Frequently asked questions
My chickens have stopped laying?
Ensure your chickens diet is at least 90% made up of layers pellets or layers mash. The most common thing we hear when helping customers establish why their chickens are not laying is "they don't like layers pellets so we give them other food to make sure they are eating enough". Rest assured, when they are hungry they will eat their layers pellets or mash!
Layers pellets/mash have their name for a reason - they give chickens the essential nutrients to lay eggs. Modern hybrids are a different bird to the pure breeds/farm chickens of old, and need a well balanced ration. If you feed any other food to your birds try cutting it out totally and only offering layers pellets or mash - feeding a poor, unbalanced diet is ultimately not the best for you chickens and is not the kindest thing for them. If they must have treats then feed them later in the day when they will have had enough of the healthy layers food.
If your chickens are free ranging check they are not laying in a 'secret place'. If magpies spot the eggs they will take them meaning it can be hard to establish if they are laying elsewhere.
To check if your hens are in lay feel the two sharp bones either side of the hens vent. If you can fit the width of 2 fingers or more between these bones it indicates your chicken is laying.
The next thing is to check that your chickens don't have any lice or mites on them and check the housing for red mite. Are they eating, drinking and behaving normally? Is their comb still red and healthy? Are they showing any signs of illness? Download our
HEN HEALTH QUESTIONNAIRE & SYMPTOM CHECKER to eliminate all possibilities.
Consider the age of the hens - Hybrids can stop laying or produce eggs with poor shells any time from 18 months onwards, although 2-3 would be a more usual age.
If your chickens are not suffering from any of the above they are probably just having a break from laying. I cannot stress enough that they are not machines, think of them as interesting pets first, and the eggs are a lovely bonus.
Do I have to worm my chickens?
Yes. If you never worm your chickens they are likely to be unhealthy, will lay less eggs and eat much more food just to maintain their weight.
I would always recommend worming them a few weeks after you get them home and then worming them quarterly with Flubenvet which is the only licensed wormer for chickens.
We stock tubs of Flubenvet powder ready to mix with your own feed, or alternatively have layers pellets premixed with Flubenvet. Simply replace their usual feed with the medicated feed for 7 days. The eggs can still be eaten whilst you are worming your hens.
I would also recommend treating the ground the chickens are on whilst you are worming. If you use a treatment such as Stalosan F on the ground whilst the birds are being wormed, it will prevent the birds re-ingesting the worm eggs they expel and will help break the worms life cycle.
Many people use commonly available herbal worm treatments but Flubenvet (or the water soluble version 'solebunol') is the only clinically proven, effective treatment for worms. Please read the small print on what many chicken keepers think are wormers and you will find they are simply tonics.
If in doubt about whether to worm your chickens or not please have a look at the article below or google some images of poultry worms.
Here's a good article on worming chickens from
How do I stop the chicken run getting muddy?
If you are planning to keep your chickens in a static run I strongly recommend putting a base down in it. If you don't, then during the wet weather you will have a muddy, unhygienic area.
The other problem caused by a bare run is boredom which can lead to all sorts of problems such as feather pecking.
There are lots of bases you can use, but I use our chicken run mud management system which comprises of a layer of our turf protector, topped with a thick layer of wood chips, which we have for sale in 70 litre sacks. Full details can be found on our 'Chicken Run Mud Management' web page.
Bark chips are not suitable for chickens as the whole point of bark chips is as a mulch to retain moisture - exactly what you want to avoid. Aspergillus thrives on bark - this is the fungus which, if it gets into poultry lungs and airs acs and slowly kills them. It's dangerous as the spores can hide inside the airsacs where antibiotics have little effect. Wood chips are too hard for the aspergillus fungus to colonize and so are ideal for the run.
I regularly cover the woodchips with a layer of powdered disinfectant such as Stalosan F or Agrisec which reduces any odours and kills worm eggs.
Do I have to clip my chickens wing?
No, but if you would like us to we can clip the hens wing for you, we will also show you how to clip them.
It is entirely up to you if you clip their wing or not. If you have one of the flightier breeds and don't want them jumping over into your neighbour's, it may be worth doing. If you have a roof on your run there is no need. Chickens cannot actually fly but they will use their wings to help them jump up onto objects - clipping their wing will not stop them jumping but it will knock them off balance and help contain them. On the other hand, by clipping their wings they have less chance of escaping a predator.
The feathers will not re-grow until the hens moults and re-grows all her feathers (usually around 12-18 months old).
My chickens have missing feathers or bald areas?
Download our information sheet on HOW TO IDENTIFY FEATHER PROBLEMS.
