I love keeping chickens! They are so much more than just egg-producers - they all have their own personality, are full of fun and have become part of the family. I keep 3 hens in my back garden, and hope that they have given me enough insight into the ups and downs of keeping backyard poultry that I can help you to make good decisions about treating your own hens should they need to see a vet. I have had battles with the fox, war against red mites (and won!) and learnt some of the best ways to get treatment into a flock.
I love supporting the Luton and District Poultry Club whenever possible - they always put on a great display at the County Show, and Poultry Medicine is one of my specialist subjects in the advanced certificate I am studying towards.
Focus on: Red Mites
I realized I had red mites when my white leghorn came staggering out the house one morning, weak and pale-combed. I found nothing when I examined her, and the house looked spotless - until I came back at night and shone a torch inside. The walls and perches were alive. Millions of little grey bugs everywhere, turning red after drinking the blood of my poor hens. the hen house was a gift from my husband, so I refused to loose it. Instead I waged war on the evil critters.
After 3 days I thought I'd never win - I found thousands dead every morning, but thousands more hatched out every night. But by day 7 they were all gone, so don't despair - keeping going. My technique:
- Remove the hens every night, keep then in a new cardboard box every evening
- Sprinkle diatomatous earth powder over the hens once in their box for the night
- Remove all bedding
- Power wash the house
- Wash everything in jeys fluid
- Every night, once the mites have emerged, spray everything with Permethrin (found in most household flea sprays - I used Indorex)
- Once finished cover everything in diatomatous earth powder
Other Poultry Parasites
Focus on Respiratory Infection
A bit like us, hens suffer a broad range of respiratory problems - from just a few sneezes that will pass after a couple of days, through to fatal influenza.
The most common infection we see at the clinic is mycoplasma. This highly contagious bug gets into a flock and causes snotty nasal discharge, swollen eyelids, coughing, depression, reduced egg laying and weight loss. We treat it with a combination of antibiotic injections for the sickest and in-feed tylan or apralan antibiotics for the flock.
Unusual eggs - what do they mean?
Thick and wrinkly: too much starch in their diet
Thin and easily cracked: either lack of calcium (try poultry spice) or metritis (the shell-producing section of the reproductive tract can be inflamed and not function well)
No shell at all: metritis or IBV (a virus that can affect both the reproductive tract and respiratory system)
Do not worry if your hen lays odd eggs occasionally, we would only treat if she constantly lays shell-less eggs