How Long Do chickens Live: Factors That Impact Lifespan

how long do chickens live

Chickens are peculiar creatures that are loved by many. Whether you are thinking about owning chickens or are just curious about them, you may have a few questions. One of your top questions may be, “How long does a chicken live?”. While the answer may seem cut and dry, that is not actually the case. We will dive into the chicken lifespan and some major things that can impact that lifespan.

History of a Chicken’s Life Expectancy

Chickens were not originally bred to be pets. Chickens, specifically hens, were bred so that they could help feed a family or provide a family with a source of income. These chickens were bred from wild birds.

The breeder of the wild birds would choose which birds would produce the most favorable offspring. This process would then continue. The goal was to breed out the wild behaviors of the birds and produce a bird that produced a quality food source.

What Factors Affect Life Expectancy?

chicken lifespan

Today, a backyard chicken can live anywhere from three to ten years. The chicken lifespan can vary depending on a variety of different factors. These factors can be related to breed or may be related to the level of care that the chicken receives. The top factors that affect the chicken lifespan are listed below.

Disease

One of the greatest factors influencing the chicken lifespan is disease. Flocks of chickens may succumb to parasites, including mites, lice, and worms. These parasites can cause a chicken to become uncomfortable and even fall ill. This could even lead to the death of a chicken.

While there are some diseases that cannot be prevented, advanced technology has led to many preventative options for chicken owners. These preventative measures may include frequent cleanings or inspections of the flock.

You may also perform regular preventative maintenance to individual chickens. In theory, the more closely your flock is watched, the healthier they will be.

How They Are Housed

How you plan on sheltering your chickens will make a difference in their lifespan. If they have nowhere to go or are housed with other animals, many things could happen to your chickens. This includes becoming too cold and freezing to death or being crushed by other animals.

Without proper shelter, your chickens may also be exposed to the elements or to predators, hindering the chicken lifespan. However, not every housing arrangement is an optimal one. Chickens that are kept on commercial farms generally suffer more from respiratory illness and have a limited quality of life.

It is typically recommended that chicken owners find a suitable chicken coop to help house their flock. This will provide them adequate shelter from predators and allow them access to the outdoors at their leisure for them to breathe fresh air.

Their Environment

What environment your chicken is living will affect how long they live. You could utilize a quality coop for your chickens, but if the environment containing that coop or the surrounding environment is negative then this will negatively impact your chickens.

For example, you do not want to place a chicken coop in a horse barn or a warehouse. Instead, you want to place the coop somewhere where the chicken has access to clean and fresh air that circulates. The area should also be relatively dry and be able to keep the chicken warm.

A chicken kept in dirty and unkept conditions is more susceptible to illness or medical issues. A healthy and clean environment will help the chicken lifespan last longer.

Tips for a Healthy and Happy Chicken Coop

lifespan of a chicken

Having a great chicken coop for your chickens can sound like a daunting task. However, it does not have to be challenging. With these helpful tips, you will be sure to have a healthy and happy chicken coop for years to come for your chickens to enjoy.

  • When deciding on bulbs, always choose red. This is because red bulbs will not show any bloody spots on a chicken, preventing pecks from other chickens.
  • When there are chicks present, block off any corners. This will help to prevent suffocation.
  • Chicken Waterers need to be kept shallow and clean to avoid chicks drowning.

What They Eat

Chickens have a much better diet than they did fifty to a hundred years ago. Chickens in those times lived on whatever morsels they could scrounge up, which typically was not much. Nowadays, chicken feed is manufactured. This provides chicken owners with an easy way to supply their chickens with the nutrition that they need.

Chicken food can also be found for every stage of a chicken lifespan. However, overfeeding your chicken can also cause an issue. Overweight chickens can not only cause the chicken some discomfort but can also prove to be life-threatening.

Weight issues can lead to leg problems and even respiratory issues. You will want to make sure that you are feeding your chickens the proper amount and watching their treat intake as well.

Veterinary Care

Prior to the 20th century, the welfare of the chicken was not often considered. These backyard animals were looked at as disposable and their health was not taken into account. Nowadays, advancements in poultry medicine and recognition of certain health issues have made the quality of life of the chicken better.

The study of issues related to chickens is ongoing, providing chicken owners with preventative measures to take proper care of their flock. If your hen is experiencing a serious health issue, you will want to bring your chicken to the vet that sees barnyard patients.

If you are planning on owning chickens, it is important to read up on issues that commonly affect them. This way, you will be able to identify a serious issue if it arises. This will also allow you the ability to provide first-aid care for your flock. Your flock may need tended to, but do not need to visit the vet.

They may need to be administered medication, have their feet cared for, or have a wound taken care of. Minor issues can be addressed at home, while serious issues will need to be addressed by a vet.

How Long do Chickens Lay Eggs?

how long do chickens live for

When a chicken starts laying eggs can varying, depending on several factors. However, chickens generally start laying eggs around the time they are 18 weeks old. Shorter windows of daylight may cause a chicken to not lay as many eggs. This is especially true when it is the winter months, as the days are usually colder and darker.

Chickens that are healthy will usually lay eggs for around two to three years. Egg laying will begin to slow down after this time frame and then taper off. During this period of less egg laying, the eggs may be larger. If you are wanting something more specific, you can read our article: How often do chicken laying eggs.

What to Do When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Once a chicken has stopped laying eggs, there are a few different options you have. Even though a chicken has stopped laying eggs, you may still use her to contribute in other ways to your flock or to keep around as a companion chicken.

A chicken that is older will still be a great bug catcher and could help control the weeds in your garden. Older chickens will also help to keep eggs warm or raise chicks, providing the flock with more experience than the younger hens may have.

You may also decide that once a hen has stopped producing eggs that it will be time to use the chicken for meat. While older chickens generally have tougher meat, the meat will still be useful for stew or other dishes. However, if it is the winter time, you may choose to wait. Generally in the spring, hens will begin laying once again.

3 Popular Breeds and Their Life Expectancy

When deciding on what chickens to have in your flock, you may have considered one of these three breeds. Listed below are three of the most popular breeds and their chicken lifespan.

Rhode Island Red

chicken life spans

Rhode Island Red are some of the most popular chickens and you have most likely seen them before. This type of chicken can live around 8 years. They are most common for beginners or those who wish to keep chickens for a long time. Read more about Rhode Island Red.

Golden Comets

how long does a chicken live

Golden Comets are most well-known for how many eggs that they produce. They typically produce an egg a day. However, these chickens are more prone to developing reproductive issues. They can live up to five years old. Read more about Golden Comet.

Easter Egger

chickens life span

Easter Egger are a hybrid type of hen and are sought after due to their eggs that are laid in a variety of colors. Since they do not lay as many eggs as the Golden Comets, they generally have a longer chicken lifespan. Easter Egger can live around 8 years old. Read more about Easter Egger.

Summary

Chickens are fascinating creatures that can make excellent backyard pets or utilized as a barnyard animal. Whichever the case, proper care of your chicken will ensure that it lives out its chicken lifespan properly.

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs

how long do chickens lay eggs

The trend of producing one’s own food has brought the farm into the city. One such area that has grown in recent years is the keeping of backyard chickens for fresh eggs. Once people have tasted just how much better “home-grown” eggs are, they never want to go back to plain old store eggs.

Like any keeping of livestock, though, people must plan ahead so that they have a steady supply of eggs, as hens have a limited working life span. How long do chickens lay eggs?

There are several factors that affect the production of eggs by a hen:

  • Breed – Varieties bred as layers will produce more consistently than meat varieties. Some varieties produce larger amounts for a shorter time, while others have a longer laying span with a lower peak production.
  • Age – Once mature, around five months of age, a hen will lay an egg roughly every day and a half until she is around two or three years old, after which production tapers off.
  • Rooster to Hen Ratio – Multiple roosters will vie for dominance, stressing the hens, making them produce less.
  • Housing – Hens kept in a safe area with adequate lighting and access to shelter will lay longer.
  • Diet – A steady supply of eggs requires a proper, balanced diet to be consistently fed.

Choosing your Breed

chicken that lays eggs

In the above list, age and breed of chicken are the top determiners of how long a hen will lay. Breed determines how long an individual chicken will produce. Large-scale producers use varieties that begin to lay at 16 to 18 weeks.

The chickens produce large amounts of eggs for a year and a half or two before laying drops dramatically. Examples of this kind of chicken are Lohmann Brown, Black Star, and Freedom Ranger.

On the other hand, heritage breeds mature more slowly, beginning to lay at 20 weeks. These chickens produce fewer eggs, but they do so longer than production breeds. Thus they are a good choice for backyard egg production.

