that I am glad we keep the rooster.

The Rooster as a Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper – The rooster in a flock is in charge. He will assume this role and do what he has to do to maintain his position. Other roosters may be able to be part of the flock, too, as long as they don’t challenge him. In addition, the rooster will keep the hens from squabbling among themselves. In the absence of a rooster, a hen will often take the role of flock leader.

keep the rooster

Keep the Rooster for Flock Protection

Protection – Roosters are on alert most of the day, watching for predators, alerting the hens, and making sure they take cover. While the hens are dust bathing or eating, the rooster will stand guard and stay alert to possible danger. When a hawk or some other predator is spotted, the rooster will sound the alarm. He is calling the hens back to safety. If they free range, this might be a bush to hide under, or the nearby coop. In our case, with multiple roosters, the alarm is picked up and the other roosters begin to gather their hens too. It’s quite amazing to witness.

The Rooster will Provide

Providing – The rooster will search out tasty food bits and call the hens over to enjoy the snack. He makes sure that his hens get started eating first in the morning and then he begins to eat too. In addition, roosters provide the necessary actions for having fertile eggs, in case you want to hatch out eggs in an incubator or let a broody hen set on a clutch of eggs.

Keep the Rooster

The Crowing?

Crowing–  Now I am sure you are wondering how I can put a positive light on this noisy ear splitting wake up call. First, roosters don’t necessarily start crowing before  dawn. Ours will often stay quiet until they hear me in the feed shed, dishing up breakfast. Roosters crow to warn other roosters to stay away. They also crow to celebrate, such as when breakfast arrives, after mating, or to show pecking order. In addition, they will crow to let the hens know the location of the flock, when it’s time to head back to the coop at night and various other reasons. But the best reason, for flock security, would be the crowing to warn of an approaching visitor.

keep the rooster

While you may decide to re -home your cockerel and just keep the pullets, I am very glad I kept one particular oops rooster. Even though I ordered all pullets, we received a rooster in the bunch. He is a white rock cockerel who we named King. For years, King was the star of our poultry area. He may have jumped at me once or twice in his younger, impulsive days. I quickly put a stop to that and he grew into a wonderful protector.

I see benefits and uses when you keep the rooster. Let me know how your surprise roosters turn out.




How to Avoid a Chicken Coop Fire

We are heading into the prime season for a chicken coop fire. Cool weather leading into actual cold weather begins and soft hearted chicken keepers try to keep the coop warm. There are methods to keeping the coop comfortable for chickens and still avoid causing a chicken coop fire. The same prevention strategies will also help avoid barn fires.

Understanding the Chicken and Cold Weather

We might be tempted to view chickens as fragile, helpless birds that need us to dress them and supply a heater in the coop. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are some less cold hardy breeds of chickens that may need special care, the majority of chicken breeds can withstand even subzero temperatures in fine shape. Here’s a great article written by a chicken keeper in a very cold area of the country.

What You Can Do

There are things you can do to lesson the risk of a chicken coop fire.

light bulb and cord covered in heavy layer of dust. This is a chicken coop fire hazard.

If you reside in an area with lengthy sub zero winter temperatures, look for the full size, hardy breeds such as Orpingtons, Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires, Sussex, Delawares, and Buckeyes, to name a few. These breeds and others will feather out heavily after the fall molt. The down feathers under the flight feathers will grow in thick and fluffy. The down layer insulates by expanding, creating a layer of warm air close to the chicken’s body.

Chicken coop fire title image for pinterest

Roosting bars, positioned so that the chicken can cover it’s feet while roosting, helps prevent frosty toes and frost bite. The roost bar should be big enough for all to claim a space. You will notice on cold nights the chickens will perch closer together to share body warmth. They know instinctively what to do to survive cold weather.

Provide a coop that is well ventilated but draft free is the best coop structure.

roof line vent in chicken coop blocks good air flow of damp air. Chickens will be colder in a damp coop.

In short, providing the correct environment for your chickens will help you avoid using additional heat and prevent chicken coop fire.

