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Chicken Health – Understand Molt, Prolapse and Crop problems

Chicken Health

Much of what we hear about in the news concerns problems with a live contagion that can wipe out a chicken or any poultry flock in a matter of days. The financial loss to commercial operations can be devastating but the damage to our hearts when we lose a member of our backyard flock is also devastating.

What about some of the chicken health issues that are more likely to affect our flock? These are common everyday ailments that can become very serious for the chicken, if not managed properly. These conditions are not contagious. Some can be hereditary and others can be a result of the environment or just chance.

 

Chicken Health

 

Molting

Molting is not a disease, but it can be a chicken health concern. Most chicken owners are aware of this yearly or bi yearly loss of feathers, and the accompanying lower amounts of eggs. But chickens that are in poor condition heading into a molt will be weakened and less healthy as they try to regrow their feathers

It is important to give the chickens some extra nutrition and increased protein before, during and after the molt. Molting is a perfectly normal occurrence of feather loss during late summer or fall. The entire process can range from 6 weeks to three months in chickens kept in good condition. Different breeds may molt quicker than others. The feathers are lost in a specific sequence, starting at the head and working back towards the tail. The better the health and condition of the chicken, going into molt, the quicker and more efficiently the molt will be. Feeding a bit more protein during molting, keeping the environment stress free, and keeping an eye on the chickens condition will help them return to egg laying as soon as possible. A lighter partial molt may be noticed during early spring and in pullets before they start to lay eggs. Taking good care of your molting chickens will keep them healthy and robust.

 

Chicken Health

 

 

 Problems in the Crop

 Crop Impaction
The crop is a sac that is part of the digestive tract in birds. Located at the base of the neck, the crop fills with food as the chicken eats. Digestive fluids begin softening the food before it moves to the stomach. If chickens are allowed to eat too much too soon, or are fed on pasture with tall tough grasses, sometimes the crop can become impacted. The impaction will be hard and the chicken may suffocate if the crop is not cleared surgically. In a minor impaction it may be possible to give a few drops of vegetable oil or water and massage the crop until the mass softens and passes. A serious impaction is life threatening. 

Sour Crop

Sour Crop, briefly, is a yeast infection or accumulation in  the crop. This smells pretty bad. Fluid may be regurgitate by the chicken too, and you will notice the foul odor. Most protocols recommend isolating the bird, withhold water for 12 hours and withhold food for 24 hours. Massage the crop to try to get the food to pass through. You can give a few drops of coconut oil or olive oil but withhold food until the crop empties. More information on treating sour crop naturally, can be found here.

 

Chicken Health

 

 

Prolapsed Vent

When a hen strains to lay an egg without success, the vent muscles can pop out of the body. The egg can often be left inside when this happens. Try to gently remove the egg. It may break. Clean the exposed organs with an antiseptic and lubricate to push the vent back into place. Keep the hen isolated and observe for recurrence. Allow her to eat her normal grain feed with free choice water. If the vent stays in place for a week, the hen can be returned to the flock. 

 

These are just a few types of  non contagious health issues that can affect your flock. As always, good management, and observation will give your chickens a better chance of recovering from any non-contagious illness. Observe your birds daily, and frequently pick them up and check their condition. Catching potential issues before they become big problems may save the life of your chicken.

 

chicken health

 

 Chicken Health Understanding Molt, Crop Issues and Prolapse in Your Chickens

 

I write about many homestead and livestock related topics on the blog Timber Creek Farm. Do you want to know more about raising chickens? My new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com   

Chicken Book Cover

 

 

 

 

 




6 things I Didn’t Know About Chickens

6 Things I Didn’t Know About Chickens

6 things I didn't know about chickens

“I am never going to raise chickens”  Guess who said that. Me! Circa 1978 after my second or third time being dragged through a large commercial poultry operation as part of my quest for a degree in Animal Science. The smell was horrible, the chicken clucking was deafening, and the downy feathers were flying everywhere and made my nose itch. I decided right then that I would stick to horses and other large livestock management. 

 

And Then I Began Homesteading…..

Fast forward almost twenty years and I find myself at the beginning homesteading stage. We had a few horses and goats. And then, one day I said yes to chickens. Well chicks. Tiny, downy, fluffballs of cuteness that didn’t remind me of anything from the poultry houses. Yes, I was hooked. Hoodwinked into raising chickens by a few tiny little newly hatched chicks. We quickly began converting a garden shed into a coop, and gathering supplies to care for the little ones. Then, I brought home some more! Things were getting serious on the homestead.

6 things I didn't know about chickens

Once the chicks were big enough to move to the newly converted shed, they were settled into the new palace. Which brings me to the first thing I did not know about raising chickens. 

