By Bev Sandlin
BEWARE: GRAPHIC IMAGES
FYI, you are getting this in small pieces because I’m tired. It is summer and I am very busy. But put this all together in your survival binder if you raise chickens, or ever plan to, and you will be able to solve most problems you will encounter in your flock. I’m adding a few husbandry tips when I think appropriate too.
All through adolescence into the pullets (young hens ready to lay) your biggest problem with confined chickens will be pecking. Free ranging them will help, a chicken tractor will help, but nothing seems to stop it until the flock grows up and settles into their “pecking order”.
Here is a hen they are pecking at, but just a glob of grease on the head should keep off the insects and stop them from continuing to peck her – note that I said glob and not dab. You want enough on there so that when the first 2 or 3 hens go after her they get a good beak full of the grease. Just watch then, they didn’t expect that and will work at trying to get that nasty grease out of their beaks. A couple of days of grease on her head (or whatever you have chosen to put on it) and she should be doing okay.
Same treatment, but this is far worse. I would definitely put her in the isolation cage to heal up. I would throw a little peroxide on this and some antibiotic ointment with grease on top to keep out the insects. Keep her isolated if possible and put some sugar in her water. In 3 to 5 days she should be ready to go back into the flock with a glob of grease on her neck.
These are the worst – a pecked vent because it is so hard to keep clean. You may want to soak this hen in the sink in warm water with just a dab of soap in it. Antibiotic ointment. ISOLATON! Don’t use pine tar on this wound, just grease on top of the antibiotic ointment.
You will see this both from other hens pecking but also from a rooster/roosters riding a hen. Roosters seem to pick out their favorite hens and too much attention can actually kill a hen. This is not bad. Glob the grease or pine tar or whatever on her and if it is roosters, butcher a couple of them.
As long as we are on roosters, I will relate a little of what I have seen. A good rooster will protect the hens and stop a lot of the pecking. The hens will be happier. A happy hen “sings” a beautiful little cooing tune.
Bad roosters (and these are the majority) will rape and kill young chicks – I had one that would rape day old chicks, snap their necks and throw them to the side and go onto another, there was nothing the hen could do to stop him. His head got chopped off real quick! They will focus on one hen and do her to death. They will join in with the other hens and peck another chicken to death and then proceed to eat it. Too many roosters and you will have “cock fights” and they will kill one another, and you will have gang rapes.
An older rooster usually has more “sense” then a younger one and is not as “sexed up”. Chickens can live to be 30 years old and the best rooster I ever had was over the age of 10 and lived to 18 when he died due to an ‘possum raid on the hen house where the ‘possum just wantonly killed all the chickens – so much for wild things only killing what they need! Ask around, someone will probably give you an older rooster they respect who needs a good home – no one wants inbreeding.
Here is a “pecking saddle” you can create for a hen or purchase off of Amazon. :)
Wormy chickens are more likely to peck and be agitated and mean. Chicken worming medication is usually put into the water. If you have a flock of mixed ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens you will need to isolate the chickens as the wormer will often kill the other poultry.
Free choice oyster shells (calcium) are important for pullets and hens for health reasons. And of course, grit for their digestion.
Providing some open brush area in the corner of the pen is a good idea in that it allows a place for the pecks hens to go get away from the flock. Depending upon how you have your pen set up, roosts both inside and outside of the house are a good idea too.
Introducing new birds into the flock almost always means more pecking, especially of the new birds. Again, have an area where they can get away from the rest of the flock if needed – that is not to say that an especially aggressive hen or rooster will not chase them even with brush provided, but it is a slight deterrent.
You can nip the end of the top beak on an aggressive hen with a wire nippers back about an eighth to a quarter of an inch (depends on age and breed) to help with the pecking. Does it work? Sometimes, sometimes not.
I know we covered this, but I want to say it again. Mixed breed flocks have more problems with pecking than single breed flocks. Single breed chicks all raised together will peck less. That said, I dislike single breed flocks and I like to drag home hens of different breeds that I run into at poultry swaps and rummage sales. Hence, I have had a lot of pecking problems…
Part 5 will cover being egg bound and whatever else I can think of, and then we are done with the basics of “Chicken Doctorin'”. :-D
Please feel free to send me your questions at bcfossillady at gmail dot com