About

Hi;

My name is Mike, and I am a chicken vet.  I’ve been working full time for over a decade with egg farmers who produce  food for us all.  I’ve noticed lately that there is a surge in interest in what we do, as the food producing sector of the world.  I’ve also noticed that a LOT of the information that is circulating about egg farming is misleading, confusing, or downright wrong.  I started this blog as my way of trying to fix this.

I am in egg producing barns on a daily basis, and see the reality of caged hens, free-run production, and organic eggs.  I know this stuff…not because somebody told me, or I read it once, but because it’s what I do…every day for over a decade.  If you have a question…ask. 

The professional egg farms in Ontario are run the way they are for very good, but complicated reasons.  Because egg farming is so alien to most people, there are a lot of misunderstanding about what goes on and why.  I will gladly explain the process to clear up some of these misconceptions

We all need to eat.  If you beleive that it is morally OK to eat animal products, then someone needs to raise and care for the animals to make those products.  I believe that farmers are obligated to look after their animals in the way that provides the best welfare possible, while producing enough safe food for the population. 

I help egg farmers do this.  I’m so interested in welfare that I’m working on my Masters of Science degree in animal welfare.   Part-time on top of my day job.  It’s either really important to me, or I’m a glutton for punishment….I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

I am also involved with backyard hen keepers.  I am working with municipalities to set up regulations so that the hens are kept in a safe, humane manner.  My hope is that the rules get set up well enough to encourage well run backyard flocks.  The desire to become closer to their food, and the willingness to take on the responsibility for the hens makes urban farmers worthy of respect. 

The passion, knowledge and ingenuity of the backyard farmers I have met is amazing.  These people will do anything to get or keep the right to have their hens.  I try to help them by making sure they are aware of the hens needs.  For the most part, backyard hens are in danger of suffering because of ignorance, not from lack of caring or attention.  My hope is that this blog may become a source of information for some of the backyarders who want to know more.

My goal for this blog is to interact with non-farmer types who want to know more.  Let me know what you think, what you want to know, or why you are intersted in laying hens.  I’ll gladly tell you what I think, and maybe we can learn something from each other.

Thanks for reading;

Mike the Chicken Vet

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93 responses to “About

  1. Dear Chicken Vet,

    I am a townie wanting to get two or three birds. I have kept hens before, down in my basement (don’t tell…) I was reading an article where they suggested putting out a pan of dry cat litter for hens to use as a dust bath. Does that sound safe to you? I reckon non-clumping would be the way to go, if one were to do it at all. Thoughts?

    • Hi Deanna;

      Good question. The dry cat litter has the advantage of being accessable, and will work as a dust-bath substrate. Birds prefer a fine “dust” to bathe in. Depending on the brand of litter, some is quite coarse, and won’t be as well appreciated by the birds (they may possibly not use it, if they don’t like it enough). One thing that research from the UK has shown
      (http://www.laywel.eu/web/pdf/deliverable%2043a-2.pdf) that peat moss is a VERY popular substrate. Hens preferred it to wood shavings, sand and chicken feed. It might be a possible alternative, and should be available at most gardening stores. Providing that the kitty litter is fine enough, it should work OK, and should be perfectly safe.

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us!
    I really appreciate all the posts you make.
    I am starting a small backyard flock!

    I have already done a lot of research, and contacted many backyard chicken experts!

    The only other questions I have is:

    1. What chicken breed do you recommend, that is a heavy layer of brown eggs, is friendly, docile, not broody or flighty. In addition I would like it to be well in confined spaces. There are many choices, as you probably know. Please help!

    2. In addition, if you have any advice for a amateur, please give me some. I would like this experience to go as smooth as possible for both the hens and the humans!

    Again, Thanks for all you help,
    I await your response.
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew;

      Sorry for the delay in response….things have been busy here, and I don’t really feel that confident in my answer, so had to look some info up before I responded. I am NOT an expert in different bird breeds. I want to be clear about that. If I read your request properly, you want a brown layer who lays a lot of eggs (as opposed to a HEAVY brown bird). I am very familiar with the commercial strains of brown birds, and I think they would suit your requirements well. They physically resemble Red Sexlink Chicks that you will see in the following link, but are much more readily available in the province of Ontario, at many Co-ops and feed stores during their “chick days”, or from local distributers. If you are looking for something more dramatic, eye catching, or just exotic, the following link has some great information and a bit of a discription for quite a number of brown egg laying breeds: http://www.strombergschickens.com/prod_detail_list/Chickens-Chicks . I think that you will get a good feel for the type of bird you want if you surf this website for a bit.
      As for advice, you sound like you are off to a good start. Try to think of everything you need to know before hand, and then plan for all your forseeable problems. The “Urban Farmers Chores List” that is in my 2nd or 3rd post: “Do you want backyard chickens” is a good start to understanding what is involved. Also, don’t hesitate to ask me questions here….I will respond in a more timely manner, and will try to tell you what you need to know, or at least steer you to someone who can.

      Thanks

      Mike the Chicken Vet

  3. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for responding…
    I did not check the replies, and just found it today!

    Do you know where I can buy “Ready to Lay” chickens?

    I do not want to get chicks, and it seems like all the hatcheries only sell chicks, and ready to lay sexlinks (I do not only want to get sexlinks)

    My coop is finished, and I have the feed and everything, all I need is the chickens!

    How did you talk go?

    Andrew

  4. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I maintain a blog focusing on zoonotics and wildlife and posted an excerpt from your recent article about “chickens and zoonotic disease” with a link to your blog page and a few images, including one of you.
    I hope you find the Natural Unseen Hazards web site useful. It helps wildlife professionals and others who work and play in the great American outdoors keep up with current zoonotic disease outbreaks and wildlife invasions. Vital information about these events are posted several times each week at http://naturalunseenhazards.wordpress.com
    Each item posted focuses on a government or media report about invasive wildlife or a zoonotic disease. The blog also carries travel warnings about zoonotic disease outbreaks in other countries.
    The Natural Unseen Hazards Blog is free of charge and is maintained as a public service.