Varieties in this category include Rhode Island Red, Fayoumi, Barnevelder, and Barred Rock. These breeds lay consistently for three to four years on average, but Rhode Island Red chickens have been strong producers even at 5 or 6 years, with some still laying at 7 or 8 when living in optimal conditions.

Some breeds are known for particularly high disease resistance, which has a positive effect on their laying lifespan. Please note that there are variations in egg production among breeds in this category. Read up on average egg production for any breed that interests you so that you are not mistakenly disappointed by a low yield.

Put a lot of work into planning for your flock. If possible, buy chickens from different breeds and both categories to ensure that you have a steady supply of eggs as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Mix Black Star, for example, with Rhode Island Reds and Australorps so that you are not stuck waiting for a new shipment of chicks to mature and start laying eggs.

Provide a Comfortable Coop

chicken that lays eggs

A good chicken coop is necessary for chicken safety; after all, if a predator grabs one, it will not be laying for you. The predators also stress chickens, causing them to lay less.

This coop also makes gathering eggs much easier and is considered necessary for flightier breeds, such as Fayoumi, that would otherwise leave eggs in random spots in your yard for an unpleasant surprise later. There are many ways to build coops, but there are foundational features that you need to include for a productive flock:

  • Enough space, 5-8 square feet per bird if fully confined
  • Light to stimulate egg production, around 16 hours a day
  • Insulation for cold weather, if needed
  • Adequate ventilation to prevent ammonia buildup and its nasty consequences
  • Proper flooring that is easily washed, such as plywood covered with Tyvek
  • Nest boxes, which should have an opening of 10 by 10 inches and be easily accessible
  • Roosting perches, so they can sleep safely

When you see to the comfort of your chickens in their coop, they will lay for years, going to the end of the range with ease.

Above all, make sure you keep the coop clean and in good repair. A clean, safe environment takes much stress from your chickens’ lives so that their energy is directed in a useful way, that is to say, egg laying.

Ensure that your chickens have as much space as possible to roam. After all, the term “cooped up” has negative connotations. If you have the space, let your chickens run free during the day.

Some people who a raising chickens in a more suburban or urban environment confine chickens to a fenced-in spot or use a chicken tractor or portable run so that they know where their chickens are at all times.

The recommended wire mesh size is a half inch square, as that will keep out most predators, even smaller snakes. If desired, you can add roofing to keep your chickens out of talon’s reach.

Chickens require food to make eggs, but what should it be? A laying diet needs large amounts of protein and calcium, much of which comes from commercial poultry pellets. These pellets have a grain and seed base and should comprise around 16 percent of the diet.

The rule of thumb is that four pounds of feed will be needed for one dozen eggs. The calcium comes from a supplemental source supplied separately. If your chickens have little room to peck and roam, it is particularly important to ensure their food has everything they need.

Even with free-range chickens, there are a number of things you can add to their diet to ensure a productive working life. Most fruit and vegetable scraps are a dandy way to get your birds more minerals.

The only forbidden ones are raw green peels, such as those from potatoes, and citrus fruits. Processed whole grains, such as pastas, are also part of a healthy diet. Make sure you use high-quality feed that, if possible, is organic, as certain hazardous chemicals have a negative effect on health and egg production.

Chickens also enjoy a treat now and then. Foods that are often used as such range from what you’d consider eating, like apples, broccoli, and pumpkin, to downright gross, like worms.

Feeding to lay strong

chicken eggs production

In general, your chicken can eat what you do, but there are exceptions. Never give anything fatty, sugary, or salty, such as highly processed snack foods. Rhubarb, avocado, and garlic are not good for them and should never be put in the feed trough. If you do, your bird will not lay eggs for long.

Food should be presented in a proper fashion. Although the image of scattering grain on the ground is popular, it is not always a good way to feed chickens. If your chickens are confined for some reason, invest in a feeding trough to dispense their food.

In doing so, rather than simply scattering seed, you will not mix feed and droppings. This prevents nasty parasitic infections, such as coccidiosis, from starting, spreading, and eventually killing your chickens by malnutrition.

Chickens need a lot of water to produce eggs. Make sure that they have access to a steady supply of clean water. If neglected, you will have to wait around a week for them to begin laying again.

Protect hens

Hens will lay eggs without the presence of a rooster; one is needed certainly if you plan on breeding your hens. However, their presence can sometimes cause problems. In fact, too many roosters increase the stress of the flock by their fights for dominance, stressing the chickens and decreasing the amount of eggs they lay.

The optimal ratio is one rooster per six to nine hens. If you keep around a single rooster for six to nine hens, he will warn the flock when predators come, giving them time to find cover. They will also take on predators occasionally, keeping your chickens from an untimely demise.

YouTube comments are replete with stories of roosters who died to protect their flock from hawks and the like. Having a rooster or two is having a built-in warning system and guard.

Summary

Many people enjoy chickens in their yard. The thought of enjoying fresh, tasty eggs makes the work worthwhile for many. How long do chickens lay eggs that owners can enjoy? In general, it is around two to three years before production tapers off.

However, by seeing to the cleanliness and comfort of the chickens’ surroundings, you can make the most of those years and possibly extend them. Some breeds lay more than others, but a clean, low-stress environment will do any chicken good, regardless of age or breed.

What Do Baby Chicks Eat?

what does chicks eat

Raising chickens from hatchlings to adult hens provides numerous benefits; chickens provide pest-control and weed-control, offer a means for easily disposing of kitchen scraps, produce natural fertilizer that is great for gardens and flowerbeds, and, of course, can offer a ready supply of fresh, tasty eggs and nutritious, all-natural meat.

But to get those benefits, you need to start them off the right way with the proper diet that they need as chicks.

Chicks grow rapidly in their first few weeks and so require correctly formulated food to ensure healthy development. So what do baby chicks eat? And why is the right diet important for them? These guidelines can help make sure that you are feeding them what they need when they need it.

Feeding Newly Hatched Chicks

What do chicks eat when they first come out of their shells? The answer might surprise you: nothing. For the first 48 hours after they hatch, baby chickens require no food or water. They are still being sustained by the nutrients from the egg yolk, which their body has absorbed and is still processing up until they break out of the shell.

After the chick has hatched, it should be allowed to rest and dry out in the incubator for six to 12 hours before being moved into the brooder, where food and drink are first introduced.

Beginning with Starter Feed

what do baby chicks eat

Baby chicks should not be fed adult chicken food: adult food lacks sufficient protein to help the chicks grow and remain healthy in their critical, vulnerable early weeks. Adult food is also too high in calcium for baby chicks; consuming too much calcium can lead to serious medical complications in young chickens, including an untreatable and potentially fatal form of kidney damage.

Baby chicks should be started on what is known as “starter feed” or, sometimes, “chick crumb”.

This commercially available chicken feed is designed to balance precisely the nutrients that baby chicks require, including an optimal range of between 15% and 20% protein, as well as amino acids for development, prebiotics and probiotics for immune health, and vitamins and minerals for bone health.

The best brands of starter feed are organic and non-GMO, containing only natural ingredients and no artificial fillers, preservatives, or chemicals. Most are available from a local feed or farm store, or they can be ordered online from specialty retailers.

Ideally, the starter feed that you use for your baby chicks should contain only unprocessed whole grains. Avoid the products that are filled out with soy and corn, which can provide a great deal of starch but very little nutritional benefit to your chicks.

You might be tempted to try making your own starter feed at home, but the risks of doing this are high. Baby chicks require a very precisely balanced diet to ensure their proper development, and their young digestive systems are not tolerant of much deviation from that diet.

If you mix the feed incorrectly, you could seriously harm your chick or cause long-term developmental damage. Malnourished baby chicks seldom grow into productive egg-layers or bulk up enough to be suitable as meat sources.

First Days in the Brooder

what can baby chicks eat

When you move the baby chicks into the brooder, you should already have a container with fresh, clean water for them. In some cases, sugar, vitamins, or mineral supplements might be added to the chick’s water for the first day or two.

Use a container that cannot be knocked over and has an opening designed to prevent waste from getting in and contaminating the water supply, and that will keep chicks from falling in and drowning. Make sure that it stays filled at all times and that the water remains clean.

Both chicks and adult chickens will drink twice as much water as the amount of food that they eat, so having a ready water source is essential.

Water should be at room temperature (so do not place it under heat lamps in the brooder) and should be supplied at a rate of two quarts per every 10 chicks, separated into containers no larger than one quart each. On a daily basis, empty, wash, and refill the water containers.

Towards the end of their first day in the brooder, or early on the second day, sprinkle some grains of feed into the brooder. Some chicks may not show an interest at first—baby chicks spend most of their first few days sleeping and building up energy after the exhausting process of breaking out of their shells.

Eventually, however, they will become curious about the sound of the feed being dropped in and will investigate it.

