10 poultry problems | Living the Country Life
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10 poultry problems

Keeping chickens can be a wonderful hobby for any acreage owner, but like with any animal, things can go wrong. Here are some common problems, along with explanations and solutions.
  • When roosters attack

    Roosters rule the roost, but when they start attacking people, something has to be done. The problem often begins when roosters perceive your actions as aggressive. Wearing floppy boots or swinging a bucket may seem like a challenge in your rooster's eyes, and as the guardian of the flock, he won't back down from a challenge.

    <br>To tame an attack rooster, catch and hold him whenever he starts acting up. Make sure you're wearing protective clothing. Hold him until he calms down and realizes he isn't going anywhere and that you're in charge. Be persistent. This method may work better with young roosters rather than older birds who are more set in their ways. <br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • A molting mess

    Chicken owners are often concerned when one or more of their birds experience feather loss, which is commonly accompanied by slowed or halted egg production. Chances are, there's nothing to worry about. Molting is most often controlled by the bird's hormones, which are regulated by the amount of light they receive each day, according to Kansas State University Extension. Hens will molt at about one year of age, then often molt in the fall.

    <br>If the feather loss is due to molting, you'll be able to see new feathers coming in, but feather loss does occur for other reasons as well. Nutrition may be an issue. Mites or lice may cause irritation. As they grow, broiler chicks often have patches of bare skin, since they gain weight faster than the feathers can come in. Hens may also lose feathers on their backs during mating. If feather loss is a result of pecking, reduce the intensity of light in the coop.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Pecking and cannibalism

    This is a very disturbing problem for chicken owners. Cannibalistic birds peck at each other's feathers, toes, heads, and bodies. Because birds naturally imitate each other, once this behavior starts, it can spread quickly through a flock. If not managed quickly, flesh injuries and death can result in loss of much of a flock.

    <br>According to Kansas State University Extension, excessive lighting, overheating, poor nutrition, overcrowding, and intermingling birds that have not been reared together can lead to cannibalism. To control this nasty habit, consider hiring an expert to trim the offending birds' beaks, removing injured and aggressive birds, dimming the light, turning birds outside, or providing scratch grain or grass clippings in the pen. You can also try hanging CDs or other shiny objects at different heights to distract the birds and give them something else to peck at.

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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • No more eggs

    It's a common problem -- chickens who decrease egg production or just stop laying eggs altogether. The experts at Virginia Cooperative Extension say the most common causes are decreasing day length, improper nutrition, disease, advancing age (2 or 3 years), and stress.

    <br>Hens require 14 hours of light a day to sustain egg production, so provide artificial light as days become shorter. Make sure they have a constant supply of fresh water and layer food with 16% to 18% protein, avoid whole grains and scraps, and offer oyster shell. Contact a veterinarian if you suspect disease, and keep new birds isolated from the rest of the flock. Reduce stress by avoiding moving, handling, fright, and changing environmental conditions.

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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Eating their eggs

    Once laying hens get a taste of eggs, it's difficult, if not impossible, to break them of the habit. That's why it's important to manage your flock so the hens never get that first taste of delicious eggs!

    <br>If broken eggs are in the coop, chances are a hen will eat them. Virginia Cooperative Extension says to avoid excessive traffic in the nesting area, and make sure to supply plenty of clean, dry nesting materials. Remove broody hens from the nesting area.. Keep egg shells strong by feeding a complete ration and offering oyster shells. Reduce stress by keeping bright lights out of coops, especially near the nesting area. Also, avoid sudden movement in the nesting area and scaring hens out of their nesting boxes. Collect eggs early in the day and often, and if you do have an egg-eater, cull her from the flock before the others follow suit.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Thanks for the coop, but no thanks

    You can provide your hens with the most beautiful, comfortable coop imaginable, but that doesn't mean they'll lay their eggs there. If your birds are allowed to go outside, they may very well find their own places to roost and nest. Trees are perfect for roosting, and they may make their nest and lay eggs under a thorny bush or inside a hollow tree.

    <br>Once a chicken finds a place it likes, it's very difficult to get them to change their minds. If they do roost in trees, it's important to at least get them in at night, even if you have to climb the tree. Nocturnal predators like owls and raccoons pose a real threat after dark. If your birds decide to roost or lay in places other than their coop and nest box, chances are you're going to have to live with it.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Broody and moody

    When a hen lays eggs, even unfertilized ones, her natural tendency is to sit on them to hatch them. When a nest full of eggs results in hormonal changes that result in the cessation of laying eggs, that hen has become broody. Some hens will go broody even without this stimulus, however. According to Oregon State University Extension, Cochins and Silkies are known for going broody, while Leghorns rarely do.

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    To reduce broodiness, collect eggs daily. If a hen stays on her nest for several days, remove her and deny access to the nest for several days. Eventually, the broody behavior should stop and she'll begin laying eggs again.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Itchy and scratchy

    Parasites like lice and mites can do a lot of damage to a flock, so it's important to be diligent in detecting and preventing them.

    Poultry lice can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, which are cemented to the feather shaft. These lice feed on birds' dry skin scales, feathers and scabs. Infestations occur most often in the fall and winter. Northern Fowl Mites are common, especially in cool climates, and can spread from bird to bird. Chicken mites are common in warmer climates. They suck blood from birds at night, and hide in cracks and crevices of the chicken house during the day.

    <br>Sanitation and cleanliness are key to controlling lice and mites. Clean and disinfect housing and equipment, reduce traffic through the houses, and avoid contact with wild birds. The Ohio State University Extension says chemical control can include the use of carbaryl (Sevin®). Treat the walls, floors, roosts, nest boxes, and the birds simultaneously, but avoid contact with feed.

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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Intestinal parasites

    Worms are common in backyard flocks, and in large numbers, they can affect growth, egg production and overall health. According to the University of Florida Extension, chickens pick up parasite eggs by ingesting contaminated feed, water, or litter, or by eating snails, earthworms, or other insects, which can carry the eggs.

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    Large roundworms, cecal worms, small roundworms, and tapeworms are common. To prevent an infestation, provide a proper diet rich in vitamins A and the B complex, and keep the chickens' area sanitary. Also, avoid overcrowding, use insecticides to control insects, and avoid contact with wild birds. Specific worm infections require specific medical treatments, so see your veterinarian for a diagnosis and the appropriate medication.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • Poultry diseases

    Backyard chicken flocks and other poultry are susceptible to diseases such as coccidiosis, avian influenza, Marek's disease, Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, and pox. There are several medications that can be used to treat diseased chickens, most of which are administered in water or feed. If you suspect your chickens may be diseased, it's important to contact your veterinarian for recommended treatment.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
  • FREE Chicken Reference Guide

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Download this FREE Keeping Chickens Guide PDF courtesy of Living the Country Life. Whatever reason you raise chickens for, one thing's for sure: living in the country is simply better with chickens in it.

     

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: December 4, 2013
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