  5. SO happy to have found you, Dr. Mike! There is a real need in the backyard chicken keeping community for professionally trained, practicing vets willing to share their knowledge and experience!

    I would love it if you could email me with a few questions I have. Thanks!
    K

  6. Hello Mike, I was referred to you by another owner of backyard chickens. It looks like one of my chickens has hurt herself and im not sure how to help her. Shes basically limping. i have no idea how it happened. I took a video. If i can email it to you so you can see what im talking about, that would be great. Or perhaps you have some general advice on what we can do to help her.
    Thank you so much!

  7. I need to know asap if piperazine can immediately follow amprolium?  A flock of my grower chickens are on Corid and it was discovered this morning they have a bad case of worms. How long do I have to withdraw the amprolium in order to give them the piperazine?

    • Hi Sande:

      Since piprazine and Amprolium have completely different target species, and different mechanisms of action, there is no need to have a withdrawal between the drugs. Just clean out the waterers, and replace with piprazine-medicated water. Hope this helps.

      Mike

  8. YES! Your information has made my day! Thank you so very much.

  9. I have adopted/rescued a couple Ameracaunas from an elderly man and after the transition to our coop they have not laid a single egg. There has been some trauma – moving, coop construction, death, predators, but everything has been safe and sound for almost 3 weeks and still no eggs. We live in FL and I have been trying the extended daylight thing with a solar light bulb; no effect. They look amazing and have recovered all their lost feathers and plumped up nicely since moving to our place. Please help before my husband throws them in the stew pot!!

    • Hi Cynthia;
      Tell your husband to be patient! The number of things that need to happen for an egg to be laid is surprising. The hens need to sense an increase in light….then the hypothallamus has to secrete hormones that stimulate the pituitary gland….this then stimulates the ovaries and uterus to enlarge and develop. After 2-3 weeks of development, the hormones that are made BY the ovaries cause the yolks to develop. Afer 5-7 days, the first yolk is dropped off the ovary, and starts to travel down the uterus….the next day it will be the first egg. Long story short, these things take time. Professional farmers start light stimulating pullets at 16 weeks of age, expecting the first egg at 19-21 weeks of age. Keep the daylength around 15 hours, feed a good balanced ration, and the eggs will come. The good news is that the hens will ALWAYS fit in the stew pot, so you husband has nothing to lose by waiting!

      Mike

  10. Pingback: Chicken lungs - Let's Talk Farm Animals

  11. Heather Blanchard

    What is the best method/solution to clean eggs with? Was told eggs should not sit in any solution for any length of time…thanks!

    • Hi Heather;

      The best way to clean eggs is under running, cool water. Using some sandpaper to get the dirt off is also a good method, without getting the eggs wet at all. Egg shells are full of holes, called pores….they are plenty big enough for bacteria to get through. If you get the egg wet, and especially if the egg sits in water, bacteria have a chance to penetrate through the pores and get into the interior of the egg, where they can grow and multiply like wildfire. Detergents remove the protective cuticle that is on the outside of the egg, and the cuticle gives protection against bacteria, so that is not usually beneficial. Also, the temperature of the water is important….if you use hot water, you end up heating the egg, and it expands within the shell. Once it cools, it shrinks again, causing suction through the pores, and actively sucking bacteria through the shell.
      Professional farmers used to be encouraged to wash eggs on the farm, but it is no longer done….only grading stations with specialized washing machines that can ensure water temperature and hygenic rinsing are allowed to wash the eggs…it is a big factor in food safety, and I’m glad you recognized it, and will deal with it appropriately.

      Mike

  12. HI Mike,

    I can see that you really love chickens. Can you tell me what happens to male chicks born on most of the farms where eggs are produced? And do you have any suggestions for those who wish to raise laying hens on what to do with male chicks? Thanks!

    • Hi Indra;

      Thanks for the interest in my blog, and the question. This is a subject that nobody wants to talk about. All male chicks that are hatched in laying hen hatcheries are euthanized shortly after hatching. It is done in a rapid and humane manner, but they are killed. I have little advice for people raising laying hens with respect to males. Most urban centers allow no roosters, which precludes their value as pets, and any person who is raising hens in a commercial manner cannot use commercial strains of roosters to make a profit….they grow too slowly to produce meat, and obviously, they will lay no eggs. A system could theoretically be imposed which would force farmers to grow roosters at a loss, in order to have laying hens, but this would be extremely difficult to manage.
      There is research that is getting close to being available that will allow hatcheries to sort eggs by sex before the embryos are aware. This would allow the embryos to be euthanized before they are sentient, and this would be a huge step forward. The technology is not quite ready yet, but it is getting close. This is a project that I am involved in (very peripherally), and am hoping to use in our hatchery as a trial facility as soon as it is possible. Any practical and workable ideas with respect to use of roosters would be most welcome.

      Mike

  13. Mike
    I have four silkie chickens and they are due for their ILT shots. Any idea were I could get that done?

    • Hi John;

      This is a tricky question. The only vaccines I know of come in minimum vial sizes of 1000 doses. The vaccine is only good for about 90 minutes after it is reconstituted, so unless you are willing to buy 1000 doses for 4 chickens, I don’t know how to source vaccine for you. Unfortunately, ILT is one of the better ones….bronchitis vaccine comes in minimum vials of 10000 doses. It is a real problem.

      Sorry for the bad news.

      Mike

  14. Hi Mike,
    My girlfriend and I were having a discussion about whether it is painful for a chicken to lay eggs. I thought that as it is a natural process they go through ~daily that their bodies must be pretty well adapted and therefore wouldn’t be overly painful.
    What are your thoughts? Is there any evidence either way? Any way to tell if a chicken is in pain or not?
    Thanks

    • Hi Anderson;

      Thanks for the comment! You didn’t tell me which side of the discussion you were on, so I’m reluctant to answer (I’ve had “discussions” with my wife, and don’t want to get you in trouble).
      Chickens absolutely do feel pain, although they are really good at hiding it. Chickens do make a strident call when they are laying an egg, so there is some evidence that there is some discomfort, but once they have started laying on a regular basis, it is likely more of a “discomfort” rather than painful. Hens do get agitated before laying an egg, scratching and preparing a spot, but this appears to be more anticipation than discomfort.
      You can feel a hens pelvic bones, and you can tell if she has laid her first egg because the pelvic bones will spread about 1-1.5 inches apart after the first egg, so this is likely uncomfortable, but after that, there is little change.
      I hope that helped, and didn’t get you in trouble.