Once they have taken to the feed—usually by their third day in the brooder—set out low-lying or trough feeders for easy access (clean egg cartons, cut in two, work well), providing four linear inches of space in the chicken feeder per baby chick.

Do not place them under the heat lamps in the brooder. Empty, clean, and refill the feeder daily, and keep a close eye on it to make sure that it stays supplied and does not become contaminated by waste or water. As the chicks grow, raise the level of the feeders so they are even with the bird’s backs.

Moving Beyond Starter Feed

what to feed baby chicks

Avoid giving baby chicks any special treats in their first two weeks in the brooder. It is essential during this period that they mainly eat the nutritionally balanced starter feed. Introducing treats too early will make them less likely to desire the starter feed and may even confuse them about what the taste and smell of food should be.

If you do introduce treats, remember that the baby chick’s digestive system is still very delicate and prone to disruption. Start with mild and healthy snacks, like a lettuce leaf hung up in the brooder, some oatmeal scattered in the brooder, or some corn kernels chopped up very small.

When you do introduce snacks, it is also essential that you provide the baby chicks with a ready supply of grit in a separate container inside the brooder. This fine granular substance is swallowed into the chicken’s gizzard, where it works with the power of the organ’s muscle contractions to mash up food into a digestible slurry.

Commercially produced grit made of sand, granite, or parakeet can be obtained and is specially formulated in size and composition for baby chicks. Do not give grit formulated for adult birds to baby chicks. Never feed ground up oyster shells to baby chicks; the high levels of calcium in the shells will result in potentially deadly damage to the bird’s kidneys.

At eight weeks of age, baby chicks should be shifted off the starter feed and in its place, they should be given “grower feed” (at this age, they can also explore more complex snacks, like worms, bugs and chicken scratch).

To help chicks make this transition, mix starter feed and grower feed together, gradually shifting the proportion of the combination towards more and more grower feed over a couple of weeks.

Grower feed provides less protein than starter feed (typically about 16%). Chickens should continue on the grower feed until they reach the start of their laying age, which is usually around 18 to 21 weeks of age, depending on the breed.

Whether or Not to Use Medicated Food

what do you feed baby chickens

Medicated feed is fortified with a medication—usually amprolium—that helps chickens combat the common, and potentially deadly, parasitic intestinal disease coccidiosis.

Baby chicks that have been vaccinated against coccidiosis already, either by a veterinarian or by a commercial hatchery, must not be fed medicated feed as it will kill off the coccidiosis strain in the vaccine and render the bird susceptible to the disease.

Baby chicks who are kept in a clean brooder that is regularly emptied of waste and provides plenty of space are less likely to contract coccidiosis and so generally do not require medicated feed.

Chicks who are raised in cramped conditions, such as factory farms or in household settings that involve more than 50 chicks in one space, are likely to contract the disease and thus should be given medicated feed. Some medicated feeds contain antibiotics, but these should only be used under instructions from a livestock veterinarian.

Feeding Sick Baby Chicks

Ensuring that sick, malnourished, or underdeveloped baby chicks are properly hydrated is the first priority. Use a dropper or a spoon and, if necessary, water fortified with electrolytes.

The finely chopped-up hard-boiled egg can provide sick baby chicks with a boost of protein and many of the nutrients that their body needed to absorb when it was inside the egg. These can help it start to recover its stamina and eventually shift to starter feed.

Do Hens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?

how do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Chickens make great backyard pets and the fact that they give back by delivering fresh, delicious eggs only adds to the allure of keeping them.

When you are looking forward to the moment when your chickens begin laying eggs it can be anxiety-inducing wondering when that moment is going to come and what specific requirements are needed to get things going.

Do hens lay eggs without a rooster? This all depends on what you intend to accomplish with your egg-laying. There are a few factors to consider.

General Expectations in Egg Laying

There are a few different elements that can play a role in whether your chickens will come “of age,” allowing them to lay eggs. Nutrition, environment, breed, and age can all help determine when your chickens will begin laying eggs. You will not require the assistance of a rooster for your chickens to produce eggs unless you specifically want to fertilize and hatch your eggs.

If you are looking to hatch eggs and produce more chickens, then you will require the assistance of a rooster. Otherwise, your eggs will never be fertilized.

However, the best setup is always one single solitary rooster and if you begin hatching your own eggs there is a chance you will hatch more roosters which may eventually grow up and fight with one another. The best reason to hatch eggs is for sustenance. Since the eggs we eat are not fertilized a rooster is not actually required.

There are a number of more essential factors when it comes to egg-laying beyond simply the presence of a rooster. While the presence of a rooster in the flock may help to encourage egg-laying, it is certainly not a determinate factor.

As noted above, the elements of a healthy egg-laying operation that you should certainly put stock into include good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Nutrition

chickens lay eggs without rooster

Egg laying chickens have specific nutrition requirements as opposed to younger chickens or chickens perhaps not intended for laying eggs. In order to promote egg laying it is important for your chickens to have sufficient food provided to them as well as to have high-quality food provided to them.

During the growing period, chicks should receive a diet promoting their rapid growth and development of feathers. Chickens reaching the laying stage do best on a “pre-lay” diet intended to increase the calcium and other nutrients in their diet.

Comparison shop different diets available to you to determine which is most suitable for your purposes. A diet with the right nutrients for egg-laying purposes will supply your hens with what they need to produce big, nutritious eggs.

A balanced diet is primarily important. If the chickens are not receiving adequate nutrition, then one of two things could happen. Either (1) your hens may experience delay in their egg-laying, or (2) they may stop laying eggs even once they’ve started.

Environment

An adequate environment is also essential to promoting laying in your chickens. This includes providing ample lighting, comfortable temperatures, adequate food, and ample water for the hens at all times.

  • If the hens run out of food for a substantial period of time it can impact their laying schedule and may delay how soon they begin laying. You should take care to ensure your hens always have fresh food available.
  • The same is true for water, which is one of the most essential nutrients for optimum poultry health. Fresh, clean water should always be available to your hens. Make sure that you keep the water clean and fresh on a daily basis as dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to health issues for your poultry.
  • In order to maintain healthy egg production, hens should receive around 14 hours’ worth of day length each day. The lighting intensity should be such that a person could read newsprint at the eye level of the birds. Because the length of the day naturally decreases in the fall and winter, this can have a profound impact on egg laying ability. One way that you can prevent this from being a problem is to install a light in the coop to artificially increase daylight hours.
  • Chickens do not do well in high environmental temperatures. They will succumb quickly to severe heat stress if you do not provide them with proper shade, ample water, and adequate ventilation. You can reduce the adverse effects that come with heat stress by providing enough ventilation and shade as chickens naturally do better in a cooler environment. As a result, it is likely that your hens will lay more effectively in a cooler, more comfortable environment.
  • The breeding box or coop should be kept as clean as possible in order to promote healthy egg-laying. It may be difficult to keep things clean during the laying season but it is important to try because a dirty coop can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other diseases and chickens can be prone to illness when improperly cared for.
do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Age

Generally speaking, hens will begin to enter their egg-laying period around 18 weeks of age, however, as noted above this can vary somewhat depending on the breed of the chicken. The peak age for egg-laying comes at around 32 weeks of age and continues at this level until around 65 to 68 weeks of age.

There are breeds of chicken that will not begin laying eggs until a little later and so it is normal not to see egg-laying behavior begin until around six months. This will be discussed more fully in the “breed-specific” section below.

Hens Behavior During Laying

The behavior of your pullets will begin to change when they are nearing their initial lay, and so it is normal to get a feel for when this is going to happen. They may begin to investigate the nesting area, spend more time hanging around the rooster, or their typical behavior may simply deviate in other ways.

If your hens are starting to spend a lot of time with the rooster because they are nearing laying-age, you may need to make sure to separate the rooster from the nesting boxes

If your hens seem unsure about the nesting boxes one way that you can encourage their use is to place “decoy eggs” in the boxes in order to show the hens what they are meant for. If you do not have actual decoy eggs you can use golf balls or similarly sized balls to serve this purpose.

There are a lot of great resources available for building and setting up nesting boxes that will accommodate your chickens. There are also nesting boxes that will provide your hens with access to the rooster without compromising the eggs.

If your goal is to have your hens lay eggs, then it is important to motivate your chickens to lay by allowing them access to a rooster without necessarily allowing the rooster to fertilize the eggs.

In fact, once your hens begin laying you may find that having a rooster around does not motivate your hens to lay one way or another. You will not find that you can increase your hen egg production simply by exposing your hens to a rooster. You can have a perfectly healthy flock of egg-laying chickens all on their own without having any roosters around.