1. When you try to get them back into the coop at night, they will go under the coop instead. We had not thought about blocking off underneath the shed, so we were down on our knees trying to coax the chicks out so we could put them in the coop. We quickly made an adjustment and surrounded the bottom of the coop with chicken wire to keep the chicks from running under the coop. What a work out! Chickens can give you some exercise!

 6 things I didn't know about chickens

I didn’t know that I would start to  look for produce sales in the winter to provide our chickens with extra greens, and fresh veggies. I check the markdowns and even have a good friend who saves all the veggie scraps from her family for our chickens. 

2. I didn’t know I would be shopping for groceries with chickens on my mind.

 

Chickens are rather low on the cycle of life. They have predators. Lots of predators, from the neighborhood roaming dogs, racoons, (yes I used to think racoons were cute, too) opossums and fox, to name a few. “what does the fox say?” I can tell you the fox is saying, let’s have chicken for dinner! 

3. I didn’t know I would be fiercely protective of my chickens. Adding security to our coop area, installing electric fencing and making sure someone is always home at dinner time to put the chickens in before the night roaming creatures come by for a snack.

 

6 things I didn't know about chickens

 

4. I didn’t know that the sweetest chicken in the batch of chicks will always turn out to be a rooster. I know there is no scientific proof of this but anecdotal evidence suggests it, time and time again. All will be fine until he hits puberty and begins to chase you from the chicken yard. 

 

 The Fresh Eggs!

The taste of fresh eggs surpasses that of store bought by a long shot. I didn’t know that I would become a sort of egg snob. I pass the eggs in the grocery store without a glance. In the checkout line, I have to restrain myself from telling the customer in line ahead of me, that I raise my own chickens for fresh eggs. I didn’t know I would feel sorry for them, and that they have to eat supermarket eggs.

5. I didn’t know that my friends and neighbors would actually be excited to hear when we have extra eggs to share. Suddenly I am not just the slightly strange lady who raises all kinds of chickens. My chicken boots are cool and so are the fresh eggs.

 

6 things I didn't know about chickens

 

I have met so many wonderful people because of those first two little chicks that followed me home from the feed store. 

6. I didn’t know  just how chickens would become a big part of my life. I didn’t know that on some low days, the chickens would be the only reason I get out of bed. And I didn’t know that I would meet some wonderful friends, locally and on line because of our shared love of chickens. 

 

 

This post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Mag.com

 

Janet writes about many homestead and livestock related topics on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com   

Chicken Book Cover

 

 




Free Ranging Chickens

free ranging chickensThe weather has been perfect the last few days. Sunny, warm and dry. Perfect for free ranging chickens. A few years ago our chickens didn’t  know about free ranging because they had always stayed within their pen. We had no protective barrier for free ranging chickens if they left the pen and predators lurked just beyond the clearing. So we keep them in their rather large pen surrounding the coop. Recently, we installed some additional electric fencing around the poultry and rabbit area. Adding the beautiful weather to the new security and I decided to bring a few chickens out to free range. 

Are Your Chickens Free Ranging Chickens ?

Free ranging chickens

I Always have such good ideas!

So we set off to combine a photo shoot with some free ranging time for a few chickens at a time. I thought this was a  great idea! My husband was around and we were having a relaxed day. I explained my plan to which  he said, “why do you need me?” 

Now I do a lot of photo shoots all by myself but what you may not know is that there are an awful lot of shots like this

Free Ranging Chickens

and blurry photos like this

Free Ranging chickens

 

when I do a shoot by myself. I explained to him that I would be lying on the ground to be at eye level and it would take me a few minutes to stand up and chase any escapees. That would be his job. Chief Chicken Wrangler. Yes, he was one excited camper. But he complied and we started to bring out some chicks first. 

Free ranging chickens

 

free ranging chickens

 

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And then this happened…

There’s just something extra special about having something besides the brown dirt from the run as a backdrop to the photo.

The pullets were pretty excited about the grass. And then of course, someone had to defy the limits and slip through the fence.

free ranging chickens

Guess the pullets are still too little to be free ranging! She slipped through so easily. 

 

free ranging chickens

 

DSC_0678

 

The older girls needed to take a turn so the pullets had to go back in. Belle was more than eager to be picked up and brought through the gate. She would probably follow me anywhere. But no one else was excited about the opportunity to  be  free ranging chickens. I had to catch a couple more hens and when they were set down on the ground, they hovered around the gate, wishing to go back into the run!

 free ranging chickens

 

free ranging chickens

 

I had hoped to have more green involved in this photo shoot so I needed to convince them to stay on the grass long enough for me to take some pictures! Chicken Wrangler to the rescue! He suggested grabbing the bag of meal worms and sprinkling them on the grass. (yes, he is pretty smart)  This tactic worked like a charm and I was able to take some more photos of chickens foraging on grass.

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free ranging chickens

And then the two hens marched right back to the gate and I was left with Belle, and the bag of meal worms. 