If you have a cockerel it could be cockerel damage. If this is the case, you may need more hens to spread the load or fit the hens with a poultry 'saddles' to protect their backs.
If the hen is not moulting, the problem could be feather pecking. It can be caused by a lack of protein in the diet, but I feel the most common cause is boredom. In 15 years of having my hens completely free ranging I have not had a single chicken feather pecking, but when I have to put them into large pens for breeding, I will get the occasional chicken start to feather peck which does back up the boredom theory.
Chickens will moult annually (change their feathers), usually in the Autumn or as the days become shorter. They can also have mini moults where they will just shed a few feathers, usually from around the neck. All hens will stop laying whilst they are moulting. If you notice lots of feathers in the coop (and a hen thinning on top!), this is quite normal. Some extra protein will help your hens through the moult and there are also specific tonics designed to help chickens recover quickly.
If your hens feathers are generally 'thinning' but you can see feather buds appearing through the skin it is likely to be moulting (see image below). If the area is bald and smooth with no sign of new feather growth then is is more likely feather pecking. Moulting hens will regrow feathers straight away.
Try to establish who is doing the pecking - this is usually easy as it is the chicken with the perfect set of feathers. Some hens pull out the feathers at the base (as in photo's below) and other chickens seem to somehow just remove the tips of all the feathers. The most common place for them to pull another hens feathers out is the below the vent or the 'saddle area' around the tail. In this case fitting a poultry saddle can stop them as well as protecting the damaged area.
Some chickens only pull out the feathers when they are perching at night, so it is very hard to catch them at it, but it does explain why your chickens will be 'plucked' in certain areas - it's where the offender can reach at night.
It is a problem that needs addressing as soon as you spot it, if not it can become ingrained behaviour and a very annoying habit. As a first course of action you can try anti-feather peck sprays. Secondly, I would remove and isolate the offending chicken for a few weeks which may break the habit.
If this doesn't work you can try a 'beak bit' or a Bumpa Bit- it is a plastic device that clips into the nostrils and prevent the hen closing her beak and gripping the feathers. You may find you can remove it after a month or two but be aware that the hens cannot eat mash with a beak bit in, they will have to have pellets and a very deep water and feeder dish.
Download our information sheet on
HOW TO FIT A BEAK BIT
If the pecking is in the common place which is the 'saddle' area then try putting a poultry saddle on your chicken.
If all else fails the only option may be to re-home her, ideally to a free range home. Don't necessarily feel you are passing the problem on to someone else - If you know someone with a group of older or more dominant chickens and a free range set up the problem may stop.
What other types of lice can chickens get?
Wild birds, mice and rats bring in lice and mites meaning they are impossible to avoid.
Please check the skin around the birds vent feathers and under the wings every time you pick the birds up (or every few weeks).
Northern Fowl Mite tend to be a problem in the cooler weather, and body lice all year around. Red Mite and Northern Fowl Mite can kill if you have a bad infestation.
Body lice (image below) and Northern Fowl Mites (image above) live on the chickens and there are various ways to treat them. Dust the chicken all over with a Louse Powder that contains permethrin making sure you brush it right down to the skin, especially around the vent - it is essential to repeat this after 5-7 days to kill the eggs that have hatched otherwise you will never stop the cycle.
If your chickens are not allowed to free range, ensure they have access to dust baths (a dry, covered patch in the run or large container or low bucket filled with fine sand or soil) into which you can sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth or Louse Powder so they can coat themselves when they bath which will help prevent lice.
What plants are poisonous to chickens?
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)
American Coffee Berry Tree see Kentucky Coffee Tree
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L.)
Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis L.)
Bull Nettle (Solanum carolinense L.)
Bracken or Brake Fern (Pteridium aquilinum L.)
Burning Bush see Fireweed
Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.)
Carelessweed see Pigweed
Castor Bean (Ricinus communis L.)
Clover, Alsike & Other Clovers (Trifolium hybridum L. & other species)
Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium L.)
Creeping Charlie see Ground Ivy
Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
Curly Dock (Rumex crispus L.)
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)
Devil's Trumpet see Jimson Weed
Dogbane (Apocynum spp.)
Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis L.)
English Ivy (Hedera helix L.)
Ergot (Claviceps purpurea (Fr.) Tul.)
Fern, Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum L.)
Fireweed (Kochia scoparia L.)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea L.)
Ground Ivy (Glecoma hederacea L.)
Poison (Conium maculatum L.)
Water (Cicuta maculata L.)
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.)
Horse Chestnut, Buckeyes (Aesculus hippocastanum L.)
Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense L.)
Horsetails (Equisetum arvense L. & other species)
Hyacinth (Hyacinth orientalis)
Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
English (Hedera helix L.)
Ground (Glecoma hederacea L.)
Poison (Toxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema spp.)
Jamestown Weed see Jimson Weed
Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata Sieb. & Zucc.)
Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum L.)
Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium L.)
Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica (L.) K. Koch)
Kentucky Mahagony Tree see Kentucky Coffee Tree
Klamath Weed see St. Johnswort
Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album L.)
Lantana (Lantana camara L.)
Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lupine (Lupinus spp.)
Mad Apple see Jimson Weed
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.)
Milkweed, Common (Asclepias syriaca L.)
Mint, Purple (Perilla frutescens)
Nicker Tree see Kentucky Coffee Tree
Nightshade (Solanum spp.)
Oleander (Nerium oleander L.)
Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra Willd.)
Philodendron (Philodendron spp.)
Pigweed (Amaranthus spp.)
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum L.)
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze)
Poke (Phytolacca americana L.)
Purple Mint (Perilla frutescens)
Redroot see Pigweed
Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)
Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum L.)
Squirrelcorn (Dicentra canadensis (Goldie) Walp.) see Dutchman's Breeches
Staggerweed (Dicentra spp.) see Dutchman's Breeches
St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum L.)
Stink Weed see Jimson Weed
Stump Tree see Kentucky Coffee Tree
Sudan Grass (Sorghum vulgare var. sudanense Hitchc.)
Summer Cypress see Fireweed
Thorn Apple see Jimson Weed
Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.)
White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum Hout.)Wild Onion (Allium spp.)Yellow Sage see Lantana
My chicken's abdomen is swollen and heavy?
Symptoms: waddling like a duck, wide leg stance, underbelly puffy and filled with fluid or
enlarged and hard, diarrhoea (white, green), mucky vent, no eggs, standing around looking
miserable with her tail lowered, purple tinged or floppy comb.
Ascites (fluid pooling in the abdomen) and peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneal tissue)
can be caused by a number of things, most often by yolks missing the "funnel" or
infundibulum, after being ovulated from the ovary, and falling directly from her ovary into
her abdomen. Other types of infections and sometimes cancer can also cause
peritonitis.There are also two types of peritonitis - sterile and septic.
If your hen has sterile peritonitis, it means that although her abdomen is filled with fluid, the
fluid is not filled with bacteria and is not caused by an internal infection. With this type of
peritonitis, the best thing to do is leave the hen alone. If she is extremely uncomfortable
and having a hard time breathing, you can ask your vet to try draining off some of the fluid
to relieve pressure - however if you introduce bacteria into her abdomen, she will get a
nasty infection and the peritonitis will turn septic - then she will likely die.
With sterile peritonitis, the hen will have trouble getting around and will have some loss of
appetite, but she will continue to eat and will improve gradually over time - potentially she
will recover totally or she will always have fluid build-up. I have a hen with sterile peritonitis
and she has been this way for over 3 years now.
The other type of peritonitis is septic peritonitis - the fluid gets bacteria growing in it and
then there isn't much you can do for her as the infection is so wide-spread and huge that
usually even massive doses of strong antibiotic aren't enough. In that case, you can tell
that your hen has this type because they go downhill rapidly and lose their appetite. Often
they have a fever (hot comb - very hot under wings). You can ask your vet to try to drain
them- this definitely offers them some relief as it takes the pressure off their organs. If the
source of the infection is still there though, they fill back up before long.
If your hen is showing the symptoms above, she will require attention from a vet. She will
become very uncomfortable and be in pain as her internal organs are compressed by the
Taken from www.thepoultrysite.com
My chicken has a hard lump in her crop?
If you can feel a hard lump at the base of your chickens neck (in her crop) first thing in the morning before she has eaten, then she may have a crop impaction. The hen will look off colour and will have lost weight and is likely to be weak. If she has a large watery swelling first thing in the morning then it is likely to be sour crop which requires different treatment.
Crop impaction can be caused by many things but isusually by a foreign object (such as long grass or plastic) bloking the exit from the crop to the stomach. Food builds up behind the blockage causing a hard lump to develop.
Without assistance the hen will starve to death as no food will be passing through to her stomach.
You can try gently syringing water into her crop and massaging the lump firmly to help break it down and allow it pass through. This will need repeating regularly and does carry a risk of water going in to the hens lungs so needs to be done with care.
Some vets will operate to remove the obstruction but it is always worth trying to break it down first as the operation does carry risks.