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Firstly sorry for the dramatic title to this Blog, but all people reading this will read no further stating they know about calcium, I wonder how much we really know. I get so many questions on social media asking why are my hens laying eggs with such thin shells, with old age I’m afraid come softer egg shells, but in younger fitter hens the answer is written below. So the purpose of the medullary bone in chickens. Found in the bodies of mature hens, that is hens of laying age is as an aid in the production of eggs in egg laying birds. In short the function of the medullary bone is to serve as a storage facility which birds of egg laying age can freely withdraw during the calcification process in laying those hard shelled eggs we all love to eat. It is vital that we freely offer a regular top up of calcium as an addition to the calcium found in your hens feed. I keep a bucket of oyster shell and a bucket of grit indoors close to the nesting boxes, if mom needs a top up, and they regularly do. We don’t physically know our hens exact intake and output of their calcium, but our hens do. Which is why extra calcium should always be freely available to the . Once the medullary bone (storage facility) has been depleted then your hen, who is hard wired to just lay eggs each and every day for you will now start to deplete calcium from her own bodies bones. Your egg layers are now depleting up to a daily total of 10% of their own bodies calcium just to produce the shell needed to cover the egg. This will continue until your hens bones are so fragile that the slightest knock or awkward landing from a perch can break their bones, they in turn become weak and unable to get to feed and water slowly die. FACT: Over 90% Of hens you find dead with no visible sign of illness prior to death have totally depleted their entire bodies calcium just to lay eggs for you. FACT: in your hens lifetime 90% of your flock will break some bone in their bodies, usually the the keel bone during awkward landings, and leg bones are commonly fractured/broken because of a calcium related deficiency leaving their bones weak. You won’t see them display pain as chickens are adapt at hiding their illnesses as in the wild, and in captivity, predators or other flock members would see this as a sign of weakness and that hen would be targeted for bullying by stronger flock members, killed and possibly eaten, as hens are cannibalistic, It’s just their way in the animal kingdom, survival of the fittest. FACT: A hens uses 10% of her OWN bodies calcium to make an egg shell. Your hens daily feed rarely covers enough calcium towards this process but the medullary bones storage facility has this covered. Why is the medullary bone a killer in chickens, because once it’s depleted it’s a downward spiral to your hens demise as she depletes her own bones calcium..... PLEASE offer extra calcium to your hens.
Ok so Christmas is almost upon us and we all have a million and one things to do without reading lengthy Blogs so I shall keep the next few weeks Blogs short and to the point. Epilepsy and seizures are quite real and also quite rare, this one touches close to home for me, just standing back knowing there is nothing you can do but reassure the patient and keep them as comfortable as you can. The differences are in seizures the bird drops, literally without movement and with epilepsy the chicken moving will exhibit serious signs of pain whilst being held. Not seen much in cockerels and mostly seen in pigeons this is a hard one to spot in your hens. Symptoms include your hens displaying some unnatural movements of her throat muscles, in some cases your hen may just drop suddenly right in front of your eyes, she could display no signs of breathing and may appear to be life extinct. This is where having some first aid training comes in, I always tilt the head backwards to check the airway is clear, I Blow air from my mouth into hers then I massage the chest gently. I am aware that the majority of people reading this would just say no and cull the bird, that is the easy option and frankly not in the best interest of your bird. These type of seizures can last upwards of 30-40 minutes your hen may regain her breathing within a few minutes but she may not regain consciousness so don’t give up on your bird, there is no better feeling in the world than seeing and hearing your hen take that large gasp of air. This is the time I pick her up wrap her in a towel and I rub her chest until she is conscious again. It is safe to assume that the same hen may exhibit this behaviour over the next few days and possibly longer, one thing is definite, each time they get less and less serious with seizures going downwards to one minute or so. So what are the causes and treatments, well one possible cause is mould spores from eating stale mouldy spoilt feed. I have people passing by daily to feed my hens so it could be something with a high salt content. The alternative is it could simply be a wiring problem in your hens brain, this is where nerve cells of the brain release abnormal electrical impulses of which the side effects cause a loss of consciousness. There are two remedies, one is anti seizure meds from your vet, however you’d be amazed at the amount of vets who have zero knowledge that chickens CAN have seizures, naturally believing in treating my hens organically I get best results using belladonna. I know my website www.thechickendoctor.com or .co.uk could do with updating I will add my belladonna recipe, if anyone needs it as a matter of urgency then please contact me immediately.
To many this is as obvious as the nose on your face, I visited with a couple earlier this month who had sickness in their Cree, I checked out the poorly hens and was then promptly asked did I want to see the dead birds. As they led me to their bin they simply opened it up and there they were lying on the top. Depending on which country you live in and which state your in laws will vary, the two most common methods are to bury your birds or to burn them, I prefer burning. There has been more than one occasion where I have put my spade into a new plot of land and pulled up chicken bones, dead chickens should be buried six feet under, dead anything six feet under. Burying them this deeply stops them being dug up, it only takes a Fox to dig one up on your land and keep him coming back, of course once he knows there are poultry on your land it might just be that very night you’ve been unable to catch a flock member to lock them up safely. Mr Fox needs only to be lucky once, you need to be lucky every night. I know people who dispose of hens at their local waste disposal site, this is illegal most everywhere, some people recommend burying their dead hens in a manure/compost heap, this is wrong as the warmth speeds up rotting but also keeps disease and pathogens growing and multiplying, this attracts flies who will now carry that disease back into your living hens Crees, feed and water and spread contagious disease to your healthy flock. you don’t know how or why your chickens have died it’s best to err on the side of caution. So if burning is the preferred method, always burn hot with lots of combustible materials, dry leaves, twigs sticks, something that really gets the fire burning hot ensuring the carcass is burned properly so no trace of disease remains, and keep your fires away from any water source, you don’t want incorrectly burned pathogenic carrying birds entering your water system later to be drunk by wildlife causing them becoming carriers. Many diseases birds can be cured with good henhouse management, spotting when something is wrong and acting on it quickly. Always isolate infected hens, prevention is always better.