Cleaning the Coop to Avoid a Chicken Coop Fire

Cleaning the coop with fire prevention in mind includes more than cleaning out the floor and nest boxes. Other areas will have formed cob webs or dust bunnies, and often these hang down from the ceiling, adding to the risk of a chicken coop fire. If the dust bunnies sit too long on a hot light bulb or heat bulb, they can cause sparks and lead to a chicken coop fire.

chicken coop fire

Barn and Chicken Coop Fire Safety

Here are some tips to help you increase your farm fire safety awareness.

  • Using power strips, or surge protector blocks can actually increase your fire risk. Drawing too much power can overload the wires and cause a fire.
  • Choose heavy duty extension cords if you have to run electricity to the coop or barn. I get it. We don’t have our barn and coops wired for electric. I know it’s a risk and we check the cords for heat, frequently. When using extension cords, choose the heavy duty outdoor rated cords. Going for the bargain cords in this scenario is adding barn and chicken coop fire risk to your homestead and your animals lives. Don’t skimp on this.
  • Clean the dust from ceilings, light fixtures, bulbs, cords, outlets. Just clean the dust, ok? Seriously though, chickens cause dust. I don’t know how but they do. We don’t even brood chicks in the house any more because of how much dust they create. Big chickens equal more dust. Those dust strands on the ceiling are a fire risk if you have light bulbs, cords, and heat lamps. Grab the broom and sweep the ceiling and walls. Dust any light bulbs. All of this goes a long way to reducing the risk of chicken coop fire.
  • Heat lamps are dangerous. I know, I hear you sighing. You’ve probably heard it all before and think that your system is safe. At best, you might lower the risk of fire. Using a heat lamp in an outdoor chicken coop is the number one cause of a chicken coop fires. Yes the alternatives cost more money. But, it’s my homestead at risk and my animal’s lives. There are safer alternatives for keeping chicks warm. Ninety Nine percent of the time, chickens in an enclosed coop do not need additional heat provided. If you’re cold, put on a sweatshirt. Your chickens are most likely fine if they are healthy and have a draft free coop to shelter in. Check these alternatives to heat for chicks.

Where do you store your animal hay?

  • Hay storage is another potential barn and chicken coop fire disaster. Any moisture left in hay, can cause spontaneous combustion as the hay sits. Wet hay causes heat to build as it ages. Store your hay away from the barn and monitor the temperature. Break open any hot bales. In addition to being a fire risk, hot hay bales can cause mold to grow. (Don’t feed moldy hay to your horses, goats, or sheep.
  • On the same topic, hay does not make a good winter bedding for your chickens. The moisture content of hay is higher than straw and can result in a damp coop. Dampness can lead to frost bite and respiratory problems.

Predators and disease aren’t the only causes of death for chickens. Unfortunately, a chicken coop fire can wipe out your flock, and possibly spread to your family home. Take the precautions now while getting ready for cold weather. Let’s have a safe winter!




Homemade Chicken Feed Options

Are there homemade chicken feed options available for the homesteader? I scoured the internet looking for the best simple, possibly inexpensive, layer chicken feed. Many options for organic, corn-free and soy-free recipes and formulas were found in the process and I’m happy to share them with you!

homemade chicken feed options showing a photo of chickens eating

But first, let’s take a look at what is needed in a chicken diet. Chickens need carbohydrates, protein, fat, as well as vitamins and minerals as shown below.

Vitamins

  • A
  • D
  • E
  • K
  • B1 (Thiamin)
  • B2 (Riboflavin)
  • B12 (folate)
  • Folic acid
  • Biotin
  • Choline
  • Niacin

Minerals

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Zinc
  • Cobalt

Above all, layer chickens require 16% protein for the best health. If they don’t get enough protein they’ll become weak and are prone to developing infections while egg production either decreases or stops. As a result, growth may be stunted.

Backyard hens eating from a black bowl

Is it possible for them to have too much protein? Absolutely! For instance, one sign of this is an increase in water consumption which could result in loose bowels, wetter litters, and blisters on the feet. In addition, respiratory issues may develop and eyes become damaged. Finally, death is the most extreme outcome.