      Mike

  15. Hi Mike!
    Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful advise! I have a quick question of my own, I have 4 chicks that are now almost two weeks old. I bought them from a hatchery and had them delivered USPS Express so I received them the day after hatching. I’ve noticed that they do not seem to be thriving like my last batch of chicks. They have clean feed and water available but seem to make more of a mess scattering feed then actually eating it. I’ve always fed my chicks MannaPro Gamebird non-medicated starter crumbles and my chicks in the past have thrived nicely off of it. I have them under a red brooder light and their feed base is red as well, could this possibly be contributing to them not eating as much and scattering the feed? Thank you in advance!!

    • It is difficult to tell you why they are doing poorly and messing about with the feed. The colour might be an issue, but if it is, you can fix that by moving the feed away from the brooder. Have the heat in one area, and the feed and water in another…..it gives the chicks motivation to get up and around, and it will get the feed out of the red light.

      Mike

  16. I would love to see a post on your thoughts on Marek’s disease and vaccinating in a backyard flock. Also, what to do if you find out a member of the flock has Marek’s. This was our first time owning chickens and we purchased unvaccinated chicks (we were advised against vaccinating in a small flock) and they came with Marek’s. It took several months before we knew what was wrong with our birds. It was confirmed by necropsy/pathology. I am having a difficult time finding birds (other than day old hatchery chicks) that are vaccinated. Some breeders are hatching chicks and waiting for several days to a week or more to vaccinate. From what I have read, this might make vaccinating ineffective. We are looking for vaccinated birds that are older to give them the best start.

    • Hi Kellyanne:

      I think that every chick should be vaccinated for Marek’s disease. It is a very effective vaccine, and, since it is given in the hatchery, most hatcheries should have enough volume to be able to use it…..even if they only hatch 200 chicks, and throw out 80% of the vaccine, it should only add about $0.75 per chick. The vaccine must be injected under the skin of the chick, but it doesn’t take an extensive amount of expertise. I would try to source chicks that have been vaccinated, because professional farms have a VERY low rate of Mareks, even though we have large numbers of birds. If you are looking for older pullets, you can plan ahead, and contact someone who grows chicks, and ask them to get vaccinated chicks and buy the pullets from them several months later.

      Hope that helps.

      Mike

  17. Thank you for your thoughts!

  18. Thanks so much for sharing such pertinent information. Winter is coming, and I have a few questions re: lighting and heating. I am okay with egg production slowing in the winter, and understand how to keep production up with adding lighting in the morning hours on a timer. I am mostly concerned about keeping the chickens warm. We have a small coop, with 5 hens, and the temperatures in the winter can get very cold (below zero). I have read that chickens respond better to red light than white light. Is this true? If so, can a red light (non-heat lamp) be left on 24/7, or will this cause a problem with egg production, and also not allow the chickens to have their night/rest period? Also, do I need to provide a heat lamp or another heat source, or will a 100 watt bulb be enough heat for the chickens?
    Thanks much!

    • Tough questions, Amanda! I don’t like having lights on the birds for 24 hours per day, but I like frozen chickens even less. You need to keep the coop warm (ie at least 50F or 10C). If you can do it with a light bulb that turns off in the evening, great…if not, leave the light on. It truly depends on how well insulated your coop is, how big it is, how many hens you have, how windy it is….. You will have to do some trial and error, but at the end of the day, you want enough heat so you can let in enough fresh air to keep the ammonia down, while still maintaining a comfortable temperature

  19. Hi, I have been looking all over for info and can’t seem to get anywhere!
    Here is good but I really don’t want to bother you…… I want to buy IB vaccine for my backyard flock (long story), can you advise me how to get some? I need it by next week!
    Thank you!
    Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer;

      Not sure where you are, but if you can find a poultry vet, or a commercial poultry farmer who will work with you, you should be able to find bronchitis vaccine… the problem you are going to have is that the vaccine will be in a 10000 dose bottle at best. Also, you will have to decide which strain to use….ask your vet or farmer which strain is most common in your area. Here in Ontario, I would recommend Mass/Conn strain, but you may need to use an Arkasas strain, or another one.

      Hope this helps

      Mike

  20. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for sharing so much valuable information with us all! I have a small backyard flock of Dominiques. They are 23 weeks old and have started laying in the last three weeks. This is the first year I have kept chickens. I had five healthy girls until this morning; I found Penelope laying sideways in a nesting box in full rigor mortis at 8am this morning. She was perched on the roosts with everyone else last night at 8:30pm. I have seen no signs of illness, unusual poops or behaviors, mites, etc. There were no visible signs of injury. I’ve taken her for necropsy and West Nile Virus was mentioned as a possibility, but of course I won’t have any results for some time, especially since today is Friday…

    My concern is with regard to the rest of my girls: do you have any recommendations as to how to proceed to best protect their health at this time? I am in North Central Florida and the weather has been very mild. Their coop and water is clean and they free range almost every day, as well as having a large run at their disposal. I’d hate to wait for results before doing anything at all… Today everyone else seems healthy, so far…

    Thanks for any advice you might offer for this sad and worried chicken momma!
    Cora

    • Hi Cora,

      I wish I could be more help. Sudden death can be caused by a myriad of things….some flock-wide, some not. One thing I can tell you is that chickens almost never get West Nile virus , so that is at least one thing off your list. All you can do is support your girls with a good environment and nutrition, like you seem to be, and wait for the results from the autopsy. Birds are tough…….don’t worry yourself sick ….. They will likely be ok.