Do You Need a Rooster For Egg Production?

can a chicken lay eggs without a rooster

The ultimate answer is no, you do not need a rooster in order to raise egg-laying chickens. You will not notice an impact in egg production by adding a rooster to your flock of chickens, however, there are obviously other benefits of having a rooster around if you enjoy their presence. As noted above, however, it is important to only keep one adult rooster around at a time to prevent fighting from occurring.

Making the Decision to Get a Rooster

As noted above, when you fertilize your eggs and allow them to hatch into new chickens you run the risk of adding additional roosters to your flock.

When roosters are young it is possible for you to keep them together, however as they get older, they will begin to fight to the point where injuries are inevitable. The male birds can be beneficial for meat however you will need to know how to house them separately and how to handle them humanely if this is the route you take.

If you are interested in expanding your flock, there are other options available to you. Consider sourcing local chicks and hens for example rather than attempting to breed your own.

If you do decide to breed your own chickens then it will benefit you to do some additional research on what this entails and to find an outlet to sell or give away any additional male chicks before they come of age.

How Do Chickens Mate?

Roosters are generally bigger with more colorful plumage than hens, but that is not always the case. You will know that you have a rooster when the rooster crows, and by the larger comb and wattle he sports. (By the way, roosters will crow all day long, not just at sunrise. Take this into consideration for your neighbors’ sake if you are going to attempt to breed chickens.)

When a rooster is ready to mate (and they are essentially ready to mate three or four months after they have lost their fluffy chick plumes!), the rooster does posturing and dancing. Part of the posturing is strutting.

He will lift his chest, neck and head high and begin to slowly strut near your hens. Not only is this posture supposed to impress the hens, but it is also supposed to alert them to the fact that the rooster is looking for a good time and about to pick a mate.

Next, the rooster will choose a hen. He will turn sideways so that his chosen hen will see how magnificent he is and get her “in the mood.” If the hen acquiesces willingly, she will then crouch low to the ground to wait for the rooster’s next actions.

There are “brute” roosters in chicken coops too. These roosters will take a hen by extreme force (i.e., the chicken equivalent of rape and assault!). In this instance, the rooster does not care about showing the hen anything.

He selects a hen, brutally pounces on her with his sharp talons, grabs her head, comb, and neck in his sharp beak, and has his way with the hen. It is a good idea to watch what kind of mating behavior your rooster has because the violent roosters can and will kill hens that try to refuse the rooster’s “advances.”

how do chickens mate

How Do Chickens Mate?

Chickens are birds, which means that fertilization occurs inside the female’s body before she lays the eggs. Many animals have a life cycle that begins with eggs, including humans. However, in the animal world, fertilization of eggs often occurs outside of the body, as is the case with fish or insects. This is not the case with most birds.

To make fertilization occur, birds have cloacas. This is a set of organs that includes their bladders, their reproductive organs, and their anuses. Essentially, there is one entrance and exit hole through which birds and chickens urinate, defecate and reproduce.

In order for chickens to mate, their cloacas have to be in direct contact with each other. In short, they have to be anal opening to anal opening.

No, chickens do not walk backward and mash their derrieres together, although that could work. Instead, after the rooster either does his strut and dance or his violent assault on a hen, he arches his back and shoves his anal opening and cloaca downward into close contact with the hen’s.

He rapidly shakes his behind for a few seconds to transmit the sperm to fertilize the eggs that are currently developing inside the hen’s ovaries.

Mating Frequency and Success Rates

Roosters will mate with intense frequency to ensure that their lineage lives on. Roosters can, and will, mate multiple times an hour, sometimes with the same hen, and sometimes with any willing hen in the coop.

Because only a small amount of sperm is transmitted at a time, and because most hens are only going to lay one egg at a time, this frequent mating is necessary to fertilize enough eggs to fill a nest.

The success rate of a rooster depends on a couple of factors. One, the age of the rooster is important. While a very old rooster can still mate, his ability to transmit sperm may be on the decline.

Additionally, an older rooster may not be able to grab and hold on to a hen during mating long enough to do the job correctly. Older roosters are also only able to manage mating with less than a dozen hens.

Two, the behavior of a rooster may terrify your hens such that they will do anything to get away from a savage rooster, and thus, mating may fail. Be sure to find a well-behaved rooster if you want several nests of chicks.

You should also know that hens will lay eggs with or without insemination, so you will have to be careful about taking eggs out of the hen house for food if you have a rooster walking about.

Hen’s Fertility

rooster and hen mating

Hens are essentially ready to mate when the rooster has wooed them. There is really nothing they need to do to physically prepare for the fertilization process because they are constantly producing eggs. If there wasn’t a rooster around, the hens would lay eggs anyway, but the eggs would never hatch into chicks.

The eggs that are unfertilized in the absence of a rooster become your breakfast. Most hens are fertile all of their lives. It is only when a hen is much older that she may slow down or stop producing as many eggs.

She could still mate and produce fertilized eggs and chicks, but typically not as many as she did when she was a younger hen. Really old hens stop producing eggs at all, and that is when they typically become Sunday dinner.

More Than One Rooster: Good or Bad Idea?

Roosters are territorial and they will round up their “harems” of hens so that other roosters cannot steal them. They will have major cockfights in the coop to gain dominance, too, with the winner getting total freedom and breeding rights. The loser, if that rooster survives the fight, should be removed for his own safety, and/or to avoid another fight he may not survive.

If you want to keep more than one rooster to have a better variety of good chicken genetics, consider swapping roosters out every couple of weeks. Another suggestion is to keep some hens in one coop with one rooster, and some hens in another coop with another rooster. Swap roosters when you want to mix up the breeding and mating a bit.

Buying a Mating Pair vs. Raising a Pair From Chicks

chicken and rooster mating

There are some pros and cons to buying an adult pair of chickens that are already well established with each other and will mate successfully versus buying a male and female chick you raise.

A mating pair is already ready to help you build a flock of chickens in your backyard chicken coop. You know that every nest of eggs will probably come from this breeding pair, but you will have to remove any male chicks from the chicken coop before the male chicks are ready to breed.

Chickens are not really susceptible to genetic deformations as a result of inbreeding, but you may want to avoid it all the same. If you are going to line-breed, watch for any abnormalities in chicks.

These abnormalities may be present as a result of a genetic defect in the line, and you will want to carefully breed your chickens to remove this defect in the line going forward. Ergo, considering purchasing a couple of different adult hens if you are going to start your flock with a breeding pair.

On the other hand, raising a mating pair of chicks, particularly if they are different subtypes of chickens and therefore not likely to be brother and sister, can work for you too. As the chicks grow, you can see the temperament in these chicks.

That is important to finding out if you have a good rooster or a violent rooster, which you would not know until the male chick(s) is/are fully grown. If you have an unpleasant rooster who behaves violently, you will not want to mate such characteristics into your chicks. Buying another rooster full-grown can help with that.

Summary

It isn’t difficult to mate chickens. They already know how purely by instinct. The problems arise when you either have violent roosters, too many roosters, or roosters and hens that are too old. Chickens will mate at the drop of a hat, and you can often catch them in the act.

Their reproductive organs are inside their bodies and stored in the same orifices as their anuses and urinary tracts, but their mating process prevents urine and feces from flowing into the reproductive organs.

Pasty Butt in Chicks: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

pasty butt chicken

Have you noticed a crust of poop on your newly-hatched chicks’ vent? Pasty Butt, or pasting, is a widespread condition in baby chicks and could be fatal if left untreated. I’ve had to treat many of my young pasty butt chicks over the years and this came on the heels of losing my chicks because I didn’t know what to do.

Having a pasty butt chicken can be irksome. We also don’t want you to lose any chicks, so we’ve put this article together to help you deal with this condition among your chicks.

What is Pasting?

Pasting occurs when poop comes out of the vent and sticks to it instead of falling off. Over time, the poop builds up, and the butt becomes clogged. Consequently, it becomes impossible for the baby chick to release excreta, and this is dangerous to the chick’s health.

To safely remove pasting, you need to have a good understanding of the chicken’s anatomy. The chicken’s anatomy reveals an orifice (the vent) from which the chick passes out excreta. Many people mistake the vent for the belly button and vice versa. When cleaning up the chick’s pasting, it’s critical not to mistake one for the other.

You should also be careful not to tug at the chick’s belly button. In a newly-hatched chick, the belly button has a fold of tissue that should become dry and fall off in a couple of days. Pulling on this tissue could lead to disembowelment and fatal complications, so you have to be very careful.

Symptoms of Pasty Butt

chick sick

The earlier you spot pasty butt in your chick, the higher the likelihood of your chick’s survival. As such, you should always watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Slow or absence of noticeable growth
  • Lack of sleep
  • Inability to feed or drink
  • General weakness, compared to other chicks
  • Protrusion of the vent

Noticing that your chick has a pasty butt before the manifestation of these symptoms is even better.

