Chicken Care One Year and Beyond

Chickens undergo the most changes in their life during the first year. As adorable little baby chicks covered with fluffy feather, they require continual care and monitoring in preparation for their transition to outdoors coop life.

From 3 to 6 weeks old, their fuzzy covering begins to shed as they slowly grow mature feathers making them look mangy and diseased-looking. You will also notice at this stage that their wattles and combs grow bigger and turn a deeper red. Young roosters will also start crowing.

When the young hens (pullets) reach 20 to 25 weeks of age, they will start laying eggs – initially their eggs will be small with shells that are weak (sometimes none at all). However, as they lay eggs more frequently, the eggs will become bigger and the shells harder.

Broodiness
Your hens may go broody at any time – this is when they tenaciously persist on sitting on eggs in order to hatch them. It doesn’t really matter to them if the eggs are fertilized or not.

You should be aware that a broody hen gets grumpy when you try to collect the eggs from underneath her; you have to beware as she might even peck you! Another factor to consider is that since the eggs are not fertilized if you allow the hen to sit on them, the eggs will decompose at a faster rate.

You have to break your hen of this habit by collecting the eggs on a daily basis.

You can employ several tactics to break hens of the broodiness habit. The most common technique is to repeatedly remove the errant chicken from the nest and carry her around for 15 minutes or more, two times daily for two or three days.

For hardcore birds, you can place ice cubes or ice pack in the nest. However there may be instances when really extreme measures may be necessary like putting your hen in solitary confinement with of course ensuring that the hen has adequate supply of food and water.

Molting
Once a year, chickens shed and re-grow some of their feathers usually during summer time. During the molting phase, they look ugly and sick and will not lay eggs. This is no cause for alarm since their feathers will grow back and they will look better than ever.

Two Common Health Problems and Solutions

Mites
Mites are a common problem especially when raising and keeping poultry. There are several kinds of mites that can and will infest your birds not just one variety.

Mites can be brought in by wild birds, such as starlings, sparrows, crows, swallows, or can be picked up at poultry shows, sales, just about anyplace where there is contact with other avian life. They can also be carried in by rodents who enter the coops in search of food. In order to prevent illness and the destruction of your flock, early intervention is absolutely necessary.

Chicken Mites are the most common as they live on the skin of the birds, in the nest boxes, and in the bedding. They are nocturnal parasites and suck blood from the chicken while it sleeps. They are very small in size and yellowish gray in color but turn dark as they feed. Keeping the coop clean is the best way to effectively combat chicken mites instead of treating the birds.

Northern Fowl Mites live on the bird itself and feeds around the clock. They are very small, reddish brown in color and often cause discoloration of chicken feathers due to their eggs and waste. Controlling the Northern Fowl Mite requires that the bird be treated directly instead of just the surroundings.

Infestation of these mites results in weakening, loss of appetite, emaciation, lowered egg production, lethargy, and sometimes death.

Scaley Leg Mites manifest themselves on the scales of the legs and feet. You will notice a lifting of the scales and separation from the skin of the leg underneath. Chicken legs and feet may become swollen, tender and have a discharge under the scales.

Poultry Lice
Another big problem of poultry is the many different forms of lice. Regardless of locality and geographic location there will be variations of lice that are dominant in the area. Lice are small wingless insects, with chewing mouth parts. Unlike mites, lice do not suck blood but rather feed on dry skin scales and feathers. They cause irritation to the host bird with their movement and chewing action. Poultry lice infection generally results in weak birds, lower egg production levels and makes the birds more susceptible to illnesses.

Treatment
There are many off the shelf products that can be used for treatment of mites and poultry lice infectivity.

Sevin powder is proven to be very effective against both parasites and can be used on the coops and directly on the birds themselves. Retreatment is recommended in order to neutralize the eggs that will hatch and reinfest the chickens and their coops.

Orange Guard is a non-toxic and very effective organic treatment for chicken coops but can not be directly used on the chickens.

Eprinex is an example of a pour-on medication that can address both infestations.

Scaley leg mites can best be treated with direct contact. Apply petrolatum jelly, vegetable, mineral, or linseed oil on chicken legs every two days till until the scales are smooth again.

Prevention
Prevention is almost impossible however early detection is the next best way to control louse and mite infestations. You should always keep the chicken coops and bedding clean and fresh. Regularly scrub coop and nesting boxes with disinfectant, soap and water, and make sure to inspect your flock regularly to see if there are signs of any infestation in order to correct the problem before any harm is done.

Learn More About Building A Chicken Coop Here…

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