      Mike

  21. Mike,
    Thanks very much for your prompt reply. I appreciate your time and input. In this area of Florida WNV is on the rise and chickens are being used as a sentinel species. UFL is even keeping flocks for this specific purpose. The labs have to take worst case precautions, so they jump to that possibility straight off. In some ways that wouldn’t be the worst case scenario from my perspective, in so much as its not contagious between the birds and thus one death wouldn’t mean a flock infection. On the other hand, that would be a little extra scary as its hard to control for, especially living on the river–our mosquito population is quite robust! I find it hard to believe chickens can get bit by mosquitoes–between their feathers and their propensity to eat them out of the air! It’s good to know its uncommon overall.

    Thanks for your time. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the test results and try not to worry in the meantime. I sure do enjoy my birds 🙂

  22. That’s really interesting…..here in Ontario, we started the same way, with sentinel chicken flocks, but then stopped, because there were no positives, even though corvids (crows and jays) were showing positive all over the place. It might have something to do with prevalence of the disease that chickens are effective sentinels in Florida.

    Mike

  23. Hi Mike-
    May I ask a question about vaccines? I read that a chicken vaccinated for ILT (?) may shed to non-vaccinated chickens. We recently purchased two girls from a breeder who used an attenuated vaccine (water delivered). Are our non vaccinated hens at risk?
    Many thanks, the two newbies are in quarantine.

    • Good move on the quarantine Kelly;

      Yes, hens vaccinated with that type of ILT vaccine can shed to non- vaccinated hens. It’s unfortunate, since there are 2 other types of ILT vaccines that don’t spread, but one is given as an eye drop, and the other is injected. Try to mix the birds in the most stress-free way possible, since stressed hens will shed the virus the most. Conversely, you could try to find some vaccine and vaccinate the rest of the flock…..problem is that the smallest bottle I know of is 1000 doses.

      Mike

      • Hello Mike,

        I am so happy to see that a chicken vet still exists in the world! I live in northern Maine and even though a myriad of my neighbors keep chickens, there are no vets within a three hour radius that have any knowledge of poultry, and unfortunately they aren’t willing to treat chickens or ducks as a result. I am currently struggling to figure out what is wrong with my two girls who are our pets (I really do not want to cull them unless I absolutely have to.)

        They got mites about a week ago, so we treated and then we brought them in to keep them warm after they started developing these symptoms a few days after treatment with Sevin dust (I learned later that wood ash would have been a better choice and plan to let them dust in that in the future.) I gave them cooked organic egg (not from our flock) and cooked organic spinach with their feed after treatment to balance things out if they were feeling anemic, and they seemed a bit better afterward, but still looked ruffled and then they got progressively more lethargic, and then they appeared to have developed vent gleet. So I cleaned them off after an Epson salt soak. Then one started limping a few days later and the other seemed like she had a swollen crop. I started adding organic apple cider vinegar to the water and organic yogurt to their layer mix and washed them again with an Epson salt soak, the second hen looks like she has developed a prolapse so I tried applying honey on it after reading that it might help pull it back in, but it didn’t work. Now the first girl that was limping is just laying on her side, her droppings look good, but she is lethargic and not eating or drinking much. She can move both legs and all toes still, she just can’t walk or get up. She doesn’t seem like she is in a lot of pain but chickens mask pain often, so I am not sure. The other hen has watery droppings (although they are getting slightly more solid) and her crop was still full and squishy until this morning when it seems like it went back down.

        Any advice or help would be deeply appreciated, I love my girls and will do anything possible to help them, if there was a vet here that would be willing to see them I would take them in a heartbeat. I would be happy to send photos, videos, logs of what they have been given, anything that would help.

        Thank you so much,

        Lina

      • Hi Lina;

        What amount of Sevin did you use on the hens? I am worried that they are showing neurological signs to the carbaryl in the powder. The antidote is atropine, which can be administered by mouth. Dose on the bottle is a little less than half a gram of powder per hen….if you overdose by a lot, it can cause nerve problems, which could result in the signs you are seeing.

        Hope this helps

        Mike

  24. I was glad the Chicken Chick found you. I have a flock of 21 chickens, 18 hens and 3 roos. My lead roo, Burt, turned 4 back at the end of March and now seems to have something wrong. Hes a very placid light Brahma who has always ruled my flock. He seems to be stumbling around, rarely crows, is sleeping in the nest box with some hens, and today, I found him on his right side in the run, unable to get his feet under himself. He has been unable to sit the roost pole because he can’t keep his balance. He’s eating and drinking well, stool looks normal but his keel is very pronounced. No sign of mites or other pests. Any ideas?

    • Hi Sara,

      Sorry your rooster is feeling off. His lack of balance il likely just weakness, if he has lost much of his muscle mass ( his keel bone is prominent because the muscles regressed, not because the bone changed). At his age, I would be concerned about lymphoid tumors. The other rule out would be kidney disease resulting in gout. Try to get him examined by a vet, if that’s an option, otherwise supportive therapy and nursing is all you can really do.

      Mike

  25. Dr. Mike,
    I found your blog from the Chicken Chick. I live in a very rural area and can’t locate a vet who will treat chickens. I am hoping you can offer some insight on a problem one of my hens has recently developed. I noticed she was holding her beak open all the time and appeared to have lost weight. I examined her and found that she had some kind of growth in her mouth. I found that the yellowish growth that covered her tongue could be “flicked off” but would return in a week or so. I am concerned to know if there is anything I can treat her with and if she is contagious to my other chickens.

    • Hi Vicki;

      It sounds to me like your hen may have fowl pox, which is a pox virus. It is a proliferative infection (ie causes “growths”), which end up yellow in colour. If it is in the mouth, it is considered “wet pox”, and quite likely is also present deeper in the respiratory tract, and will likely explain her weight loss. I would separate her from the rest of the flock until she recovers or dies. Pox is contagious, but slowly, and it takes direct contact to spread, so if you can separate her by even a couple feet, that should keep it contained to her. There are vaccines available, and I would recommend using them, but I’m not sure how you would get ahold of any, and only know of commercial vaccines, which come in a minimum of 1000 dose bottles.

