If you have only a few birds, it can be devastating to lose one. Even if you have a large flock, it is still unfortunate to lose a bird, especially if you could have prevented it with a little extra care. There are many hazards that can seriously injure, or be potentially deadly to your birds, such as predators, decease, etc. But it is the small things that we tend to over look. Things such as improperly secured heat lamps, moldy feed, and broken glass, can be a lot more serious than you think. Heat lamps can fall causing fires, which have been known to wipe out whole flocks, moldy feed can cause illness from botulism and other issues, while glass and other sharp objects can cut your birds feet and cause infections, such as bubble foot. Here's a quick checklist to eliminate a few of the common hazards you may have in your coop or run.
Most bags of feed have a pull string for easy opening. The thin cotton string seems to be drawn toward birds legs and toes like a magnet while they are scratching about. I have had many birds get this string wrapped around their legs and feet. Once it is wrapped up tightly, it can be very difficult to remove, and cause serious problems, such as discomfort, lose of circulation, broken bones (this is especially important with frail boned water fowl) if the string gets caught on something, and other problems. If you find a bird with string or twine wrapped around their legs or toes, remove it as soon as possible, and make sure they do not have access to anymore of it.
- String and twine
Fine cotton feed sack string.
This is one danger we tend to over look. I have had many hens get trapped under light weight feed bowls when they hopped on the edge to get a better drink, or gobble up a bit of feed on the bottom. I even lost one pullet when she got trapped under a rubber bowl. Put pebbles or rocks on the bottom of the bowls or containers to weigh them down and prevent them from flipping over on your birds.
- Light weight feed bowls, containers, etc
If possible, avoid spilled feed. This is important for many reasons, one, the feed will eventually mold (especially if your feeders are out doors) and your birds may than eat it, which can cause them to become ill from botulism. Secondly it can attract rodents and other pests, and it is also wasteful and expensive. Make sure your feeders prohibit spills and waste. One way to do this is to make sure your birds can't get into the feeders and scratch around, like my birds are doing in the picture below.
- Spilled feed
Hens enjoying breakfast.
Sharp objects can cause your birds to get small cuts and abrasions that can lead to infections such as bumblefoot. Bumblefoot can lead to problems like lameness and even death. Make sure to remove any sharp objects in the area where your birds range. In case your birds do get bumblefoot, here is is great article on prevention and treatment:
- Glass, metal, and other sharp objects
Many coop fires are started by heat lamps and electrical related problems. First off don't use heat lamps in your coop unless absolutely necessary (see link below). Make sure your heat lamp is fully secured, and all your extension cords are in top condition, and free of cuts, abrasions or pinch marks. This also goes for any electrical wires you may have in or near your coop. Do not use damaged cords or wires! If you are using a heat lamp, make sure it is securely fastened in multiple secure ways.
- Cords, wires, and heat lamps
Here is a very detailed and informative article on whether or not to use supplemental heat in your coop:
Another great article on preventing fires in the coop:
Clear heat lamp.
Do not use chemicals around your coop and run. If your birds are free-ranging on your lawn, avoid using fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, weed killers, etc. These products very often contain harsh, nasty chemicals. Not only may these cause illness to your birds, but you don't want to be eating eggs from hens that could have ingested these items. Also do not use poisons near or around your coop. Most rat poisons are deadly to chickens and other poultry. Even if the poison is well out of reach of your birds the rodents that consumed the poison won't be that far away, and your birds may see them as a tasty treat, in which case they will still consume the poison. The best policy is to avoid all such chemicals as much as possible.
- Fertilizers, pesticides and poisons
Your birds will often see bits of plastic and other garbage as tasty treats. They especially love Styrofoams crunchy texture. Though your birds enjoy eating these ''tasty morsels'' they are definitely not a healthy thing for your birds to snack on. Keep such things out of your birds reach. A litter free run is more important than just curve appeal.
- Styrofoam and plastic bits
Stagnant water can attract pests such as snakes and rodents. It can also be a drowning hazard for baby ducklings and other baby poultry, and even adult fowl depending on how deep it is.
- Buckets and other containers that can collect water
Water and moisture are things you want to avoid in your coop. Most frostbite and respiratory problems are caused by too much moisture, water, wet bedding, or not enough ventilation.
- Spilled water and moisture
Ducks, geese, and other water fowl especially are very messy around their waterer. If possible keep your waterers out in the run to avoid wet bedding, and moisture. Only water your birds inside when weather conditions keep them from going out.
On maintaining bedding: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bedding-part-2-maintaining-your-bedding
Ducks enjoying a drink.
These are a few common dangers that we tend to over look but can do serious harm. You can read more about our members' experiences and cautions here:
Good luck with your flock!
If you have anymore questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!