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    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 6:10pm (Jul 6th 2011) edited

    Keeper of the hens

    Okay, here we go for the second time…it’s not as detailed or neat as the first, and I’m sure I’ve missed some things out, but ah well…

    So, Lyle thought it would be a good idea to have a Sticky containing a lot of the common problems experienced by chicken keepers, the ones we get asked a lot about on the forum. Good idea; it’ll help keep the forum tidier and is easier for newbies and older members to just read through one thread if a problem pops up.

    Of course if, after reading the thread, you still have questions to ask or need something clarifying, feel free to start a new thread then…I just thought this might be easier :smile:

    And finally, as ever, this is not the same as taking your chicken to the vets. As far as I am aware nobody on the forum, least of all me, is a qualified vet, and so if your chicken is seriously ill, please take them to the vet for their sake :smile:

    Egg Binding

    Happens when, for whatever reason, an egg becomes stuck in the passage and cannot be laid by the chicken. Can often be treated from home, but in severe cases a trip to the vets is in order as chickens can and do die from this condition.


    You can see the hen straining, pushing and looking uncomfortable
    Hen goes to nest box frequently but doesn’t lay
    Not moving much, may be laying down
    Feathers ruffled, depressed, tail pointing towards ground
    When you feel her belly towards her vent you can feel a hard lump

    Things you can try

    Firstly it’s important to keep the bird warm and calm, as it will make it easier for the egg to pass. For this reason a lot of people bring their egg bound hens inside (either in a dog crate or cardboard box) and keep them in a quiet darkened room – the darkness slows the egg laying process down so that hopefully a second egg won’t get stuck behind the first

    Next, a warm bath can also be very helpful. Not too hot, and deep enough to cover the vent. It lubricates the vents and helps the hen relax her muscles. Hold the bird firmly so they can’t panic and splash or slip. Keep her in for 10+ minutes, and try repeat a few times throughout the day.

    You can also try lubricating her vent using your finger and some vegetable oil – nice I know! This may help the egg slip out.

    As I said before, if the egg is not passed within 24 hours maximum, get her to the vets ASAP. Likewise if the egg has passed but she is still acting unwell (there may be a second egg stuck) , if there is any blood or the egg was cracked, then she needs taking to the vets just to be sure she's okay.

    Crop Impaction

    As it sounds, an impacted crop is one that is blocked and therefore the chicken is unable to empty or digest the food in the crop. Much more common in free-range chickens that have access to long tough grass, which becomes knotted in the crop.


    A hard, squishy or ‘doughy’ crop first thing in the morning (a healthy chicken’s crop should always be empty as they haven’t eaten all night)
    Odd smelling breath, usually sour
    Depressed behaviour, not eating, drinking or moving much

    Things to try

    One of the most helpful things you can do in this situation is massage the crop as often as possible; a minimum of twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) is a good starter. Chickens usually find this a pleasant experience, and it can help to unknot or budge whatever is stuck in there.

    Add Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to their water – one tablespoon per gallon, about. Not only is this great for chickens in general, but it can also help dissolve any blockages in the crop.

    Also withhold all treats given, and add water and vegetable oil to the Layers Pellets to turn them into mash. In severe cases it may be worth restricting food for 24 hours and just offering plain yoghurt and water.

    If there’s no improvement within a day or so, or if the chicken stops eating or drinking, a trip to the vets is in order. In extreme cases surgery can be performed that will rid the chicken of its impacted crop, although this should be a last resort.

    Sour Crop

    Coincides with the above condition, food in the crop begins to rot and turn sour. Symptoms and treatments are as above, but your vet may also flush your bird (using water and turning it upside down) and may be able to show you how to do it too. Only do it yourself after a vet has shown you, as it’s easy to accidentally flood the bird’s lungs which can result in death.
    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 6:10pm (Jul 6th 2011) edited

    Keeper of the hens


    There are a variety of worms that your chickens can pick up, but a healthy worming regime will help keep infestations under control. There are plenty of worming products available, but we use Flubenvet, which is recommended by several other chicken keepers, vets and poultry magazines too. It’s good stuff!

    You can also mix a little Diatomaceous Earth (DE) in with their food.