Now that we understand the risks of having too much or too little protein, it’s time to get busy mixing.

a large white rooster and hen peer at the camera while spending time on the perch

Basic Recipes

Smaller quantity basic recipe that has options for supercharging the feed: Small Basic Recipe

However, if you have a large flock, this recipe will make 100 pounds of feed: Large Basic Recipe

On the other hand, those looking for some flexibility in homemade chicken feed options, will find the percentages provided in this recipe allows you to make as little or as much as you’d like: Flexible Basic Recipe

No Soy or Corn

If you’re interested in a formula that is without Soy or Corn, I have you covered.

First, for those that truly want to be GMO free, then this recipe – which makes about 18 pounds – was created just for you: Small non-GMO Feed Recipe

To make a larger quantity this recipe gives you a lot of flexibility to scale up: Large non-GMO Feed Recipe

Organic

Lastly, depending on where you live and what’s available in your area, you may be able to make this one from Azure Standard organically. It makes approximately 50 pounds: Organic Feed Recipe

Can I use Homemade Chicken Feed Options for Meat Birds?

There aren’t many homemade broiler feed recipes out there. In fact, after several Google searches none with the correct protein levels were found. Perhaps this is because meat birds require more protein due to their fast growth. Starter feed protein levels for a broiler is about 22-23% while grower feed should contain 18-20% per Oregon State University Extension.

Ingredients Commonly Included in Homemade Chicken Feed Options

You’ll notice that many of the recipe include a base of corn, field peas, wheat, oats or barley. Other beneficial item may have been added such as sunflower seeds, kelp, fish meal, and amaranth. Let’s take a look at the base ingredients first.

Barley – Barley and oats are often used interchangeably for their protein content. However, barley contains phytic acid which bonds with phosphorus during digestion, reducing the absorption of phosphorus. Feeding whole grain barley has been shown to reduce egg production, feed efficiency, and shell quality. Conversely, it increases feed intake, egg and body weight. Sprouted barley is a great option though as fodder for extra greens.

Corn – Contains carbs, fat and some protein, although it’s not the best source from a nutritional perspective. Corn is one of the easiest grains to be digested and is low in fiber. On the other hand, just like barley, it too binds with phosphorus.

Oats – These are high in fiber and protein content. Poultry aren’t able to digest fiber well so including it in the feed mix may reduce the availability of nutrients.

Peas – The protein content of peas averages about 23%. This protein is highly digestible and has an excellent amino acid profile with high levels of lysine. Interestingly, peas have a higher level of lysine than soy beans. Peas are a better option as well because they don’t require roasting, unlike soy beans. Soy beans need to be roasted before being included in chicken feed.

Wheat – A good source of carbs and protein. Higher in protein and the amino acids lysine and tyrptophan than corn. Wheat helps with digestion and helps the birds resist coccidiosis.

As you can see, a mix of the base ingredients can provide a good amount of protein and carbohydrates. Many commercial feeds contain an enzyme additive that counteracts the anti-nutrition factors found in these grains. However, adding something like kelp or millet, which have good amounts of phosphorus, will help offset this.

Optional Ingredients in Homemade Chicken Feed Options

Let’s take a look at some other additions that could be added to up the nutritional value. Your chickens will thank you.

Flax Seed – According to The Poultry Extension website, “Feeding flax seed results in a six to eight-fold increase in the omega-3 fatty acid content of eggs. Such eggs are equivalent to 113 g. of cold-water fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.” While feeding a diet of 10% flax seed is beneficial in the egg composition, it has been shown to increase liver hemorrhages in the hens.

Kelp (Seaweed) – Considered to have 30% of the nutritive value of grains. Minerals include potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, sodium (salt should never exceed 0.5% of a chicken’s diet) and sulfur. Vitamins include ascorbic acid and some B vitamins. Trace elements (meaning only a trace amount is required in a diet) include zinc, chromium, nickel, tin, and iodine. Can be added in a ratio of 5 to 15 percent of the diet.

Millet – A super food full of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids! High in phosphorus, magnesium, and B12. Millet aids digestion in chickens and provides many essential amino acids. Eggs from hens that consume millet will be higher in omega-3 and lower in omega-6 than a corn based diet.

