Hen Health FAQs
Laying problems / egg problems
When did she last produce an egg? Hens tend to lay one egg every 25 hours. If your hen has not laid for a couple of days and is straining and distressed, this is an emergency and veterinary help should be sought. However if your hen laid recently and has only been egg bound for a short time you may be able to help her at home. Try sitting her in a warm bath for 5-10 minutes. Apply lubrication around the vent entrance and isolate her in a dark nest box. If she is still not able to pass the egg contact your vet.
New hens / merging
If one hen can be identified as the bully it is better to remove her from the flock for a few days; this will drop the bully down the pecking order. If the weaker bullied hen is removed it will be difficult to reintroduce her; only remove the weaker hen if she is bleeding or has been injured, but try to house her within sight of her flock mates and reintroduce her as quickly as possible. Read more here.
Hens have a fairly rigid pecking order with one hen usually assuming the dominant position and the others ranking lower until there is one lowest ranking hen. Hens quickly establish their place in the hierarchy with the top hen eating first and the others deferring to her and getting the odd peck if they overstep the mark. Introducing new hens (merging) upsets this delicate balance and a new pecking order has to evolve. It is always advisable to introduce the same number or more new hens to allow them to hold their own. New hens may start as lowest ranking but establish dominance over the existing hens. Read more here.
Worms and parasites
Only vets and Suitably Qualified Persons (SQP) can give advice on worming, but hens like any other pet can pick up worms in the environment, so establishing a good flock health plan will keep your hens in tip-top condition. Picking up droppings and using a ground sanitizer in areas of high traffic will keep the ground clear of worm eggs. A sample of droppings can be sent for checking to establish if your chickens do have worms. There is only one licensed wormer which is usually advised to be given 3-4 times per year either as a powder mixed in normal feed or as a pre-medicated feed. Other gut health products available over the counter are not licensed and are less likely to be effective.
Your hen should immediately be separated from any other hens as potentially the prolapse can be seriously damaged by pecking from flock mates. If the prolapse isn’t too large (walnut size or smaller) bathe the area with a diluted antiseptic solution and leave her on her own, in low light, to encourage her to sleep. In many cases the prolapse will go back in with no intervention; pushing the prolapse back inside is usually a fruitless exercise as the hen may push it back out. If it does not resolve within a few days she may need to see a vet.
See more information here.
Hens will drink more water in hot weather but if you are noticing abnormal drinking patterns at other times this may be a cause for concern. A hen with a raised temperature due to illness or with a yeast infection causing sour crop will drink more than usual. Check her against the Hen Examination Guidelines and contact the Hen Helpline for advice.
Hens are attracted to the colour red. If your hen has a wound, sore skin or bleeding this will be noticed by other members of the flock who may peck at the wound and cause more damage. Purple or blue antiseptic spray immediately disguises and protects the area.
Your hen is telling you that she isn’t feeling well but in themselves the symptoms are not specific. Hens fluff up their feathers when they feel poorly to trap air as an insulating layer. Check her against the Hen Examination Guidelines, the more information you have the easier it is to pin down a cause.
The most obvious reaction to the death of a pet is to bury it in the garden; unfortunately this is not permitted as chickens are not currently legally classed as pets (despite being the 4th most popular pet in the UK by numbers kept).
Pet hens are legally categorised as fallen stock and the suggested method of disposal is via your local vet who will arrange for incineration.
For information on legislation please visit gov.uk/guidance/fallen-stock
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