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Chicken Health

Last Updated: 7/5/07

Egg Eating
Parasites
Bacteria
Bumble Foot
Crop Problems
Viruses
Physical Injuries
Chicken Health Books and Links

I have not finished writing this page.

I started renovating my bird pages in October of 2006. By July 2007, it was obvious they were not going to be finished if I added all the new information to the pages that I had initially intended. In order to get what I have written linked into the pages, I decided to just note which pages were unfinished and link them all in. This is one of those pages that is not complete. I am sorry.


Egg Eating

Some chickens become eat eaters. This is not so great if you want to collect those eggs for you to eat or to hatch in an incubator. Once a chicken learns that eggs taste good, she may eat them quite a lot and even go after other hens' eggs. My chicken, Salty, had eaten quite a few of her eggs. She ate them when they are mostly malformed, under-formed, or she was frustrated like when she was caged after bumblefoot surgery and stitches from a hawk attack (see the page on my chickens for more information). You do not want to encourage hens to eat their eggs so never feed them intact eggs or leave deformed eggs in their pen. Since the shell is a good source of calcium, it is fine to feed egg shells to chickens. Just be sure to pulverize them first or break them into small pieces so they do not realize that the eggs that come out of them are the same thing as they are eating. Since the insides of the eggs are full or nutrients and protein, they will replace back the hen's energy if she eats them. You can feed chickens chicken eggs, just hard boil them first. This makes them unrecognizable, less messy, and kills off any fecal bacteria. Some chicken sanctuaries are against humans eating eggs so they hard boil and feed back the hens' eggs to them. Do not feed raw eggs because they may associate their freshly laid eggs with food and break them open. Chickens not only eat grains, vegetables, fruits, and bugs. They will actually eat small rodents, bird eggs, and small amphibians and snakes. One person told of her chicken catching a mouse in front of her. In August of 2002, a young squirrel fell into our chickens' cage. They pecked its head off. Anyway, a chicken will try to eat just about anything!

Chickens may eat their eggs if they are not getting enough protein and/or calcium in their diets. Be sure the chicken feed you use has enough of those two things. For calcium, you can feed oyster shell, kale, and crushed egg shells. Kale has less calcium than the others but chickens find it yummy and may not always eat shell. Collect eggs often to reduce egg-eating. Eggs that are soft or deformed (and break) are more often eaten. Crushing the shell by accident is not the same as breaking it to eat the insides. Weak eggs may break but not be eaten. If an egg breaks, most chickens cannot resist eating it, including roosters. Placing fake eggs in the nest is said to help in some cases but people have e-mailed me saying it did not work. If you come up with something that works to deter egg-eating, e-mail me.

On 6/20/05, Donna informed me that her hens used to eat their eggs until she started letting them run loose earlier in the morning before they laid their eggs (normally in the 7 to 10 am range). This may work for those people who let their chickens run free. [With the hawks and foxes, we cannot do that but others may not have those problems. Our hens are not eating their eggs though.]

The Skinner's let me know on 4/6/06, that they tried a trick with the chickens. They found rocks that looked like eggs and put them in the nest. This is often done to get a hen to go broody but in this case, the egg-eating hens pecked at the rocks. Presumably that did not feel too well, and for the first time in a long time, they were able to get some unbroken real eggs.

On 4/8/07, David shared the following:
"I have been very frustrated by this problem. I originally used wooden eggs that look identical to the real brown eggs to train the chickens to lay in the nest. Then, I assume the egg eating started either from an old hen I got or because of a broken egg. After some research I tried powdered low fat milk in their water. Within two days, no more egg eating. Now I started having this problem again after one of the chickens started laying shell-less eggs. I then took a wooden egg and placed it in the middle of their run, and ALL the chickens started attacking it. After about one minute they gave up. I then filled their waterer with a lowfat powdered milk mixture and placed the wooden eggs in the nest after collecting all of the real eggs. Hopefully, the combination of the two will be more of a long term fix for this issue. My only concern is that a hen may go broody if these wooden eggs are in the nest too long...."


Parasites

I will add information about chicken mites, lice, and worms here later.


Bacteria

I will add information about chicken bacterial problems here later.


Bumble Foot

One problem that is part injury and part bacterial infection is bumble foot. My first hen, Salty, had bumble foot repeatedly. She was a "meat" chicken so she was heavy. After an injury, perhaps from stepping on a stick, rock, or straw, a cut in the foot can be invaded by bacteria. The result is a painfully swollen foot full of very hard pus. Salty had surgery to clean it out. The opening was left open and carefully treated with antibiotics and wrappings. The bumble foot recurred. To read more about Salty's bumble foot, go to this section.


Crop Problems

Food that a chicken swallows first goes into the crop which is a bag at the front of the bird that holds grit and stones. There, food is ground up before going to the stomach. Sometimes stuff gets stuck, or food gets trapped in there and causes an infection. This can be very painful for the bird who will most likely stop eating.

If a chicken's crop becomes hard and food does not digest, if may be because not enough grit was given or the chicken is otherwise sick. Impacted crops occur when food just rots there. Bad bacteria grow, the chicken stops eating, and often dies. If a chicken in not eating, feel the crop on the front chest. If it is full and hard instead of light, bouncy, and full of rocks, then put your fingers on both sides of the chicken's mouth to open it and add a few drops of flaxseed oil sold at health food stores. Then, gently massage the crop. Do this for a week or until things get better. Consult a vet if the chicken still is not doing well.


Viruses

I will add some information on chicken viruses here later.


Physical Injuries

A number of my chickens have had physical injuries. Salty was attacked by a hawk and had to have stitches at the vet. The roosters hurt each other and the hens many times. Those injuries were not treated. See my page on my chickens for details about these events.


Chicken Health Books and Links

Chicken Health Books

The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, Storey Books, 1994:

Chicken Health Links

Viral Diseases in Chickens

Also, see the chicken links on the chicken link page.


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