      Hope that helps…

      Mike

  26. Thanks so much for your prompt reply. Are these vaccines used only on chickens, or is it possible I might find them in use at a ranch nearby?

    • Unfortunately, pox vaccines are chicken specific, and you won’t find them with other livestock.

      Mike

      Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network. Original Message

  27. Thanks, should I still quarantine her even if she has already been sick for 4 weeks or more?

    • I would…the virus spreads slowly, and the others may still not be exposed. Mike Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network. From: mikethechickenvetSent: Monday, February 3, 2014 8:01 PMTo: mpetrik@gmail.comReply To: comment+r3kqs1b8zcit67eicnqoli@comment.wordpress.comSubject: [mikethechickenvet] Comment: “About”

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  28. Dear Mike the Chicken Vet,
    I just read your post about chicken vision and sight, it was very informative and possibly helpful for my current chicken issue… I have a year and half young hen sexlink and she seems to have developed some sight issues. She is not completely blind because she can find the water, and the coop and can even jump up to roost but she seems to only be able to see yellow or orange colored food and when I approach her and wave my hand in front of her face she clearly does not see me… I’m concerned about her because she has lost a little weight and seems slow and cautious with her movements around the yard, she also gets left behind sometimes when the other girls are out free ranging. I’m afraid if she is sick she might infect the rest of my flock but she has been showing these symptoms for a few weeks and all the other hens are normal. I’m wondering if she lost some of her sight and only can see in UV or lost her UV sight?? I can’t find any info matching the symptoms she has online and the closest chicken vet is an hour away from me. Her comb is pink but not as bright as the other hens but it seems to brighten up when I hold her (she likes to snuggle) please help!!!!

    • Hi Toni;

      The most common cause of blindness in chickens (especially in winter) is caused by chemical burns from high ammonia levels in the coop. It causes the cornea (outer surface of the eye) to get inflamed and opaque. Often hens can see around the damage, like people with cataracts. I would carefully evaluate the coop and make sure the air is fresh, to keep any more damage from occurring in this hen or others. There are other conditions that cause vision problems, but they are rarer, and have other symptoms as well.

      I hope this helps

      Mike

  29. Dear Mike the Chicken Vet – I’ve got a 1YO Barred Rock who has become sort of mysteriously ill. She started gasping and wheezing about a week ago. We tried antibiotics and kept her in the garage for 5 days but she’s still having trouble. The strange part is that her comb, energy, eating, drinking, laying, etc has all been normal. She’s normally a regular layer but hasn’t laid for 3 days now. She also started loosing LOTS of the downy feathers from around her butt and thighs yesterday. And has separated herself during roosting the past two nights. Any ideas?

    • Hi Lindsay;
      There are a lot of respiratory diseases that may cause this type of problem. If antibiotics didn’t help, I would suspect a viral or fungal disease…..Infectious bronchitis, Infectious Laryngotracheitis and Aspergillus would be the main suspects. Keep her warm, give her easy access to feed and water, and get her to a vet if at all possible. Losing feathers is likely a symptom of being sick, rather than being caused primarily by the disease itself.

      I hope that helps
      Mike

  30. Hi Mike! I’m very impressed with your website — the first article I read was on chicken vision and I had no idea it was so unusual. Unfortunately, one of our 4 backyard hens lost an eye to a raccoon last night. We got lucky and heard the commotion (I think this is one of 3 times we’ve forgotten to close the coop in 3 years, but once is too many). The raccoon dropped her when we ran outside and today she is lethargic but eating, drinking, and walking around. She is sleeping more than usual.

    I keep getting conflicting advice on what I should do for her eye. Do you have a recommendation?

    • Its really hard to give any decent advice without knowing much about the injury. If it is simply an open wound, bandages and antibiotic cream would likely be enough. If there is further damage, it might take more specialized care. Regardless, I would remove her from the flock until she has recovered….the other hens will be interested in her wounds, and will possibly keep pecking at her, making it worse. I hope this helps a little.

      Mike

  31. Thanks! If you are willing to take a look, there is a photo here:

    I don’t think it is much of an open wound, and am not even 100% sure her eye is gone… perhaps it is just swollen shut?

  32. I have a hen taking metacam for a hernia. I am reading different responses on line and by my own vet as to how long the egg withdrawal is. Do you have any information on this?

    • Hi Sandy. I truly do not have any idea on egg withdrawal for metacam, since no NSAIDS are approved for use in laying hens, and there is no off label use in commercial production. I would strongly urge you to follow the advice of your vet, rather than responses from the internet. We spend a lot of years studying pharmacology and physiology, so I would trust the person who recommended the treatment over anyone else’s opinion, including my own.

      Mike

      • Sandra Donlan

        Thank you, I have no problem with the egg withdrawal at all. I just met this vet and she seems to know her chickens! My problem is the range is so big, is my withdrawal long enough? I hate separating her just for eggs, yet feel terrible not separating her and throwing out all the eggs!

        Sandra Donlan

        >

  33. I wish it were not the case that hens are quiet. I recently moved in next to about a dozen hens in Los Angeles, CA and they cackle for hours on end. No roosters, just hens. And when they lay an egg, it’s quite an event. I love animals but feel that chickens have no place in densely populated urban areas. The noise is unbearable.