There is nothing worse than bored hens, bored hen are like small children and need to be occupied or they get into mischief, in the case of chickens boredom can lead to bullying, feather pecking and egg eating. There are some small things you can do to avoid boredom breaking out, I weed my garden by hand constantly, where others poison their weeds or rotovate them into the ground. I hand pull a large bucket of weeds daily and tip them into the Cree, pulling weeds and keeping as much soil attached provides your hens the ability to scratch and forage any bugs or worms attached. Doing this also keeps me fit as well as keeping my girls fed and it makes the garden look tidy. It appears that my presence in the Cree attracts some followers, literally, my girls follow me everywhere in case I toss some seed, I look like the pied piper. But Being followed so closely also gives me the chance to observe my girls up close seeing if there are any issues that need dealing with. To cure boredom inside your Cree have a look through your old CD collection and hanging string from ceiling to just above roosting pole height and tying your CD to the end will give your hens something to peck at other than another hens Butt feathers. In the winter my girls are spending more hours indoors and looking at another hens butt feather is just an invitation to peck. Outdoors to cure boredom I have built a climbing frame leading up to my willow tree so my hens can climb up and walk along and roost if they wish to, varying levels where they can play or just sit and gossip with their Cree mates or just hopping up and down eating the last of the green leaves that have not yet turned and fallen. It’s pouring down with rain outside and we have snow forecast so keeping the hens from plodding in thick mud or deep snow is my priority this week, Hens abhor snow and refuse to come out of their Cree to feed so I have to spread fresh straw making a path leading to feed and water and another to the climbing frame tree otherwise They wouldn’t leave their Crees. Your hens will happily get pleasure from a swing in your Garden and these can be purchased on-line or can be built easily enough. Outdoors I have some tennis ball sized round plastic balls that you can fill with seed and once a hen knock it the ball rolls and out comes some seed, a few more hens on the scene and soon you have a full blown game on. The hens do actually kick the ball around making seed come out. There are many other ways you can occupy your girls I’m sure, the above are just what I do. I also make my own hens treats which are totally healthy and cheaper than store bought ones. I will update my website www.thechickendoctor.com and post a few recipes when I’m able.
Not only do I Blog (obviously) but I am an avid reader of other poultry Bloggers, I like when people ask them questions, the Bloggers answers always intrigue me, no questions on this (persons) Blog I was reading, just a straight out comment they made. “ I only clean out my hen house once a year” was a direct Quote. For a serious chicken breeder to come out with such a statement is totally irresponsible, it’s my view that Bloggers, myself included have a care of duty to our readers, after all joe public has sought out advice and they are looking for the best answers we can give them. The advice we give on our Blogs can be the building blocks for how newbies raise their own flock. So when I read of people cleaning out their hens once a year it sickens me, I visit people who tell me they thought that’s all you had to clean them out, after all it’s all there fathers, fathers did, yeah, which is why I’m visiting your poorly hens today. So let’s nip this in the bud right now. If I wouldn’t sleep in it, eat from it or drink out of it, then it is not acceptable for my girls. In my Cree I operate a clean as you go policy and a once weekly full Cree clean out in the winter, and I do not have O.C.D. I do this for one reason. AMMONIA. Given that each hen poops on average anywhere from 30-50 times a day added to which hens poop in their sleep and given the lack of daylight hours outside then your hens spend more time indoors meaning even more droppings indoors. Despite what you may of heard hens do pee, if you look at a chickens poop the white cap on the end is their urine. Ammonia is responsible for a whole host of infections including. Frostbite, the liquid (vapour) emitted from stools/urine cause condensation is the air, at temperatures of 3 degrees air frost is created causing frostbitten combs, wattles and feet/legs, extremely painful to your girls. Ammonia causes respiratory infections which in these cold climates if not spotted or treated early enough can A/ spread to the rest of your flock infecting them all, and B/ sinusitis, a very nasty and serious player as respiratory illnesses go. (Check out my Blog on sinusitis.) basically the sinuses cause swelling forcing the eyes closed leading to your birds death, indirectly, as your hen cannot find food/water and dies of poor henhouse management on your part. And something called ammonia toxicity, this is where the constant presence of ammonia in your hens Cree causes unrepairable damage to your girls. The gases released from ammonia build up and can see your hen scratching at her eye this further irritates the eye to the point that ammonia damages the lining of the eyes and eyelids, this causes a whole host of other Eye problems including conjunctivitis and many others, all of which leave your hens sensitive to light thus leaving them trapped indoors for 24 hours a day surrounded by ammonia which only leads to one outcome. This is not a pleasant end to any hens life, if it’s not acceptable to you then why should it be acceptable for your girls, I chose to keep my hens for my pleasure (and Eggs) I therefore have a care of duty towards them.