 

free ranging chickens

 Belle thinks foraging is a great idea!

free ranging chickensBelle made herself comfortable next to the open  bag of meal worms!

Why forage when a delicious treat is sitting right there for the taking.

free ranging chickens

The free ranging was fun for a change of pace and a diversion on a beautiful spring day. I don’t think we will ever let our chickens be totally free ranging chickens but maybe an occasional foray while being supervised will be a good thing. I love that they can grab more greens this way. And choose what their bodies need to eat. I try to provide a varied diet by bringing in lots of edible weeds and leftover greens from our kitchen. Foraging for your chickens is a great way to give them the nutrition from free ranging with out the added danger. Free Ranging is a management style of chicken keeping that everyone will need to decide on their own if it is right for their flock. I don’t like to lose chickens to predators. Our property is mostly wooded and is home to many wildlife predators. When we are not there supervising and doing chores, I still feel it is best to keep everyone in their runs.

As for Belle, she is a little bit of a couch potato I think. She said she would prefer to forage for meal worms, right from the bag!

Update 2016. In the last year we have added more poultry netting fencing and the chickens have been free ranging chickens more than ever before. It is still only when we are around the area, but they are always ready for the gate to be opened.

free ranging chickens

I just want to go home

 

Free Ranging Chickens

 

 

free ranging chickens

Buy your chickens a treat! Click image to purchase.
 

I am proud to be a new affiliate for Sloggers. Have you seen the new chicken print garden shoes and the boots? Click the picture to go to their site. Being an affiliate means I would make a small percentage of any sales through my site, but does not change the price you pay.

Janet writes about many homestead and livestock related topics on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com   

Chicken Book Cover




How to Feed a Mixed Flock of Poultry

feed a mixed flock

How do you feed a mixed flock of poultry with differing food requirements? What can a chicken owner do when they want to add more chickens or even add ducklings into the mix? Let me give you a few pointers that have worked for us concerning how to feed a mixed poultry flock.

What to Feed a Mixed Flock of Poultry

The important thing for any animal is getting the best nutrition. It is possible to house chickens, ducks, partially grown pullets and ducklings together, and still provide the nutrition that each requires. The key, to put it simply, is to feed them all a non medicated chick feed and then add the extra nutritional requirements of laying hens and ducks in separate feeders. In the meantime, supply the laying hens with free choice calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells or dried crushed egg shells. The chicks who don’t need it will not eat it, and the hens can eat all of the free choice calcium they need. Excess calcium in feed can lead to extra fast bone growth in growing chicks and result in weakened bone structure. 

The Special Needs of Ducklings

  • Ducks have a few special requirements in a search for what to feed a mixed flock. The laying ducks will need some extra calcium from time to time. Most of the time, my ducks have very strong shells without adding calcium to the pellet feed. When ducklings are growing it is important to monitor the amount of protein that they are receiving if their diet consists mainly of commercial feed. Too much protein can lead to wing abnormalities and leg bone issues due to too fast of a growth rate. The wing condition known as Angel Wing is a result of commercial food for ducks and not enough forage and insect eating. Ducks are excellent foragers and when they get most of their nutrition from a processed poultry food and not enough green grass and bugs, they can have problems. There are a few ways to work around this in a mixed flock. 
  • 1. if possible, keep the ducklings separate from 3 weeks of age until 10 weeks of age.
  • 2. feed some forage material to the ducklings and chicks such as fresh grass clippings (chopped small to avoid choking) or timothy/orchard grass hay. Our ducks would rather eat grass hay than duck pellets any day of the week. 

Niacin is a requirement for ducklings. An easy way to increase niacin for your ducklings is through supplementing with Brewers Yeast. Adding this to the feed will not adversely affect the chickens. A second way to increase niacin content is to ferment the feed you use. Fermenting increases the nutrition available in the feed. (links to other posts on fermenting chicken feed  Natural Probiotics for ChickensHow to Save Money by Fermenting Chicken Feed   Fermented Chicken Feed)

how to feed a mixed flock

Commercial Flock Raiser Diet for Mixed Flock

The feeds formulated for mixed species have a higher protein percentage than is needed for ducklings. These flock rations are intended for meat birds who will have an abbreviated life span. I have stopped using these flock feeds for my ducklings and use a lower protein percentage non medicated chick starter for ducklings. 

By paying a little more attention to the rations you use to feed a mixed  flock , you can successfully keep a mixed flock of poultry even if they are varying ages. 

feed a mixed flock

 (this post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Mag.com)

Chickens from Scratch celebration

Have you seen my new book? Chickens from Scratch is available through my website or by visiting Amazon.com for paperback or kindle version. It is a guide to how to raise your chicks, from hatch to egg laying and beyond! If you are thinking about raising chickens this will clear up the questions you have about how to get started. Simple no nonsense guide to get you started on your way to happily collecting eggs from your own backyard.