  34. Whoops! I meant I wish hens were quite. I meant to say that they most certainly are not quiet.

  35. Just about 10 days ago, we had to euthanize a beloved 4 month old pullet named Maisy because she was unable to stand or sit on her own & this had progressed over 3 days. It was a horrible feeling to have to take her life but necessary in order to save her from discomfort. We chose the axe because we knew it had to be immediate & proper.
    We then had the state poultry board @ UConn do a necropsy because I have 21 other chickens. Unfortunately, Maisy had Marek’s disease & it made sense because we lost her sister, Daisy, at 7 weeks old and suddenly found her dead w/absolutely no symptoms. These 2 girls were the ONLY chicks we lost & we had raised all but 2 of them from day old chicks purchased from reputable breeders.
    My concern is now for the health & safety of the others, who range in age from 10 months to 3 months old. I was told all my chicks were vaccinated against Marek’s. Is it true that Mareks can be incubated up to 3 months before symptoms show? I know it will be impossible to scrub every viral germ away and I’ve always taken precautions with care(washing hands before & after, only 1 pair of shoes for the coop areas which are disinfected daily) as well as 1 month quarantine periods for babies to teenage coop. My coops are separate but next to each other. I use sand in their dusting area & 1.5″ gravel 6 inches deep for their runs. PDZ (zeolite) is used inside their coops as it does an excellent job of odor control & makes daily cleaning a 5 minute job with a slotted scoop. They are fed layer pellets at 18-20 weeks old after being raised on nonmedicated starter/grower crumble in addition to daily rations of organic & varied produce. My girls & 4 roosters (3 of them grew up together so their buddies) eat the same fresh local produce that my family eats – no scraps or seconds!
    Any advice or thoughts? I just discovered your blog & love it! It is so nice that a professional shares his knowledge for us small scale backyard chicken lovers. Thank You!

    • Hi Teena;

      Thanks for the kind words…..my only regret with this blog is that I can’t dedicate as much time to it as I’d like.
      With respect to your flock, I am not surprised that Mareks would show up in a 12 week old pullet. Mareks is a tumor forming virus, and is relatively slow in developing clinical signs. The virus is very hardy, and will be found in almost any area where chickens have previously lived. The hatchery may have missed the vaccine on this one (it is surprisingly easy to miss with an injection on a chick that is that tiny when you are doing hundreds at a time). If that is the case, the others in your flock should be safe. If they did not vaccinate, or used the wrong strain (there are 3 strains of Mareks vaccine, and you need to use the one or ones that are appropriate for you area), then there is still a risk for the others in the flock, but there is little you can do to protect them now….either they have been infected and are incubating the tumors, or they are immune and will be fine. It is crucial for the chicks to get the vaccine properly at the hatchery for Mareks. Other diseases react differently, but this one is dealt with at the hatchery, and not very well anywhere else. I hope everything works out well for you!

      Mike

  36. Hi there,

    I just read your blog entry about worms on The Chicken Chick. Apologies if this is not where I should leave such comments/questions but I THINK I found worms (or a worm) in one of my chicken’s droppings this morning. It looked fairly clear and had little segmented lines on it and pretty long, but no movement. I didn’t look very hard at first and thought it was just grass but took a closer look and decided it looked rather foreign, but did not really match either photo posted in your blog on Chicken Chick.

    I have two laying hens and one rooster, so not sure who it came from. They all seem to be acting normally and eating/drinking as usual. I do eat the eggs regularly so am worried about which dewormer to use and how long to not eat the eggs, or if that is even an issue (based on your Chicken Chick post)?

    I also live on Guam, so we don’t really have a fall or spring season. We have rainy and dry. So, I’m not sure when I should provide deworming medication to them throughout the year (aside from possibly providing it to them now to get rid of whatever it is I found).

    This is my first time raising chickens so am always a little nervous when these new things come up. Any advice/info would be great.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Thanks,
    Ali

    • Hi Ali;

      Worming should probably be done at the start of the wet season, since many worm eggs go dormant in the dry, and then become infective again when they become moist. If the rainy season is predictable, you could deworm the birds about 5 days before the wet season comes.
      As for whether it is a worm or not, I’m not sure…..worms come in all kinds, but few are actually segmented, except tape worms. It is possible that a worm got into the dropping after it was out of the bird. Talk to your vet, or the person who sells you feed to find out what kinds of dewormers are available in Guam, and use them as a resource…..I’m afraid I have no idea what is available there!!!
      I wouldn’t necessarily panic, but would treat the flock with a normal dewormer and then just get on a regular program. Once you know what product you are going to use, you can find the withdrawal period online, or you can ask me, and if I’m familiar with it I can give you a suggestion.

      Hope this helps

      Mike

  37. Hi there,

    So I didn’t see any worms for a day or two so thought maybe I was wrong. But this morning one of my hens had two small short white worms in her poo. They were maybe an inch or less long and wriggled for a bit then just seemed to die. They were definitely white, not clear. I have NO idea what they are. I’ve tried looking at pictures and can’t determine which worm they look like and I don’t want to give them medicine for one worm if it’s not the right one… my feed store guys aren’t really sure what to tell me either… I work with a guy who deals with livestock and he gave me some Wazine 17 but that says it is only for round worm. So I don’t know what to do… at all. My chickens seem fine but I don’t want to wait; scared they are going to get sick. Please help 😦

  38. I found a photo that looks remotely close to the ones I saw and I think similar in size… but not sure how to attach anything on here. Here is the website and it is under the round worm scientific name: Heterakis gallinarum
    near the bottom of the webpage http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/projects/paralab/labs/lab4.htm

  39. Hi Dr Mike,
    I like in Brampton, ON and have a couple of chickens. I just got them last year. I just added up a bunch of things last night and realized I think my girls have mites! itty bitty bugs in their bedding. LOTS of them. Their back feathers are mostly gone.. I thought they were pecking at each other (you know the first rule about chicken fight club.. I didn’t ask!)… Anyway, google searches led me to see 5% Sevin and Pyrethrin are good choices, but are now banned in Ontario.. What is a gal to do?

    Please and thank you.
    Corinna

    • Hi Corinna;

      There are several products that you can use for mites in Ontario. Sevin and Pyrethrins are not banned, but you must take a pesticides course before you can use them. Most farmers take the course, so it is not usually a problem. In your case, I would look for a DUSTING POWDER made by DOMINION. It contains carbamyl at 5% w/w, and is approved for all animals (cattle, horses, chickens, pigs). You should be able to use this…it is the same drug as Sevin, but at 10% the dose, so I don’t think you need a license to use it. Use 4.5g/bird and 122 g/sq m for a litter treatment.
      Another is Ectiban 25 Fly killer, made by Engage. Use 8ml in 4l of water, which makes enough for 100 birds. Contact your co-op or feed store to see what they have for availability, and if you are allowed to use the products. Hope this helps.