Sunflower Seeds – Consumption helps combat coccidiosis, E. coli, and bronchitis in chickens. It is recommended to use black oil sunflower seeds because they are meatier and have a higher oil content, as well as a high level of protein at 26%. This high level of protein helps during times of stress such as during molting or in the winter. Now, that doesn’t mean you should provide only sunflower seeds because too much can be a bad thing, resulting in fat chickens which can lead to unexpected death. You have to provide grit when feeding with sunflower seeds, otherwise issues will arise in the chickens.

chickens heading into a coop as darkness sets in

Other Considerations for Healthy Chickens

Now that you have the chicken feed, you need to understand how much food a chicken needs on a daily basis. Many factors go into the amount of feed needed per day for your backyard flock. Take into consideration any other supplemental food you may be providing to your chickens.

Make your homemade chicken feed even healthier for your chicken by fermenting it using these four easy steps! Adding herbs to their diet to help keep your chickens healthy.

And don’t forget the water! Chickens can go 48 hours without eating but they can’t go without water without becoming extremely stressed, or passing away. Be sure to keep your chicken waterers clean.

In conclusion, you want to be sure to have a good mix of ingredients that provides enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals for not only overall health of the hen, but also for the best quality egg production.

Have you made your own homemade chicken feed?

how to make homemade chicken feed options for Pinterest image



Fall Chicken Care Tips For a Healthy Flock

fall chicken care tips

Getting ready for fall starts in the late summer. Fall chicken care thoughts begin to run through my head. Chilly weather will require some changes to routine, and buildings need to be checked for repairs. Using the days with pleasant weather to get these things done keeps us from repairing and scrambling during a storm. Are you preparing now? Here are some of the things we begin to do.

Health Check – Beak to Tail Chicken Checkup

Making sure that your individual flock members are ready to weather the upcoming changes is important. Some minor ailments can be treated successfully when found early. Are any chickens showing loose runny droppings? How about bony breast bones or crop issues? Is the flock eating a healthy whole grain organic layer feed? Quality ingredients help your backyard flock maintain a healthy digestive tract and resist parasites and other diseases.

Molting season has begun here. The flock requires an increase in protein during the feather regrowth period. You want to support this nutritionally with a well balanced feed and tasty supplements such as grubs, cooked meat scraps, and even scrambled eggs if you have any to spare. Help your feathered friends get fluffy before the snow falls and the temperature drops.

fall chicken care tips

What about Pumpkins and Chickens?

The facts about the health benefits of feeding pumpkin seeds and flesh might surprise you. We have all probably heard that pumpkin seed can help your birds repel internal parasites. While there is a tiny grain of truth to this and I have even said it before myself, there is more to the story.

Pumpkin seeds, in fact the whole pumpkin supplies a powerhouse of nutrients for the flock. Chickens love fresh pumpkin and it’s a great nutritional boost.

Pumpkins have a richly colored flesh that contains high levels of beta carotene. The beta carotene is the precursors to vitamin A. In addition, fresh pumpkin is a source of Vitamin C and E and contains most of the B complex vitamins.

Do Pumpkin Seeds Repel Internal Parasites?

Feeding pumpkins is a good part of fall chicken care And, if you can get a hold of some free pumpkins from neighbors or friends after the holidays, take them! If they haven’t been carved into jack o’ lanterns, they will store a long time in a cool area of your home or basement.

The seeds from the pumpkin are also packed with good nutrition. High in protein, pumpkin seeds are a smart choice for a chicken flock treat right in the midst of the fall molting season. Increasing protein during molt helps your birds grow in their glossy new feathers with less metabolic stress. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Fall Chicken Care Tips

Another theory on fresh pumpkin is the possibility that the seeds will help your chickens avoid an overload of intestinal worms. This is a partial truth, so be careful not to count on it. Especially if you have birds that are suffering with internal parasites.While the seeds of pumpkin and other squash contains cucurbitacin which acts as a paralytic agent on tapeworms and round worms, it is a very mild treatment. In a mild intestinal worm situation, the pumpkin seeds may be enough to paralyze the worms so they can be excreted. But don’t count on it. In order to use the pumpkin seeds most effectively, a tincture should be prepared, and then used to dose each animal by adding it to the water.

