With the onset of spring, hens start to lay eggs in earnest. If you have a cockerel running with the hens, you may be tempted to put a few to set under a broody hen or in an incubator. (A broody hen is a hen that wants to sit on her eggs and raise her chicks. You will not need the cockerel present to make her broody). If you plan to do this, don’t forget to put the hens onto a “breeder” ration, in place of the layer pellets or mash – the chicks will be much healthier if the hens are on the correct food.
It is a good idea to worm the hens as they will be using a lot of energy to produce eggs and you don’t want to waste food feeding the parasites, with possible loss of condition in the birds.
Keep the broody hen in a quiet place, making sure it is vermin free. A broody hen is a hen that wants to sit on her eggs and raise her chicks. You will not need the cockerel present to make her broody. Give her a dose of louse powder or spot-on beforehand to clear the hen of any feather parasites – she will be much more comfortable for her 21 days if she does not have any “little visitors”. Contact the practice for suitable worming powder and spot-ons for chickens.
Hen eggs hatch in 21 days (Bantams a day or so sooner), so be prepared with your chick crumbs and suitable feeders.
If you are keeping chickens or other poultry, you do need to know about parasites. Worms are parasites which live inside the bird’s body, usually in the intestine, and they can have major health implications for your birds. Although most worms are in the gut (intestine), some develop in the windpipe (trachea) and the lungs, so there are different symptoms.
Controlling worm problems involves more than just giving a ‘wormer’ to your birds. You also need to manage their runs and henhouses correctly, allowing them access to clean or fresh land on a regular basis and ensuring that feeding areas are clean of droppings. This is not easy in winter , when mud and rain can make the hen-run a bit of a swamp!
Prevention is the aim! Treatment can be very effective, but the worms may have caused damage within the bird, which can have a long-lasting effect on the bird’s health, and will also result in increased costs of feeding, fewer eggs and birds which are more susceptible to other conditions and illnesses.
There are a number of different types of wormers. Medicinal wormers can be used in-feed or added to the water. There are two types that are licensed for use in poultry, so should be used for hens which are producing eggs or meat for consumption.
A vet or AMTRA-registered Animal Health Advisor (avian) and supply these medicines, and they are used every 3-6 months. We are happy to supply Flubenvet for clients’ poultry, due to its efficacy and safety, and especially because eggs can continue to be eaten!
There are other products that can be used ‘off licence’ but these would need to be prescribed by a Veterinary Surgeon, and may not be advisable for egg-laying birds, in case traces of the product pass into the eggs.
Herbal products may reduce worm numbers, but the efficacy of these products have not been proven in a scientific manner, so many people use these in combination with a medicinal wormer. Most of these products need to be used monthly or continuously.
The actual worms are not a risk to humans (unlike the roundworms of dogs and cats) but can be transmitted by wild birds. The worm eggs are also very resistant, so will persist in the ground and hen run for a long time, so management is an on-going matter!
If you want to know what worms are affecting your birds, we can arrange for a ‘faecal egg count’ to be done on fresh samples of the birds’ faeces. Please ask for information and cost.
A new product to help control red mite infections in hen houses is now available. Interkokask RTU Disinfectant is sprayed around the inside of the house, after cleaning out and especially down all the cracks and crevices. Allow it to dry over 30 minutes and then put in fresh bedding. It seems very effective, but do check that your fresh bedding is mite free!
This is a condition where the egg, instead of passing down the oviduct of the hen, ends up in the abdomen. It is only a yolk, at this stage, so we do not have fully-shelled eggs rolling around in the hen’s tum, but the problem is a serious one and can ultimately lead to a very poorly hen and often to death.
The only real way to control this problem is to stop the hen from laying any more eggs. Birds can be ‘spayed’, just like dogs and cats, but the operation is complicated and these birds are frequently quite frail. An implant can also be used, although this is quite expensive and it may need to be repeated when it wears off (usually they should last 6-12 months), owners may like to consider this option.
The chick goes through one complete and three partial moults during its growth to point of lay, after which the mature bird normally moults once a year (usually in the autumn months).
A huge amount of energy is needed to produce new feather growth, during which time no eggs will be laid. Moulting can last up to two months from start to finish and the whole process can be very stressful and demanding on the bird’s body. Sometimes hens will lose feathers due to bullying by other hens in the flock (hen-pecked!). The skin may look sore and the feather loss tends to be around the rear of the bird and this may progress to skin damage, bleeding and ultimately death. Separate out the bird, but be aware it may not be possible to reintegrate her into the flock.