Causes of Pasty Butt

Pasting usually occurs in chicks that are less than three days old. However, some diseases can lead to pasty butt in chicks that are over a week old. It’s improbable for chicks raised by a brooder hen to get a pasty butt. The reason is simple: they are not affected by the stress of mailing and temperature changes.

The major causes of pasting in newly-hatched chicks are temperature change, stress, and improper dieting.

1. Temperature Changes

Baby chicks that are sent via mail usually experience a change in temperature that might clog their vents. Also, such chicks are usually dehydrated after a long journey, and giving them water that’s less than 35°C can cause their butts to paste.

Besides temperature changes due to transportation, heat lamps, commonly used in coops, can also cause the newly-hatched chicks to overheat, leading to a blockage in their orifice.

2. Poor Digestion

A major cause of pasting is the ingestion of food ingredients that are difficult for the chicks to digest. This results in the chicks having to excrete a more viscous and stickier poop that eventually remains on their butts.

pasty butt

The common reason for this is the chick’s under-developed digestive system. Young chicks’ digestive systems aren’t fully developed with enough enzymes to break down these food materials. This explains why pasty butt isn’t common in birds over a week old as they are capable of producing enough digestive enzymes.

3. Improper Dieting

For some people, adding electrolytes to the drinking water of their chicks is an excellent way to enable them to recover from the stress of traveling.

While such medications are generally healthy for your chicks as they enhance immunity, excess electrolytes can lead to pasty butt. More often than not, what baby chicks need is fresh, clean water even when they show signs of disorientation.

In most cases, when you notice a recurring case of pasting in your chickens, it’s likely due to the type of feed they’re consuming. For instance, some feeds made from soybean have been reported by many poultry farmers to cause pasty butt in baby chicks.

4. Infectious Diseases

Sometimes, chicks can get infected with viruses and bacteria, leading to diarrhea, which is a risk factor for pasting.

5. Stress

Chicks sent by mail and those raised in incubators experience stress, which translates to pasting.

If you’re new to homesteading, and you’re buying baby chicks (usually under three days old), ensure you don’t get those with poop sticking to their vents. Also, ensure you check the chicks’ vents immediately you get home. If any of them has a clogged vent, initiate treatment immediately, and keep an eye on them after that.

Treatment

chick sickness

Here’s a routine of what we do to treat our baby chicks when they come down with pasty butt:

1. Clean up the Vent

The first thing to do is to clean the butt of the chick. Gently and softly wipe the butt with a napkin or washcloth dipped in warm water. Do not try to forcefully pull the excrement when it’s dry because you could tear the chick’s skin, and even damage the vent.

As an alternative, you can place the backside of the chick under running warm water. The warm water will help loosen the harden poop and open up the vent. If the excreta is very dry, you can use a cotton swab to dislodge them. It’s a pretty straightforward process and takes just a couple of minutes to perform.

After cleaning the vent, dry the chick with a paper towel or a hairdryer set on low heat and held 10 inches away from the chick’s butt.

2. Use Vaseline

To prevent chaffing, I always apply Vaseline to the chick’s butt. After cleaning and drying the chick, take a little portion of Vaseline with a cotton wool applicator and apply it to areas surrounding the vent.

That way, the excreta won’t stick the next time the chick tries to poop. If you prefer a similarly effective but natural alternative, you can opt for olive oil.

3. Feed Them Cornmeal

The next thing is to put some cornmeal on a tray and let the chicks forage on them.

Prevention

sick baby chick

Just like with every disease, prevention is far more cost-effective and time-effective than treatment. It’s better to take the necessary steps to prevent your baby chickens from developing pasty butt in the first place. We’ve done the following over the last couple of years and had brilliant results

1. Pay Attention to Their Diet 

What’s in their food? What’s in their water? In our poultry, we add probiotics to the chick’s water. Probiotics help boost the immune system by aiding digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

Besides probiotics, we also add organic apple cider vinegar to their water. This is a very common practice among poultry farmers. You can add two tablespoons to a quarter of the birds’ drinking water to prevent the clogging of their butt.

There is, however, no direct scientific evidence that organic apple cider vinegar can help prevent pasty butt, but it remains a healthy supplement.

2. Maintain the Right Brooder Temperature

Heat lamps are potentially hazardous, with a temperature far above the recommended average for brooding. Newly-hatched chickens flourish in places with temperature ranging from 60OF to 70OF.

As a rule, I don’t use heat lamps for my young chickens as they are arguably the most harmful heat source for baby chicks. Instead of heat lamps, I stick to alternatives like radiant heat plates, which are remarkably safer and more energy-efficient.

It’s also important to monitor the body temperature of the chicks. You can easily gauge their level of comfort by watching their position in the brooder; when they cluster while awake, they’re probably cold. Make necessary adjustments like increasing the room temperature to make the chicks comfortable.

3. Serve them Scrambled Eggs

Scramble up an egg and feed the chicks with it to supply them with protein. We do this immediately after cleaning up the chicks’ vents. We first learned of this method when we had recurring cases of pasting in our new poultry. Over half of our baby chicks had pasty butts, and we had to find a permanent solution.

What we did was to mix scrambled eggs with the chick’s feed and offer it to them. It helped to clear things up, and we didn’t record any other incidence in those birds.

4. Keep the Brooder Clean and Comfortable

Keep your brooder clean to forestall bacteria growth and spread that could make the situation worse. The brooder has to be extremely comfortable for the young birds, with clean water and healthy feed available at all times.

Conclusion

Treating your baby chicks of a pasty butt is a pretty easy endeavor. However, ignoring it can lead to the chick’s death, so initiating immediate treatment is vital. Implementing preventive measures against pasting is a better way to reduce the likelihood of losing your chicks to the condition.

As a poultry owner, you must take the following steps in protecting your newly-hatched chicks from developing pasty butts:

  • Pay attention to their diet
  • Maintain the right brooder temperature
  • Serve them scrambled eggs
  • Keep the brooder clean and comfortable.

If you have any questions about pasty butt in chicks, feel free to drop them. I’ll respond to every one of them.

Coccidiosis in Chickens: How to Treat and Prevent

coccidiosis in chickens

Chickens tend to become sick at different points in their lifetime. While that may be normal, there is still a need to have an in-depth idea of the factors that triggered the illness in the first place. Coccidiosis is one of the causes of illness in chickens.

In this article, we shall look at some of the important things you need to know about Coccidiosis. From the meaning, the symptoms, the treatment, and the prevention, you will have a good idea of what to do when you have such a case on your hands.

What Is Coccidiosis in Chickens?

Coccidiosis is a common and deadly intestinal disease, which affects many chickens. Some reports have also posited that chicks are the worst hit by the disease.

Ideally, the disease called Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease, which starts to manifest and become obvious after a microscopic and parasitic organism (called a protozoa) attaches itself to the intestinal lining of a chicken. By doing that, the organism will be able to damage the intestine of the chicken, damage the guts, and in the end, causes the affected chicken to start bleeding.

coccidiosis chicken poop

Contrary to the notions held by some people that Coccidiosis is not common, the fact is that the disease is always present. Interestingly, there is always the presence of the Coccidiosis organism in the bowel of every chicken.

The only difference there is that some chickens tend to develop theirs faster and will get affected quickly than the others that have slower paces of developing the diseases. In addition, the disease (Coccidiosis) starts to develop with an oocyst, which is a microscopic egg that is passed out anytime the chicken drops or defecates.

That is where the interesting part of Coccidiosis becomes clearer. After the oocyst has been passed out through the chicken’s droppings, it will not be able to become infectious (sporulate) except if the surroundings give it the opportunity to thrive. Also, it tends to lay dormant in the soil for a year or more.

The infectious (sporulate) state of the oocyst starts to come into place after the environment/surrounding where it was dropped becomes generally wet and humid between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Are Chickens Affected?

Once the oocyst begins to thrive, the next step is to infest the chickens. Ideally, after it becomes infectious (sporulate), the oocyst can become infested in chickens after the birds eat off from the ground where they had been laying. It can also get into the chickens’ bodies when the birds scratch the ground and when they drink in the same surrounding.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Chickens

You may not be able to figure out if Coccidiosis is present or not except if you have a microscope with you. In the absence of that, there are other foolproof ways you can identify the presence of Coccidiosis in your chickens.

Here are some of them:

Blood or Mucous in the Droppings

chickens coccidiosis

It is not out of place to have a healthy chick today and the next day, it has either become weak or sick. It does happen. And the presence of Coccidiosis in the body of such birds is one of the reasons for such “unexplained illness”.

That notwithstanding, you should look out for blood or mucous in the droppings of your chickens because that is one of the veritable signs of identifying Coccidiosis in chickens.

Have in mind that you shouldn’t confuse this with the normal brown and red-colored blood that the birds tend to shed as a result of the shedding of caecal cells.