    Irregular and odd poops; eg. worms in poo, constant runny poops
    Loss of appetite
    Weight loss
    Drop in egg production
    And in the case of gape worm; chickens stretching their necks and panting to breathe

    Mites & Lice

    External parasites that feed from your birds. Some live on your chucks 24/7, others like the much hated Red Mite feed on the birds in the night and hide in the woodwork of the coop in daylight hours. Nasty little things, and numbers can build up very quickly resulting in a full-blown infestation. In extreme cases the blood loss can result in anaemia and even death.


    Check at the bases of feathers, particularly around the vent and under the wings, for scurrying bugs and white clusters (the eggs)
    Run your fingers under the perches in the coop; in severe cases your fingers will come away bloody, a sure sign you have a big infestation that needs treating
    A sudden drop in egg production
    Depressed, motionless chickens with little appetite
    Comb loses it’s bright red and is paler than normal

    Things to try

    One magical product that I recommend to everybody: Diatomaceous Earth! A natural product formed from fossilised algae, parasites are killed when they walk across it as it punctures them and drains them of fluid. It’s really good stuff; simply sprinkle it where your chickens sleep, lay and dust bathe, dust the birds’ feathers with it, and you can even add a little to their food.

    We had quite a few serious mite infestations before using DE; we haven’t had one since!

    Scaly Leg Mite

    Slightly different in that this affects the bird’s legs, with mites burying right under the scales. Again it’s quite easy to treat from home, but should be done quickly (and to all birds, even if they show no symptoms) as in extreme cases it can cause lameness.


    Raised scales on the legs, sometimes with the scales actually falling off
    Affected birds limping
    Visible white dots moving on the legs
    Legs appear thick and lumpy

    Things to try

    Firstly you need to gently wash the legs using a toothbrush and warm slightly soapy water. Try not to remove any scales. Repeat daily.

    After they’ve been cleaned smother the legs in Vaseline…this will suffocate the mites and help soothe any irritation the chicken is experiencing. Repeat as many times a day as possible, and continue for a week even after the problem seems to have disappeared. As I already said, treat all the birds in the flock and not just the ones that have symptoms.

    As with the others, in severe cases a trip to the vet may be in order.
    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 6:11pm (Jul 6th 2011) edited

    Keeper of the hens

    Getting on to the more severe illnesses now, and if your chicken is showing signs of these it needs to go to the vet immediately

    Infectious Bronchitis

    This disease has no cure, although there are antibiotics that can lessen the symptoms. As the name suggests it is highly contagious, and if one chicken is showing symptoms you can expect them all to have it. Sometimes no other symptoms will be present apart from the huge decrease in egg production.


    - Nasal discharge and gungy eyes
    - Noisy breathing; gasping, wheezing, gurgling
    - Massive drop in egg production
    - Eating and drinking less

    Things to try
    There is a vaccination available, but if IB strikes you can't get rid of it. Antibiotics can decrease symptoms, and increasing the temperature of where the sick chicken/s live is believed to be helpful too.


    Marek’s is a horrible disease and it’s really not good news if your chicken has this. It is spread through feather dander carried on the wind, so easily travels from one chicken keeper’s back garden to another. The disease causes lameness and for tumours to erupt on the chickens’ organs. There is no cure, and although there is a vaccine it must be administered when the chick is a day old.


    Paralysis of the legs or wings – paralysis may disappear for a few days but this does not mean the chicken is cured
    The chickens’ iris changes from the usual colour to grey
    Inability to stand or walk
    Weight loss and a drop in egg production

    Things to try

    As I said there is no actual treatment to this disease, so see what your vet recommends. A lot of people will tell you that the best option is to have the chicken humanely euthanized.

    However I have read that Hypericum tablets (sold in health food shops) can be beneficial for them. It’s unknown whether Hypericum tablets help the chicken recover from the illness or merely allow them to live with the disease (in which case they are a carrier for life). You can mix one tablespoon of distilled water (it must be distilled) with one of the Hypericum tablets. You should mix it in a glass or plastic bowl, as metal will react with the water and herb. Use a dropper syringe to give bantams around 5 – 10 drops of the fluid and standard sized birds 10 – 15 drops of the liquid; be sure to drop it on their tongue and make sure they rub their beak together, it has to hit the top of their mouth (where their sinuses are) to work.

