Obesity in Chickens

The dangers of feeding our cats and dogs too many treats are well known. However, being treat-wise applies not only to our four-legged friends, but to our feathered friends too.

In the wild, red jungle fowl (the ancestor of the modern chicken) would typically spend most of its day scratching around the forest floor looking for insects and seeds to eat. When it comes to our chooks most of us literally put their feed on a plate meaning they don’t have to work for their dinner. A typical hen weighs 2KG and should eat approximately 120-140g of pellets or mash per day. However, many of us like to spoil our birds by topping this up with a handful of corn.

Pellets or mash generally provide a complete balanced diet for chickens. Feeding too many treats can unbalance the diet leading to a deficiency of vitamins and an excess of calories.

Obesity can kill hens and it is not always obvious they are getting fat as most of it tends to be found around the internal organs rather than under the skin. Owners should regularly weigh their chooks to help identify excessive weight loss or weight gain.

Note it is illegal to feed kitchen scraps to backyard poultry unless the household is vegan, and any treats should be limited to a few fresh garden vegetables or a chicken peck block.

Richard Jackson BMVS(Hons)MRCVS.

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