Did you know that a chicken's heart beats 400 times per minute, compared to the human average of 60 to 80? And the average hen lays 265 eggs a year? It's hard work being a chicken!
Chickens, although relatively hardy, can become ill like any other pet. As they are prey animals, they are extremely good at hiding their symptoms, often till it's too late. It's really important that you check your flock daily for any obvious signs of sickness such as limping, sneezing or sudden weight loss.
However, just by spending time with your birds you will soon get to know their personalities, making it easier to spot more subtle signals. A chicken keepers first line of defense is often when they notice one of their brood are just a little 'off'. A hunched, isolated bird that is not feeding, preening or engaging with others is likely seriously ill and needs to see a vet as a matter of urgency.
There are simple tips that you follow that will help prevent your chickens getting ill such as clean water that is changed daily (remove any sources of standing water which can become easily polluted:chickens will drink from anywhere!), spot cleaning the coop daily to prevent the build up of feces and keeping an eye on the your chickens bums! If their fluffy knickers at the back are showing signs of getting dirty, this usually means diarrhea which can be a sign of infection or internal parasites.
As keeping chickens as pets is still relativity new, treatment and veterinary knowledge are not as good as it is for other animals. Sadly in the past chickens would either die before anyone realized there was a problem or simply be culled when they became ill. Therefore less research has been done into how to prolong their lives.
In the last five years, there has been a huge rise in 'hobby' chicken keepers who enjoy the eggs but keep chickens for the pleasure of it and to give hard working ex commercial hens a happy retirement. Finding a vet near you who is good with chickens is essential so that you have support readily available should you need it. It's best to do this before you find yourself in the position of having a sick hen as they can go downhill so rapidly.
If you'd like to give the chickens at Raystede a treat while they wait for their new homes, simply click here