You can always work hand-in-hand with your veterinarian to find out if the chickens are already infested with Coccidiosis.

Stunted Growth

chicks often have retarded and stunted growth if they are suffering from Coccidiosis. Watch out for that!

Other symptoms to look out for are:

  • Inconsistence in laying eggs
  • Diarrhea
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Pale skin and comb
  • Lack of vigor
  • Weight loss in older chickens
  • Loss of appetite

How to Treat Coccidiosis in Chickens

chicken coccidiosis

The causes and symptoms of Coccidiosis in chickens have now been identified and explained. The next thing we have to do is to look for better ways to handle the situation and stop the disease from affecting the chickens further.

Here are some of the best ways you can treat cases of Coccidiosis in your birds.

1. Use Amprolium

Amprolium has been applauded in many quarters for its helpfulness in ensuring that Coccidiosis is treated in chickens. So, if you have birds that are suffering from the disease, you now have a treatment option in Amprolium.

You may be wondering about how Amprolium works with regards to treating Coccidiosis in chickens. The important point to note is that this treatment option is designed to block and restrict parasites from uptaking and multiplying. Hence, if you suspect your chickens are suffering from Coccidiosis, you can use this treatment option to get rid of the disease.

How can Amprolium be used to get the best results? Below are some of the things you need to do and how you can get the most out of Amprolium for treating Coccidiosis in chickens.

  • Administration: You need to administer Amprolium by adding it to the chickens’ water. If your chickens are too weak to take water, you can consider ingesting Amprolium orally.
  • Treat for 7 Days: In as much as Amprolium may start treating Coccidiosis in chicken in as little as 24 hours, it is important that you complete the medication for seven (7) days.
  • Administer on an Ongoing Basis:Even if your birds have been satisfactorily treated of Coccidiosis, it is pertinent that you continue to administer Amprolium on an ongoing basis. That way, your birds will be at fewer risks of contracting the disease again.

2. Do A Complete Change of Beddings

As noted in the transmission of Coccidiosis to chickens, it is understood that the disease can be contracted if the environment or surrounding is not tidied. Because the disease tends to lurk around where the oocyst was dropped, it now becomes important that you do a complete change of bedding.

By doing that, you will be able to limit the exposure of your birds to the disease. It also helps you to reduce the population of dispersal of the Coccidiosis organism (coccidia) in different directions.

3. Empty and Disinfect the Feeders and Water Dispensers

You never can tell where Coccidiosis is lurking. That is why you need to empty or pout out the contents of the feeders and water dispensers used by your chickens.

While doing that, remember to use a 10% bleach in water solution to disinfect the water dispensers and the feeders.

How to Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens

coccidiosis in chicks

To avoid going through the herculean task of treating Coccidiosis in chickens, you want to be sure that you can nip it in the bud.

So, what are the ways you can prevent or control the spread of Coccidiosis in chickens?

1. Keep the Surroundings Dry

Although your chickens may have developed and passed out the oocyst, there are still chances that you can be able to prevent the disease that comes with it (Coccidiosis) from spreading in your flock of birds.

The rule of thumb is to keep the surroundings (where your chickens are) clean. That is because Coccidiosis thrives in humid, moist, and wet environments.

By keeping the surroundings clean, you will be able to maintain optimum dryness that will reduce the spread of Coccidiosis.

2. Quarantine New Birds

If you are adding new chickens to your flock, the general rule is that you quarantine or isolate them for about 12 yards.

It is during this isolated stage that you can check to see if the symptoms of Coccidiosis in chickens are manifesting in the birds.

If they are, you will be lucky, as you have successfully scaled the potentiality of putting the health of your older birds at risk. You will then be able to treat the new birds accordingly.

3. Provide Clean Beddings

Coccidia, the organism that causes Coccidiosis doesn’t necessarily need to be on the ground alone. Sometimes, it can find its way to the chickens’ bodies and that is done by the spread of the disease through the feces of infected birds.

Ideally, anytime a chicken that is already infested with Coccidiosis drops feces, it will be on the bedding. If you failed to change the bedding in such moments, the chances are high that the chickens will soon get their feathers onto the bedding, thereby picking up the coccidia in the bedding. In extension, the birds will also get the disease into their body when they use their beak to clean themselves (preening).

Therefore, you should be on the lookout for wet beddings and replace them as soon as possible to prevent the further spread of Coccidiosis in chickens.

Coccidiosis Can Be Treated and Prevented

The amazing thing about Coccidiosis is that it can be treated. Therefore, you don’t have to fret about how you can treat and prevent Coccidiosis in chickens because the tips explained above are some of the veritable ways the disease can be treated and prevented.

How have you been treating and preventing Coccidiosis in your chickens?

Chicken Diarrhea: Causes, Treatment and Care

Chicken Diarrhea

Got chickens? When you have any type of livestock, you are responsible for their health. This includes the quality of their nutrition and the frequency of their exercise, the safety of their surroundings. It also includes the medical care that they receive. Chicken diarrhea is something that requires your intervention.

Many backyard chicken owners are new to farming in general. Often, novice hen enthusiasts go to great lengths to ensure the health and happiness of their birds. They name each member of their flock and spend time holding and petting them.

They also build creative, beautiful and Instagram-worthy sheds and runs for their comfort and enjoyment. Finally, they provide high-quality feed and snacks for their feathered friends.

These highly-prepared individuals are often ready for anything the bird-life can throw at them. But what about illness? When your hen shows the first signs of sickness, what do you do then?

Although many backyard chicken owners panic when their beloved birds seem unwell, this is not helpful. Calling a vet that specializes in livestock might be in order, but you may be able to provide your hen with the care it needs at home.

The Scoop on Chicken Poop

chicken diarea

One common sign of sickness in chickens is diarrhea. If you are new to chicken-raising, you might not yet feel confident in identifying ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ droppings. Normal, healthy chicken poop is usually firm and brown with a white cap.

In addition to this type of healthy droppings, chickens also produce several cecal droppings per day. Cecal droppings are reddish-brown and sticky but are also signs that your hen is healthy and normal. Although cecal droppings resemble diarrhea, it is just a different type of chicken poop.

If a hen has diarrhea, she will have only, or mostly, droppings that look like cecal droppings. If you see that more than a third of the poops are sticky and reddish-brown, then you will know that your hen has chicken diarrhea.

You should check the feathers and vent areas of your flock if you have multiple birds, to identify which bird is ill. A hen that has diarrhea will likely have a vent area that is red and sore, and the feathers around the vent will be pasted with dry, yellow droppings.

What Causes Chicken Diarrhea?

Just like in people, chickens can experience diarrhea for a host of reasons. Sometimes, the chicken diarrhea will pass before you are able to identify why they had it in the first place. If your hen has persistent diarrhea, however, you should ascertain the root cause of it in order to treat it properly. Some common reasons for chicken diarrhea are:

  • Poor flock management
  • Bacteria/viruses
  • Parasites

Poor Flock Management

Commonly, chicken diarrhea can result from mistakes or neglect regarding how the flock is being managed. If birds are kept too closely together, or without adequate ventilation, floor space, and access to the outdoors, they can suffer the effects of heat stress.

A symptom of heat stress is chicken diarrhea. Another cause of chicken diarrhea is vent prolapse, which can occur because of a calcium deficiency or because the bird is over- or underweight.

In many cases, vent prolapse can be prevented via providing the flock with access to proper nutrition and exercise. Other symptoms of poor flock management that can result in chicken diarrhea include excess salt intake, Hardware disease, moldy food, raw soybean meal, and toxic plants.

Hardware disease results from chickens eating sharp or toxic metal items they find in their environment.

Bacteria/Viruses

There are a handful of bacteria and viruses that can cause chicken diarrhea. More common causes are Colibacillosis, Lymphoid, leukosis, and Marek’s disease. Avian intestinal spirochetosis, avian tuberculosis, infectious coryza, and fowl cholera are additional, though less common, possibilities.

Parasites

Parasites such as Coccidiosis, threadworms, and (less commonly) Blackhead disease are often to blame for chicken diarrhea.

Treatments for Chicken Diarrhea

chicken diarhea

Important! If you suspect a hen of having a contagious disease, isolate it from the flock immediately to reduce the chance of transmission to other birds.

In order to successfully treat chicken diarrhea, it is helpful to first identify the cause. Now you better understand the potential causes of chicken diarrhea: poor flock management, viruses or bacteria, and parasites. Are you able to make a diagnosis, or at least make an educated guess, about the cause of your chicken’s diarrhea?

Poor Flock Management

Chicken diarrhea caused by poor flock management will require changes to how you are managing your flock. Simple fixes to your flock’s diet, such as reducing sodium content, increasing phosphorus, decreasing protein, increasing (or decreasing) calcium supplementation, might be all that is needed to fix the problem.