      Mike

  40. Here in the UK, We’ve also found 1% hydrogen peroxide to be effective on the COOP Corinna; I know Mike is concerned (as am I) about using it directly on the birds because it’s quite caustic and can delay wound healing.

    However, it does seem pretty effective in killing the infestations which are hidden in the nooks and crannies in your chicken housing and it’s cheap and fairly safe to use; certainly a lot safer than most other chemical treatments since it breaks down into water and oxygen.

    1% is used widely as a gargle and mouthwash and in some cleaning products as an anti-bacterial agent so it’s pretty handy stuff; plus it’s cheap! 😉

    Seems these little blighters are having an excellent year due to a mild winter.

    Marc

  41. Mild Winter?! You clearly aren’t near where I am! *sigh*.. I have access to 3% peroxide (standard % in the pharmacies here).. Can I just water it down? I promise that if I want to lighten their feather colour, I will bring them into a salon to get it professionally done. (ah, I think I am funny). Thanks for the tip!

  42. 😉 Yes, we use it for that here too. “Mild” depends on what you call harsh, Corinna. For these blighters just a few degrees warmer than normal can make a huge difference to their numbers and in the UK we’re having something of a renaissance.

    Actually, you can use 3% quite safely as long as you don’t get it on the birds. The stuff that’s actually dangerous is a lot more concentrated (the purest stuff is so nasty it can actually cause fires on contact with many substances and isn’t the sort of thing you’ll find outside of an industrial complex or lab setting)

    I’ve tried 1% -> 6% on my plants (against scale insect) and while it kills them, the damage to the plants is quite surprising; hence why I would concur with Mike about keeping it away from your flock.

    That said, if Mike disagrees with anything I say – he’s the expert and I’m wrong! Seems that peroxide has been used as a insecticide on dogs and cats for some time; but birds skin isn’t as tough and its just not worth the risk.

    I *think* it might be OK as a topical rinse for scale leg mites, but again, Mike would, I’m sure have a better solution should you be unlucky enough to find those.

  43. Hello Mike,
    My name is France Karras and I am a member of the Borough of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, Environmental Commission. Tonight we will be meeting to discuss an amendment to the town’s Animal Control Ordinance to add “up to three hens” to the list of acceptable “common household pets.” I grew up on a dirt road in a rural area of Southern California where Backyard chickens were common on most ranches. So I am familiar with the care and upkeep that even a few hens can require. I am also an animal lover and fear that the risk of mishandling in our urban neighborhood is too great without proper public education and mandated housing, health and safety requirements.

    I found a document online that you wrote entitled “Urban Egg Production – Considerations for Municipalities.” I found it to be very informative and perfectly relevant to our current issue. With your permission, I would like to present it to my fellow commissioners as an expert’s suggestions on the topic.

    Sorry for the late notice. Please let me know as soon as possible if you are O.K. with this.

    Thanks.

    -France

  44. Mike,
    Feel free to contact me directly:
    france.karras@gmail.com

    I can also give you the borough clerk’s email address if you would prefer to submit your comments that way.

    Thank you so much for any help you can give us in this matter.

    -France

  45. Hi Mike,
    I am very distraught over the health of one of my chickens and hope you can help!
    My hen LuLu is lethargic, her tail is tilted to one side and she started having discolored feces 3 days ago. It started off being yellowish and is now a mustard color (not foamy). I gave her electrolytes the first day. Yesterday I gave her some yogurt. She is eating some and drinking, but standing still and appears to be sleeping unless interrupted. This evening, she is closing one of her eyes.
    It did rain lightly for a day here and the hens were outside after. The day after the rain is when I noticed the change. The feathers under her vent were messy and it washed her off. Her vent seems to pulsing, but not enlarged as with a prolapsed vent.
    I have read about worms, parasites, and egg peritonitis but am not sure her symptoms fit any if the descriptions.
    I don’t have a chicken vet in our small town (or a lot of money). I do raise my hens on organic feed and vegetables.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Kind regards,
    Sierra

    • Hi Sierra,

      My first thought would be a bacterial infection…..possibly intestinal. That would explain the dirty vent feathers, straining, and the off coloured droppings. If you have a chance to see a vet, that would be best. You could also try a broad spectrum antibiotic such as tetracycline. Keep her warm, and make sure she has access to water and electrolytes, as well as whatever food she is willing to eat.

      Mike

  46. Pennie Schober 4H poultry leader

    Dr. Mike – My daughter’s young Silkie pullet is very sick. I think her right leg just below the hock is broken. That appears to be getting better. However, her head & neck leans right so she looks left. That is somewhat better. She is gasping and sleeps most of the time. I hand feed her with a watery lay crumble mix with a syringe into her mouth. I have her in a “hammock” with 2 slits on the top so she can stand if she wants. I have treated her for coccidi. I have wormed her with ivermectin for gape worms. That may have lessened the gasping slightly. Can you suggest something? PLEASE!

    • Hi Pennie;

      If the silkie is spending a lot of time in the hammock, that would explain the gasping….a chicken must move her breast bone to breathe…they don’t have a diaphragm. Take her out of the hammock, so she doesn’t have to raise her body weight every time she needs to inhale. You can splint the leg with a couple of popsicle sticks and tape….just be as gentle as possible, and make sure it is snug. Keep the splint on for at least 3 weeks.

      Mike

  47. Pennie Schober 4H poultry leader

    I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

  48. Hi Dr Mike! What a relief it is to know there is a vet out there that knows about chickens! I’ve only had chickens for a couple years but I quickly learned that I have to rely on my own knowledge, not any local vet’s, when it comes to prognosing what’s wrong with my laying hens! I’ve talked with my small animal vet about the need for a vet with chicken experience and he did acknowledge the need. Today I am euthanizing one of my girls. I determined, after two visits to the vet, that she has continuously reoccurring pendulous crop. I’ve tried over and over again to help her: purge her crop, let the muscles rest, slowly introduce soft foods… I’ve been holding her while I feed her her tiny amount, trying to keep the crop up to help with the natural flow of things. But it’s been two months and her health is deteriorating. She’s a mere 3 lbs. She stopped laying. There’s very little fecal matter. She acts like she’s starving all the time because the food just isn’t getting to the stomach. No vet had been able to tell me any if this. I’ve learned this by reading. What a relief it would be to have a vet tell me for sure that I’m doing the right thing by having her euthanized! Thank you for the blog on euthanasia. My only comfort is knowing that I’m doing this out of love and compassion for my hen. Linda

  49. Hi Mike,

    Would you please tell us your feelings about “rooster collars?”

