LOOKING GOOD

A healthy hen with bright red comb and wattles

A healthy hen with bright red comb and wattles - Credit: Archant

A visual health check for your chickens

Keeping your birds healthy is your primary duty. In most cases, it is just a matter of checking them every day to make sure they look active and are showing no signs of discomfort.

After you have had your chickens for some time, you will get used to how they look and, when one or more start to appear unhappy, the signs will show straight away.

There are several questions we should ask ourselves when checking the birds and assessing if all is well in the coop.

WHAT SHOULD A HEALTH BIRD LOOK LIKE?

A healthy bird will always look alert, stand upright, be very active showing good clean eyes, the plumage will look glossy and tight and the bird’s wattles and comb should have a bright red appearance.

They will eat and drink and generally look very happy and content.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR – SIGNS OF ILLNESS

Chickens, as with most animals, have a tendency to hide the fact that they are ill. When you check your birds, you may see a bird in the pen looking very hunched up; the head may be held down with the feathers looking ruffled, but as soon as you enter the pen the bird stands up and moves away quickly leaving you uncertain as to whether or not it is ill.

To be sure, you will need to stand quite still for a short period. This will allow the birds to settle down and become used to your presence. Once they are comfortable, any of the birds that are under the weather will soon show signs of droopiness, with eyes closing, wings drooping and fluffed up feathers. The birds will have the general appearance of looking very sorry for themselves.

If you see a bird that has this type of appearance, you need to investigate the problem immediately.

Carrying out a really thorough examination is recommended. You need to check for any signs of any eye infections (crusted, runny, part closed are the most common). Feel for loss of weight, look for the bird having any form of breathing difficulties, unusual droppings or dirty vent. Look around the vent and into the feathers for any signs of insect infestation as this can cause the birds distress. Also look out for nasal discharge or swollen sinuses.