If your hens are eating too much, reduce or eliminate ‘treats’ like salad greens until diarrhea has subsided (usually in 24-36 hours).

Similarly, providing more space, shade, or access to the outdoors for your hens might resolve the issue relatively quickly, if the diarrhea was caused by heat stress. Or, you can stand her in cold water, aim a fan at her, and mix her food with cold water to help her cool down faster.

Check your feed and replace all of it if there are any signs of mold or contamination. Replace damp bedding with a fresh and dry substrate to remove concerns of mycotoxins. Also check your hens’ surroundings for any potentially toxic plants, decomposing animals, or sharp metal objects that might be ingested by curious hens.

Reminder: Always ensure your flock has ample access to fresh, clean water, especially on warm or hot days. Birds are especially susceptible to the effects of heat and require you to provide them with the proper environment to remain cool.

Bacteria/Viruses

If you suspect or know that your chicken’s diarrhea is due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites, the above treatments will not hurt. However, more might be needed to help your hen’s digestive system get back on track. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if it is a bacterial or viral infection.

Bacterial infections can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics; antibiotics may also cause diarrhea, so give your bird probiotics as well.

Antibiotics do not treat viral infections; if your hen is suspected of having a virus, provide palliative care. In cases of bacterial or viral infections, isolate your infected chicken(s) from the rest of the flock to minimize the likelihood of transmission.

Parasites

If your hen is experiencing gut damage and diarrhea due to intestinal parasites, or worms, you will need to treat your entire flock for worms. You can procure the appropriate deworming medication from your local vet or agricultural supply store.

Follow the instructions exactly and make sure not to eat or sell eggs from the treated hens for the specified length of time. Parasites like Coccidiosis usually only affect young chicks under 10 weeks of age. Chicks with Coccidiosis need to be treated promptly with a coccidiostat, probiotics, and electrolytes or they may die.

Caring for Chickens with Diarrhea

chicken diarrhea

Ensure all hens with diarrhea have plentiful access to proper food, clean water, shade, and fresh bedding. Until or unless you have been able to determine the cause of the chicken diarrhea, isolate your infected bird(s) from the remainder of your flock.

Because some chicken illnesses can be transmitted to humans, it is important to take extra precautions when handling sick chickens. It is safest to keep your hens contained outside and to not cuddle or kiss your feathered friends.

Wash your hands immediately after touching your hens, their enclosure or coop, or their eggs. Make sure to change your clothes after spending time in your chicken’s run, and do not wear your soiled shoes indoors.

As stated earlier, if a hen is being treated for a parasitic infection, refrain from eating her eggs until the indicated amount of days has passed. Many of these precautions should be taken whether or not your hen has diarrhea, as even healthy chickens can make people sick. These measures will help protect you and your family from becoming ill from your hens.

Prevention is Key: Once your feathered friends are feeling fine, consider implementing additional measures to prevent future cases of chicken diarrhea. Well-managed flocks should have ample space to roam, roost, and nest indoors and outdoors.

They have constant access to clean water and high-quality, nutritious feed. Their coops and runs are regularly disinfected and clean, fresh bedding and substrate are routinely added.

Summary

If your hens have chicken diarrhea, determine the likely culprit and take action quickly. Monitor your flock daily to identify any signs of infection early on. By removing ill, or potentially ill, birds from the flock early, you will be more likely to contain the spread of any contagious infections.

Molting Chickens: What Is It and How to Fix It

chicken molting

Chickens are the most domesticated bird in the world. There are more than sixty billion chickens, making them the most successful birds on the planet. While they have been very successful procreators, they too have vulnerable moments. In this article, we will be discussing their most vulnerable state, the molting chicken.

Molting Chickens and What that Looks Like

When the days start to get shorter and the season starts to cool down that is when you start to see the first signs of molting in your chickens. Molting season usually begins late summer and early fall. The shortening of the days is the biggest trigger for the molting process.

No matter the weather, after a year in age, chickens will molt once a year. Young spring chicks may molt several times before fall and thus skipping the normal molting season to continue their molting process the next year.

One of the first things you may begin to notice is a shorter supply of eggs. Chickens feathers are made of 85% protein. Chickens may stop laying eggs when molting to conserve protein and other vital nutrients needed in the production of feathers. Feathers are made mostly of keratin. The following list describes briefly the parts of the body you may find feathers.

  • The neck
  • The midsection
  • The wings
  • The legs
  • The tail

Do not panic. This is a natural process that happens every year. If you rely on eggs laid by your chickens, you may freeze excess supply before molting season to ensure there is not a shortage of eggs.

The more you know about molting chickens, the better prepared you will be to aid your chickens in this process. Chickens start to molt in a sequence. Beginning with the head, they lose their feathers slowly.

The shedding process then moves down from the back to the breast then to the thighs, ending with their delicate tail feathers. In the same sequence, they lose their feathers do new feathers emerge. These are called pin feathers. Pin feathers can bleed and are often painful for the bird. It is important to handle your molting chickens with care because of this.

While the sequence of shedding remains the same, molting chickens do differ in time. Most of the feathers will be shed and regrown, however, not all feathers are lost in this process. Some chickens are more efficient and only require 3-4 weeks.

Others require more time. This may depend on the amount of feathers they will be shedding. It is important to note that both hens and roosters molt. Chickens losing more feathers may require up to 13-16 weeks for molting.

Feather Anatomy

What is molting without feathers? In this passage, we will briefly discuss the anatomy of feathers so you may get an idea for how they work and why they molt. An adult hen needs about 14-17 hours of sunlight to produce an egg, thus granting the best time to molt when the days become shorter. While an opportunist, the shedding of feathers is essential to maintaining a good quality of health.

Chickens have four types of feathers each with a unique purpose. Below I have included a list of each feather type their benefit.

  • Webbed Feathers: These are the larger feather types. They help insulate rain and wind and are protective.
  • Plumules: These are smaller feathers that grow closer to the body and provide warmth.
  • Bristle Feathers: These are even smaller feathers located in the eyes, beak, and ears. These feathers help keep away pests.
  • Filoplumes: These are ever finer feathers, hairlike and soft. These feathers may have sensory or decorative features.

Once a feather is shed, the pin feathers come in. These pin feathers a covered in a protein sheath. The protein sheath is then removed in a process called preening.

While each feather may differ in size, texture, color and other variants, the anatomy stays the same. The base of a feather, the part mostly in contact with skin, is called a quill. You may know the quill from old usages of it for writing.

Next is the central shaft or rachis. This is usually curved and forms a vane. Following that is the inner vane and the outer vane. An up-curved edge is found at the bottom and a down-curved edge is found at the top of a feather leading to the feather tip. A barb, barbule, hook and catch create the most recognizable features of the feather.

How to Assist Molting Chickens

molting chickens

In the molting state, chickens are very fragile. They require more protein and are weakened by painful pin feathers pushing their way to the surface. This resembles porcupine quills and may look rather patchy. There are many ways that you can help your chickens out during this vulnerable time.

It is important to monitor your chickens to make sure they are not actually suffering from illness at this time. While monitoring your chickens, you may also want to consider intervening in their daily protein take and feed supply. With the proper nutrients and a quality diet, molting chickens can be managed safely and efficiently.

Most chicken farmers suggest at least a 16% diet of protein for chickens throughout the year. Since more protein is required during the molting process, it is suggested to increase this diet to 20-22%. A high-quality diet is required during this time.

Some recommend the free choice method of feeding as opposed to rationing when chickens are molting. While rationing feed may be economical most times of the year, free access allows the chickens to have the best chance at getting the nutrients they need for their molt.

There are other ways to provide enough protein for your molting chickens than their feed alone. Biotin is an essential vitamin for healthy bones and feather growth. You can use biotin powders by sprinkling into their feed. You may also add biotin or other supplements into their water supply. It is very important to have an abundant source of water during this time.

You may also consider other methods of protein for molting chickens. These can be offered regularly or in the form of treats. Below is a list of high protein snacks to consider for molting care.

  • mealworms: 53%-30% protein
  • cat food: 26%-30% protein
  • sunflower seeds: 26% protein
  • oats: 10%-17% protein

Alternative Tips to Help Molting Chickens

when do chickens molt

As suggested above, it is important to reiterate how fragile a chicken maybe when molting. Now that we have a good idea of how the molting process works and what nutrients may be required, we can see some alternative care tips to ensure a most successful molt.

Stress may be a huge factor in molting recovery. As we have learned molting can be a rather stressful and draining process. One way you may reduce the stress in a chicken’s environment is by not introducing new, un aquatinted birds. Chickens are highly social animals.

