In Part 2 of our Health and Well Being of the Chicken Flock series, we looked at some of the common causes of chicken’s disease, how to manage it, what to do when you suspect a sick chicken(s). We also overviewed some of the diseases that can affect various parts of chickens.
In Part 3 we are going to take a look at some conditions that affect a chicken’s feathers, the signs and symptoms of them and what can be done about it/treatment.
If you are a first-time flock owner, looking to become one or even a seasoned one have a read at some of our articles. There is something of benefit for everyone on our site.
CONDITIONS THAT AFFECT THE FEATHERS IN CHICKENS
Most hens get broody at least once a year usually during the warmer spring months. It is a natural process for them like motherhood is for humans. Some hens do not get broody but will still lay eggs.
Signs and Symptoms:
They will pluck out their breast feathers to get skin contact with the eggs
She will hiss at anyone or anything trying to take her eggs
She usually does not leave the eggs for very long
If you try to pick her up to move her she will peck at you
If you take her out of her nest she will run back to the nest
There is no real treatment for broodiness
You can try putting a cool bag of peas under her
Or you can buy some fertile eggs if you do not have a rooster and let her hatch them
Ensure you have a broody coop if you are going to let her hatch fertile eggs. See our article on Hatching Eggs for more information on this subject. We also have an article on The Brood hen for more information on what to expect or how to treat a broody hen.
The best course of action is to leave her. Just make sure you take the eggs as soon as you can get her off the nest.
Every chicken molt at least once a year. This gets their feathers ready for the cold winter weather to come. They will usually start to molt at the turn of summer to autumn when the days get shorter.
Signs and Symptoms:
Chickens molt at least once a year.
They can become really irritated, listless
The hens will stop laying eggs for this period
Roosters become infertile during their molt and will not mate
They will find a spot to just roost quietly or tend to keep to themselves a lot
They will look raggedy as they lose their feathers
They start to lose their feathers from their heads downwards
You may notice small waxy pink lumps on their skin where the feathers have fallen out. These are the pin feathers or new feathers
There is nothing a person can really do for a molting chicken except try not to handle them at all during this period
Ensure they are getting enough calcium and nutrients as molting and growing new feathers takes a lot of their body’s energy
Make sure they are no open wounds on any of them
Open wounds will lead to the other pecking at the wounded chicken
Remove the wounded chicken to the medical coop.
Sometimes the pin feathers can tear open. This is really painful for the chicken.
Read our article on Molting for more information on the why, how and what to do for a molting chicken.
Chickens can get brutal towards each other. Especially the more aggressive breeds and those that like to be on top of the pecking order.
They will also peck at any chicken that had a slight bloody scratch on them.
Some will just pick on the weaker more docile breeds.
Signs and Symptoms
Only one chicken is losing feathers
That same chicken(s) keep to themselves and avoid the flock
They have bloody peck wounds on their bodies
Remove the chicken for the flock and put them on their own until the wounds have healed
You may want to get them seen to by a vet
Try not to mix docile hens with the more aggressive ones
Make sure brood hens are in a broody coop away from the non-brooding hens.
A lack of certain nutrients or poor-quality feed.
Signs and Symptoms
The chicken will look thin and it feathers will be frail
Other chickens will constantly peck at it
Other chickens will try eating the husks of the quills of the feathers of other chickens
Take the chicken to the vet if it is the only one responding as such to the feed
Change the feed
Remember to keep any chickens that have been affected separately until they are better nourished.
As with any domestic animal, pets are going to attract critters as they make such nice hosts. There are ways to prevent this and ensure there is not a pest infestation throughout your flock. Read Part 15 of this series where we discuss the various pests and how to treat them in chickens.
Signs and Symptoms :
The chicken will scratch a lot
There will be clumps of try flaky bits at the root of the feather
You may see the chicken gasping
If it gets really bad they will start to peck out their feathers which will start to cause a skin irritation/infection
There are ways to pest your chickens by using various tonics and sprays you can get for the vet
Be sure to completely clean out and disinfect the coop/runs and accessories.
All the chickens must be inspected and treated
If a chicken is losing their feathers it is usually a very good indication it is going through something.
Always check the bird if you notice it is looking a bit scraggly to ensure that it is not suffering for any other underlying disease. See Part 12 for diseases of this series as well as Part 13 for various genes that may affect chicken feathers.
END OF PART 3
This is the end of part 3 of our “Health and Wellbeing of the chicken Flock” series.
Part 4 of the series will discuss common illnesses that can affect a chicken’s legs, feet and claws.