known as :starve out: this is a term used to describe a newborn chicks condition when they have exhausted their internal supply they are born with and then do not eat/drink. More commonly found in chicks that are hatched out in an incubator, these chicks have no instructions on how to eat or drink and must be taught by you. Placing a sheet of white paper in the incubator and dropping chick crumb onto it should get some of them interested in eating, tapping on the paper with your finger mimicking pecking should get them all eating. As for drinking, gently dip the birds beak into the water container and watch the birds throat to see she/he is swallowing. Temperature can play a part in a healthy appetite too, again more so incubated chicks as mum keeps her chicks warm, if temperatures drop below 35 degrees this can slow down the appetite, your young chick could be eating or digesting their feed at a reduced rate. For food issues you could try some small meal worms, (live) as the movement may arouse the chicks curiosity and instinct to eat. Offering finely chopped boiled eggs and fresh chive may work. As for drinking, giving chick some warm water with honey added to flavour the water, also the sugar in the honey will give your chick an energy boost. young chicks may be eating but at a much reduced rate. chicks hatched under mum have a great start and are taught by mum to eat. mum calls them to feed and she demonstrates this by pecking at the feed and the chicks simply copy her actions. Mum,s teach their off Spring everything they need to know in the 5-7 weeks they remain with their chicks. A lot of breeders I know say this is survival of the fittest and say it's best to let the chick die, however if like me your chickens are pets and not a commodity then you want to try everything you can to keep them alive. 


red mite also known as chicken mite or poultry mite, more commonly found in warmer climes. Daytime they can be found on the underside of a hens roosting poles or at the end of the poles where they wait for their prey to return to roost for the evening so they can feed on their blood as the birds roost at night. The red mite can easily live off a hen and in their bedding for up to six months waiting for the warmer weather where they begin breeding, with each female mite laying up to one thousand eggs. Numbers of the red mite can be controlled by using powders, my powder of choice is called dimonteous Earth, a powder like tiny grains of sand and very sharp it cuts the red mites body and they dehydrate dry up and die. A serious infestation of red mites can stress your birds as they try to peck at the mites and may even remove feathers in doing so, cutting into your hens roosting time the stress put onto your hen will result in discomfort to your hen and lower egg production. Spraying the dimonteous Earth into cracks and on the underside and each end of your hens roosting poles significantly reduces numbers. I do weekly checks in my Crees, six straws one cable tie and a sheet of white paper will tell you if you are red mite free or just how contamined your Cree is. Simply cable tie the six straws on the unspderside of your hens roosting pole, seven days later cut the cable tie remove the straws and blow into them onto a piece of white paper, if there are red mite in your Crees you will easily see them against the back drop of the white paper.


Scaley leg mite usually occurs in older birds, the mite access the featherless legs of the bird and they burrow in-between the scales of the legs where the hens cannot get at them. As the leg mite feast on your hens blood the hens legs become inflamed, reddened and severe itchiness all causing the hens legs to swell. In more serious cases of infection it has led to death, at the very least it causes major stress to the bird who cannot get at the mites to remove them. Cures involve smothering the hens infected leg/legs in Vaseline, trapping the invading mite between the scales and cutting off their air supply and the scaly leg mites die.  There are controlled veterinary medications available to give to your hens but these are not to be given to birds that are being entered into the food chain for either meat or egg consumption.


Worms occur more in hens of the backyard keeper as these hens frequent daily the same piece/plot of land and usually year after year. Personally I find this one of the least threatening problems that chickens face, namely because I find worms the easiest to control with good henhouse management. A simple sign to look for is your hens loss of weight, you know your hens and what they look like so over time you notice even the slightest of changes in your girls, the most common being the roundworm and the tapeworm. These are passed through your hens faeces and are usually picked up by another hen and so on, ridding your girls of these is quite a simple procedure. I use my own home grown garlic bulbs which I crush up and soak in water which I then add to their water containers, I do this for seven days out of each 5-6 weeks and it works a treat flushing the worms out of their system usually dead. My number one method, I grow my own chilli peppers each year and these I feed to my girls, I grow the scotch bonnet variety which are about 50,000 on the scoville unit (scoville is the measurement of heat in the peppers.) this method i use every three months and the heat actually kills and dissolves the worms in the gut of the hen. And yes the hens believe it or not do eat them, having only 24 taste buds on their tongues (compared to  humans 10,000 taste buds) which are set so far back that once the hens have decided if they like them or not, they've already committed to swallowing the peppers. They do drink a lot more water of course, however as water makes up the greater part of an egg then  get a bumper harvest of fresh eggs. And the eggs are not tainted by either the perreps or the garlic.