    Bird Flu

    Contrary to what the media seems to want us to believe (or at least that’s how it felt a few years ago!) this is incredibly, incredible rare. However it does carry with it a very high mortality rate and there is no known cure.


    Sudden deaths in the flock
    Birds appear lethargic
    Drop in egg production
    Difficulty breathing
    Comb and wattles may turn purple or blue, and sometimes white spots develop on legs and combs

    Well I think that is all for now. Apologies for any spelling errors, or things that have been missed out...I’m a little puffed and just want to get it started once and for all!

    I had to do it in three separate posts too, otherwise the forum threw a strop at the word count :tooth:
      CommentAuthorchief chicken
    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 6:23pm (Jul 6th 2011)
    Excellent, Red - a fine basis for a BOOK! :face-smile:
    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 6:27pm (Jul 6th 2011) edited

    Keeper of the hens

    Cheers CC, it's lead to me hating this forum and it's automatic sign-out though :tooth:
    • CommentTimeJul 6th, 2011 11:41pm (Jul 6th 2011)
    Thanks Red, it gives us non-chicken owning forum members somewhere to direct people with real chickens and real problems to!
    • CommentTimeJul 7th, 2011 1:07pm (Jul 7th 2011)

    Keeper of the hens

    Great point Kate. I always think you do a fab job of directing people to the search function and finding some answers that way, it's very helpful :smile:
    • CommentTimeJul 7th, 2011 9:35pm (Jul 7th 2011)
    Aww, thank you! It's just logical to me, and I'm usually a very logical person (unless it comes to my nearest and dearest and then I just go into brain dead mode and panic!)
    • CommentAuthornanny north
    • CommentTimeJul 7th, 2011 9:38pm (Jul 7th 2011)
    That's a good idea and will be very helpful Red
    • CommentTimeMar 31st, 2012 10:10pm (Mar 31st 2012) edited

    Keeper of the hens

    My chicken is not laying eggs. Why?

    Okay, there could be many many reasons for this, so we'll cover the basics and, if there are still no eggs appearing, it's probably best to take your hen to a chicken friendly & experienced vet for a check up...

    First off, you need to take into account the age and breed of your hen. Some breeds lay very few eggs a year, especially 'broodier' breeds and generally bantams tend to lay less too, although there are exceptions. Breeds such as Warrens / ISA Browns, Sussex's and Rhode Island Reds have been bred to lay lots of eggs, and can easily lay upwards of 300 eggs a year.

    As for the age a hen will stop / significantly lay less eggs, this differs from hen to hen. Chickens generally lay the most eggs in their first year laying, and then it gradually decreases as they get older. Some chickens stop laying, full stop, when they are as young as two girls are still laying and they are 9 years old!! :bigsmile:

    Next, you need to think about the time of year and temperature. Chickens need between 12 - 14 hours sunlight a day to process an egg. If it's winter where you live and it gets dark early, this is probably why you're not getting eggs. You can add artificial light to 'force' them to lay, but it's healthiest for your chickens to have a rest from laying.

    Temperature extremes can also affect lying. Very hot weather can cause a sudden drop in egg production. Also, if your chickens are approaching or ending their moult (where they lose all their feathers to grow new ones) they will stop laying and put all their energy into growing new feathers.

    Then we move onto dietary issues. Are they getting enough calcium? Do you provide them with a source of calcium such as oyster grit / shell, crushed egg shells etc? You can add high calcium treats to their food, such as grated cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese etc. This should be fed with their usual food, which should be Layers Pellets.

    How is the hen acting in herself? Is her tail tucked down? If she eating / drinking / pooping as normal? Is her comb nice and bright red, or pale? At this point you want to read all the posts above - mites, being egg bound, having an impacted crop, and infecttious bronchitis can all have an effect on egg production.

    If you're still non the wiser and you still have a hen/s not laying - take her to a friendly experienced vet! :smile:
    • CommentTimeJun 2nd, 2016 11:15pm (Jun 2nd 2016) edited

    Keeper of the hens

    Saw this the other day, helpful advice on spotting a seriously ill hen, and only takes a few minutes to read!