Feed Healthy High Protein Treats as Part of Fall Chicken Care

Meal Worms are always a welcome treat and these little goodies are bringing a protein punch. Great for helping your chickens recover quickly after a hard molt and a great training tool. Chickens will cooperate better when meal worms are involved!

Seed blocks, peanut butter treats and other commercially available boredom busters are good to keep on hand for times when the chickens have to be cooped up. If you don’t normally purchase scratch grain, fall and winter are a good time to have some on hand. I feed a small amount to my flock in the evening during cold weather.

The key is to keep the amount of scratch or seed treats at a treat level. This should not become a major part of your chickens’ diet. Seeds are high in fats and can lead to obesity and internal fat deposits. Use the treats as a tool, to get the flock to go where you need them to go. It’s a great incentive for getting the chickens to go to the coop in the evening.

Coop Upkeep for Fall and Winter

Now that you have taken care of buying lots of pumpkins and treats for the fall and winter, what other fall chicken care steps should you take?

chicken on a nest

Managing the Annual Molt Mess

Molting makes the dust in the coop even messier. I recommend doing a thorough coop cleaning while the weather is still nice. Scrape out old bedding. Inspect for rodent holes, insect evidence, and wet areas. Take care of any structural problems now so you don’t have to take care of building maintenance during a winter storm.

  • Clean the roost bars and treat with DE powder (Diatomaceous Earth) . The DE powder will kill off any mites trying to take up residence on the roost bars. Another great product for pest control is First Saturday Lime. It is safe for children, pets, and your feathered friends.
  • Check for leaks in the roof, or other parts of the building. While you are checking for leaks, also check that your ventilation is optimal. Ventilation refers to the air flow circulating air inside the coop and keeping it from becoming stagnant. Ventilation is very important in winter because stagnant air can also lead to moisture collection. Moisture in the presence of sub freezing temperatures can lead to frost bite on combs, wattles and feet. 
Fall chicken care tips

Decisions about Heat and  Additional Light

I can’t speak about every area of the country but I will say this. Chickens are extremely cold hardy. If the coop is draft free, has good roof ventilation, can be closed securely at night and during storms, there is little chance that you need additional heat. After the chickens go through the molting, they grow in healthy new feathers and downy under feathers for winter. Chickens will go to roost at night, fluff up their feathers and cover their feet on the roost bar.

Chickens are built for cold weather

It is amazing to me, how much heat is generated by my chickens during the night. The coop is usually very comfortable inside when I arrive in the morning. The chickens are happy and there is less chance of fire. Only once in our chicken raising have we used additional heat. Now, perhaps you live in a particularly frigid area during the winter. I can’t make this decision for you. Draft free goes a long way to keeping the chickens warm enough. Don’t rush to heat the coop just because you are feeling the chill of winter.

Sidenote: Have you tried brooding chicks in late summer and fall? Read more in this post : The Best Time to Start Chicks

Another thing to consider is what happens during a power outage. If your chickens have not been allowed to acclimate to the seasonal change in temperature, they are more likely to succumb to cold if it occurs suddenly.

fall chicken care tips

Should Lights be Added to the Coop?

Adding light may in fact keep the hens laying eggs longer into the winter. I prefer to let them have a natural rest. We use lights only for a short time in the evening while we are cleaning up and feeding/watering the birds for the night. This extends their light by possibly an hour and is not really a factor in their egg laying. Naturally, egg laying slows down during the cold, darker months. This gives the hens a rest and allows energy to be used for warmth. I still collect enough eggs for our use during the winter.

As your hens age, they may lay very infrequently during the winter months. This is normal. If you can add more chickens in the spring, your young layers will carry you through the winter with enough fresh eggs.

Fall Chicken Care – Keeping Fresh Water Available

If your coop is a distance away from your home as ours is, you will need to plan ahead. Empty the hose after each use. Filling containers of water to keep at home will help you avoid frozen water when you are feeding in the morning. I refill gallon jugs and sit them by my back door. In the morning, I grab the water jugs and refill the water bowls with room temperature water from home. The chickens all run to get a warm drink!

With just some foresight and minor upkeep, repair and fall chicken care, you, your chickens and the coop will be ready for winter weather.