Because of this, they are great for domestication. While very social, each new chicken may induce stress on the flock and may disorient their highly established pecking order. It is a good idea to understand the social nuances of your animals.

Another great tip is to handle with care. As much as possible avoid handling molting chickens. As discussed earlier, the porcupine-like pin feathers are quite painful. They are supplied with blood when coming in. They often bleed and are very sensitive to touch.

It is great to monitor your birds during this time, but avoid touching them. Handle only when necessary and with great care. Luckily it is easy to see the most sensitive areas so you may avoid them.

If a patch is bald, it may mean the pin feathers are coming in and are just below the surface. Each bird may vary with the time it takes to grow new feathers, but you will be able to see where they will be coming in.

Since water is very important for molting chickens, you may want to consider adding a variety of water drinkers to your coup. This, accompanied by a free choice method of feeding, may allow your chickens to choose their appropriate nutrients.

For example, adding Apple Cider Vinegar to one drinker and supplements to another drinker adds variety and improves health. You can add other supplements to each drinker in order to create variety and choice during the molt.

Summary

In summary, a little bit of patience can go a long way. Be kind to your molting chickens. These are very social creatures. Offering them support both environmentally and nutritiously can go a long way in the renewal process. Remember that this is a natural cycle. With your support, your chickens will be back producing eggs in no time!

Chickens Parasites: Everyting You Need to Know

chickens parasites

Chickens are prone to becoming hosts to a range of internal and external parasites that can lead to many different problems, such as illness, developmental problems, and even death. Knowing what parasites to look for in your chickens and what the evidence of those parasites typically is can help you prepare for and prevent an infestation before it becomes too destructive.

External parasites are tiny creatures, often insects, that live outside of the chicken’s body and whose bites or burrowing can lead to inflammation, infection, and disease.

Symptoms of most external parasites are feather loss and possibly bleeding from over-preening and pecking. Internal parasites live inside the bird’s bloodstream or organs and can spread disease and cause destruction from within.

Symptoms of internal parasites include changes in eating, sleeping, bathroom, or laying habits, as well as physical signs of infections such as inflammation. For all kinds of parasites, the best means of preventing infestations is to keep the coop and run clean at all times and to let your birds take regular dust baths (a mix of half wood ash and half peat moss works well).

EXTERNAL PARASITES

Lice

The most common external parasites in chickens are lice, including head lice, body lice, shaft lice, and wing lice. They live for only three weeks, but in that time they can lay up to 300 eggs.

Chickens typically pick up lice through contact with wild animals or birds, from contaminated clothing or equipment, or from new birds being added to the flock. Chickens infected by lice should be treated with poultry dust, particularly around the wings, saddle feathers, and tail. Dusting should be repeated every 14 days until the lice are gone.

Fleas

Chicken fleas spread quickly, with infestations often developing during the warmer months. If one bird has fleas, it is likely elsewhere in the flock as well. European chick fleas are found across most of the U.S.; Western chick fleas are found in Canada and the northwest of the U.S. The fleas are brown and large enough to be seen in the bird’s feathers or, sometimes, its droppings. One variety, stick tight fleas, appear in masses around the eyes, combs, and wattles.

chicken parasite

these need to be removed by tweezers and the affected area coated with petroleum jelly. Chickens infected by fleas should be treated with poultry dust, particularly around the wings, saddle feathers, and tail.

Dusting should be repeated every 14 days until the fleas are gone. After the fleas are gone, replace all the bedding and nesting materials in the coop and clean out the coop fully. Repeat this cleaning again in 14 days.

Ticks

Fowl ticks are small blue parasites that are typically only found in warmer climates. Their bite releases a neurotoxin into the bird’s blood that disrupts its sleep patterns and can carry diseases that could lead to paralysis or even death.

If fowl ticks are found and removed from a bird but it still shows signs of being sick, the bird should be seen a veterinarian. Ticks should be removed with tweezers and the birds treated with poultry dust.

Flies and Mosquitos

The same biting insects that bother humans also bite chickens. This includes black flies, gnats, and mosquitos, which can spread avian pox. The population of these biting insects can be reduced by removing stagnant water near the coop or using a pesticide; do not apply the pesticide where chickens might consume it.

Botflies lay their eggs on the chicken’s skin. When they hatch out, the larva burrow into the flesh to grow. Once they are fully mature, they burrow back out of the flesh. Prevention is the best measure with botflies: keep the coop cleaned regularly and check for signs of infection.

Blowflies infest birds when their maggots burrow into the flesh—a process known as myiasis—and can introduce tapeworms into the bird. Chickens with myiasis should twice a day be bathed in warm water and the infection cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and then warm saline to flush out the maggots, which can then be pulled out with tweezers.

Apply Vetericyn spray to the damaged area. After two days, stop use of the hydrogen peroxide but continue the warm bath, saline, and physical removal of maggots.

Mites

These arachnids are often quite small and hard to see. Their bites drain blood, resulting in anemia, which often can be identified by the wattle, comb, and skin around the eyes turning pale.

The easiest mite to see is the Northern fowl mite, which typically strikes in the winter and leaves bits of waste around the base of feathers. To remove these mites, dust the birds and coop with wood ash or poultry dust.

chicken parasites

Scaly leg mites eat the flesh under the bird’s leg scales, leading to lameness and possibly death. To remove them, soak the legs in warm water and brush off the loose skin, dry them, rub them with a toothbrush that has olive oil on it, and then cover the legs with petroleum jelly to suffocate the mites. Repeat this process three times a week until all evidence of the parasite has disappeared.

Red mites are the hardest to remove; they hibernate through the winter and strike from the spring through fall, usually at night. The only way to effectively mitigate Red mites is to remove your flock to a different coop temporarily—6 to 7 weeks is usually enough time—and to completely clean out and treat the original coop.

After mitigating any kind of mite infestation, increase the protein and iron content of your flock’s regular food for several days in order to help the birds recover. If you are wanting something more specific, you can read our article: Chicken Mites and Lice: How to Get Rid in 3 Weeks.

INTERNAL PARASITES

Worms

Chickens can become infested with worms by eating droppings or other material that has been infected by the eggs or by eating creatures that have been infected with the worms.

To reduce the likelihood of your flock contracting worms, keep the yard and runs free of mud, keep the coop fresh and dry, muck frequently, keep the grass short (sunlight can kill worm eggs), keep wild animals out of the run and coop, give your flock plenty of space, and quarantine sick birds immediately.

The most common worms in chickens are roundworms, which can permeate the bird’s body; they are most likely to invade hens younger than four months. Symptoms of roundworm infestation are diarrhea, loss of appetite, drop in egg production, dizziness, and isolation.

Capillary worms infest the chicken’s crop and esophagus, producing symptoms similar to the roundworm’s. Adding a deworming medicine, like Wazine, to the flock’s water can eliminate either parasite, but you cannot eat their eggs while they are taking the medication and too much use can actually build worms’ resistance to the treatment.

A chicken can contract tapeworms and eye worms by eating an intermediate host that is already infected. Tapeworms can lead to weight loss but rarely kill the host. Eye worm, which is common in warmer climates, results in red swelling and drainage around the eye, scratching at the eye, and eventually blindness. It can be treated by spraying the flock with VetRx.

Gape worms infect the chicken’s lungs and respiratory system. Symptoms include gaping of the mouth to inhale, head shaking, and hissing. If left untreated, gape worms will produce lethargy and weight loss in their host, and eventually death.

Wazine can be used to eliminate gape worms before they become too developed, but if the infestation becomes advanced, a veterinarian’s prescription for Fenbendazole will be needed.

Coccidia

poultry parasites

These microscopic, spore-forming protozoa live inside the cells of the chicken. Chicks and pullets are particularly susceptible to coccidiosis, which is one of the leading causes of death in chickens between three weeks and six weeks of age. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of feathers, and bloody diarrhea.

Vaccination against the disease is available, as is a medicated diet. To be safe, new chicks should always be kept separate from the flock for two to three months before being introduced into the population. Probiotics in the water supply may also help prevent the development of the parasite. Read more about Coccidiosis in Chickens.

Toxoplasma gondii

The T. gondii parasite is carried by rodents, cockroaches, and biting flies. The disease caused by the parasite, toxoplasmosis, can cause diarrhea, trembling, weight loss, decreased egg production, and blindness.

If birds display the symptoms of toxoplasmosis, they should be medicated to suppress the parasite’s multiplication and the coop should be thoroughly disinfected and any openings that might allow rodents to access the coop should be closed up.

Summary

Like most fowls, chickens are active foragers, which makes them vulnerable to a range of external and internal parasites. If these parasites infest a bird, they can produce a wide range of symptoms, including behavioral problems, illness, and even death.

While some treatment options exist for infected birds, preventative measures are the best course of action to keep your flock healthy and safe.