Sometimes something may seem off, or you might just want to do a weekly check to make sure your feathered friends are okay, especially since diseases that affect chickens can quickly spread to an entire flock. Here’s a checklist to ensure the health of your backyard chickens.
1. Healthy appetite? ____
Chickens pretty much live to eat, so if you notice your chickens aren’t drawn to food, unless they are broody, there is likely a problem and it’s a good idea to contact a veterinarian.
2. Combs should be brightly colored and regular size. ____
Chickens don’t sweat. Instead, our chicken friends have combs that are full of capillaries and veins to help them stay cool. The blood goes to the comb where it gets cooler, then back to the rest of the chicken.
If the chicken’s internal temperature is off, the comb might appear a dull color.
A bright red comb for a chicken is also a sign that the chicken is ready to mate, which makes them more attractive to other chickens.
Shrunken combs can signal anemia or mites. However, in the winter combs tend to be smaller and less bright due to colder weather.
3. Wattles should be free of lesions, growths and discolorations (blue discoloration in the winter is a sign of cold). ____
4. Strong egg shells. ____
Egg shells that don’t break easily are a good indicator that your hens are getting the calcium they need.
However, this is just one sign to look at since shell strength can be influenced by a number of factors.
For example, older hens may lay eggs with thinner shells. Decreased feed consumption during warmer weather can also affect shell thickness.
5. Feathers should be shiny, strong and well formed. ____
During molt; however, feathers may lose their shine and there are some special diet considerations to take into account, mostly increased protein.
Does egg yolk color indicate health of the chicken?
We’re not entirely sure, but it does indicate the type of diet a chicken has. Click here to find out more about egg yolk color, including why you sometimes see a green circle around an egg’s yolk.