    Do you think they are a humane solution to keeping a rooster in the city?

    If so, maybe we can lift the rooster bans in our cities and save these wonderful boys.

    Please watch this 4 minute video:

    • Hi arosenweig,

      The problem with crow collars as with other devices that prevent behaviour, is that they don’t decrease the DESIRE to do the behaviour. This often results in severe frustration, and is not usually a very satisfactory answer.

      Mike

  50. Hi Mike,

    Your hypothesis sounds valid, at least at first glance. Question: is it merely a hypothesis or have you actually seen roosters who have worn collars for any length of time and then validated your hypothesis?

    In other words, are you speaking from theory alone or actual experience?

    Shock collars for dogs actually inflict pain. An electrical jolt every time you bark. I can see how that would prevent behavior but also lead to frustration, as you have noted.

    Water spritzing collars for dogs confuse and disorient. A mist is sprayed in your face every time you bark. I can see how that would prevent behavior but also lead to frustration, as you have noted.

    “I want to bark but I get punished” is the idea… correct? That is the frustration.

    Did you watch the rooster collar video? The rooster crows any time he feels like it. He is not electrocuted. He is not sprayed with water. Nothing happens to him. He crows and it sounds muffled. He crows again. He does all his normal chicken behaviors including mating. Where is the demonstrated evidence of frustration. Can you pinpoint what part of the video you observed this?

    Don’t get me wrong – It’s nicer to not wear a collar. The question is, how bad is the collar and is it really cruel? Is it really in the same league as dog collars that prevent barking?

    Chickens have it rough and humans ask a lot of them. We get upset with factory farms and the treatment of chickens there; yet we also shun people who keep a small flock. We want their eggs and their meat, but few of us really value the innate worth of a chicken. Roosters end up with the shortest end of the stick. There are very few places in America where roosters can be free.

    Can you explain how this rooster who wears a collar is frustrated? Can you explain how he is not living an enviable life?

  51. Mandy Gayken

    Hello. I had baby chicks and ducks, and yesterday 2 ducks and birds died :(. I realized today that I put too much electrolytes into their water. I put about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of electrolytes per gallon of water. I feel terrible that I misread the instructions :(((((. Do you think this will also affect my remaining 8 chicks now? I don’t use electrolytes anymore. Will the chicks still lay eggs, do know? My 8yr old son sells eggs to the neighbors. Thank you for your help.

    • Hi Mandy,

      I’m sorry to hear about your mistake. I would suggest you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater though. Electrolytes are still good for your birds, as long as the mix is right, especially in hot weather. I expect that the remaining chicks will be fine and suffer few long term effects. Your son should still have plenty of eggs to sell.

      Hope that helps

      Mike

  52. Hi Dr. Mike, I am desperate for any help! My white leghorn hasn’t laid an egg for several months and went through a long period of just being sickly. (shriveled, pale comb, seemed egg bound as she strained alot, but never felt any eggs). Now she seems to have taken a turn for the worse and I can actually feel at least 2 eggs in her fluff and between her thighs. I know she’s getting weaker and I don’t know how to get them out. 😦 She has been soaking in a warm bath now for about a half hour making no attempt to get out and actually napping. I have tried to gently feel inside her while she’s in the water and can feel the egg through the sidewall of the oviduct, but can’t find the access hole to get the egg. The only hole I can find is the one the large intestine as some poop comes out of that when I bring my finger back out. I fear something may be twisted? I feel so helpless and just don’t know what to do. ANY suggestions I would be so grateful for. I have called all my local vets and NONE of them will look at or treat a chicken. I’m at my last hope. 😦 Please help asap…

    • Hi Peter;

      The egg comes out the same hole as the feces (cloaca). The uterus enters into the cloaca about 1-2 cm in from the opening to the outside, on the top part of the cloaca (closest to the backbone). Use your finger to find the opening, and insert something hard to break the egg, and deflate the egg….then putting soapy water up the oviduct may lubricate the eggshell out….likely it is stuck to the wall of the oviduct, so put the soapy water in and let it sit for a bit. This is a serious condition, and what I’m recommending is not what I would normally do for an egg bound bird, but now you are to the point where you need to be more aggressive.

      Hopefully this helps.

      Mike

  53. Thank you so much for your quick response. I have carefully and very thoroughly felt inside and cannot anywhere feel where there could be an entrance to the uterus and therefore cannot get to the egg. I’m so frustrated. Could it have strangely sealed off somehow? Everything started this spring with 2 attacks in one week on my flock from predators. She was gotten twice, but escaped with little injury and lived. She hasn’t laid an egg since before that happened. Could the trauma have done something to her internally? Also, forgot to mention, she has lost some weight and has a strange odor to her. Not sure how to describe it as it isn’t like anything I have smelled before. I’m so desperate I’m thinking of gently splicing that skin to get that egg out, but don’t want to cause her more pain/problems. 😦 This is definitely the worst part of owning the animals we love so dearly.

  54. There is a possibility that the opening has closed over, if there was damage to the cloaca. The opening will be very difficult to feel, and I honestly don’t know what else to tell you….I feel bad for you, and wish I could help more. Be as gentle as possible with whatever manipulation you attempt, and try your best to find the opening…it is your best bet.

  55. Thank you so much for all your advice. With the wonderful neighbor’s help, they humanely euthanized her for me (sure wish there was an easier way to do that.) I know she was in alot of pain as she would not quit straining heavily and her breathing became a bit raspy, so I know we did the right thing. I have bookmarked your page as I still have 17 beautiful leghorn layers and 2 guineas and so very much appreciate someone out there willing to help us backyard farmers!

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