As most common in many backyard chicken keepers I make my own feed to best suit my hens needs whilst in the moult. The benefits of this are I can change the protein levels, your basic pellet feed is around 17% protein, however as winter is around the corner and this signals the moult for my hens I need to increase their protein levels to around 22%. Shorter daylight hours and moulting also mean lower egg production while the arrival of Spring brings the higher egg production. However by making changes to your hens feed you can change this. Your hens will first moult (a mini moult) at around 4 weeks old their down will be replaced by their first feathers, leading to their first feathers being replaced by their second feathers at around 10-12 weeks old, and their next moult will be around 18 months old And then yearly. These times may vary a week or two but these are times noted by me on my own hens. Starting at the neck and and working down their backs and towards the wings and then onto the chest the moult can last around 8-12 weeks on average but can take a lot longer in some cases. There are things that as a backyard keeper you can do to help speed up your girls recovery, the moult is a painful experience for your hens so handling your hens unless absolutely necessary is a definite no no. A change in diet (and these are my own personal changes) include some additions to your hens feed. Including the addition of, sunflower seeds, cooked scrambled eggs, fish meal, tuna fish and very occasionally I add a tin of cat food to their diet. The benefits I note is that while my girls are replacing their feathers quicker, usually around the 4 week period they still continue to lay eggs all be it at a slightly reduced rate, I used the word slightly as I have only a slight loss compared to all my neighbouring hen keepers who use the old method which is just keep feeding their hens layers pellets. Most common egg numbers for my neighbours is around zero, and in winter when I'm collecting over half a basket full they are astonished yet they still do not make any changes as it's not their way. The moult is painful to the hens and the quicker I can assist them in getting over it the better as far as I'm concerned, it's a little extra effort but if your going to keep hens then you must change with the seasons and give your hens the very best of care. Photo inset is my 8 week old trio of scotch dumpy hens, the long legged variety, the eggs were purchased at a local auction sale and hatched out in an incubator by a local breeder. 


sour crop is a result of an untreated impacted crop. The swelling of the chest by this time is sizeable and accompanied by foul smelling breath, fast action is required. Removing the blockage is your first priority, a syringe of olive oil into your hens mouth aided by gentle massage of her chest wall, your aiming to assist the hen in passing this into her gizzard (hens stomach) where she will pass this naturaly. The foul smelling breath is a result of the mould spores releasing harmful toxins. a syringe of natural yoghurt followed by a syringe of red wine acting as a hen enema will immediately flush out her system. 


Impacted crop is caused when food gets lodged between the crop and the gizzard, usually damp or wet food has stuck to the hens chest wall. she will continue to eat building up and causing a swelling to the hens chest that initially looks like a lump/growth, un-treated the swelling will keep growing causing discomfort to your hen. As the trapped food rots inside the hen this causes mould spores which release toxins that are poisonous and will result in the death of your hen if left untreated. Treatment is simple. A syringe filled with olive oil released into the hens mouth will loosen the obstacle, gently massage the hens chest easing the lump downwards into her gizzard and your hen will pass this through her system naturally with ease. The olive will also do her feathers the world of good. Causes of impacted crop are usually from feeding treats such as bread, pasta etc to your hen Which are not fully digested. The photo inset is of my 6 year old blue copper maran who I found lying next to the feed bowl suffering from this, treated for this she made a full recovery. 


This happens when a hen lays a considerably larger egg than normal, squeezing this out can cause the hens vent to prolapse. One of the reasons this can happen is poorly diet, a hens diet is all about the protein content, usually the layers pellets contain enough protein, around 17-22% of there daily needs, to many scraps of waste food are a contributory factor in prolapses. Usual signs can be spotting blood on an egg, if you see blood on the egg there will be blood on the rear of the egg layer. Immediatly this must be cleaned from her, hens  descend from dinosaurs were told and are carnivorous, mist of the hen food shops sell food containers in red, that is because hens associate the colour red with food. Seeing the colour red protruding from any part of another hen they will peck at it and keep pecking it till the prolapsed hen is too stressed to come out and feed and dies, or is simply pecked to death. I carry a violet spray in my (hen) medi bag, once ive cleaned the area around the bloodied vent I spray it violet, stop other hens from pecking at it.. Vets will tell you there is nothing you can do for a prolapse  and in my experience they are correct, many times I have donned rubber gloves turned my lady upside down and pushed her innards back in with my thumbs sealing closed the vent. However a hen is a built in egg laying machine and again out pop her innards she is bloodied and the cycle starts all over again, each time the vent seems to look worse, you can separate her from the flock, the question is for how long, in separation she may lay an odd egg, you put her back in her Cree she lays again and the stress is to much for her, she's been pecked to death through the night. The offenders are easy to spot they are the ones with bloodied faces. I've used a whole bottle of violet spray one one hen over a period of i have no idea and the result is the same. She dies, a sad truth I'm sorry to say.

please feel free to Email me. Thank you

Anthony metcalfe