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Common Hazards In The Poultry Yard

  1. mymilliefleur
    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.

    • String and twine

    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.

    Fine cotton feed sack string.

    • Light weight feed bowls, containers, etc

    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.

    • Spilled feed

    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.

    Hens enjoying breakfast.

    • Glass, metal, and other sharp objects

    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:


    • Cords, wires, and heat lamps

    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.

    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.

    • Fertilizers, pesticides and poisons

    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.

    • Styrofoam and plastic bits

    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.

    • Buckets and other containers that can collect water

    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.

    • Spilled water and moisture

    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.

    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.

    Good luck with your flock!

    If you have anymore questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
    Thanks for reading!

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  1. chickenpotter
    Thank you! Great things to be mindful of - although as a newbie to chickens I'm already so freaked out about every little thing that now I will be up all night worried all of these, too! Lol, just kidding. These are super guidelines!
  2. Mr Beaks
    Excellent article, mymilliefleur!
  3. chickenpotter
    Thank you for these important reminders. I'm still new to all of this and it's good to be aware of which hazards might be lurking around our place.
  4. Unsworth
    Great article about things we sometimes could overlook.
  5. equius
    I have had two hens drown this summer in stock tanks, don't know why it never happened before, but it didn't. They have plenty of their own water, but seem to have developed an affinity for water flavored with a little horse spit. I am now cutting hog panels to fit in the tanks so if they fall in there is a ladder to get out.

    This isn't an original solution that I can take credit for, I found it somewhere on the internet.

    Jim Rea
  6. Billy C
    I think the author meant predators, disease, etc. and it is bumble foot, not bubble foot (in case you try to look the infection up).
  7. BantyChooks
    I have had the same thing happen with feedbag string to one of my leghorn hens, it got wound around her foot, it was so tight that she could have lost her toe! I only saw it in time because I was doing a last chicken count for the night, just another reason to count them!
  8. Frosty
    Another hazard with strings is ingestion. I heard of a case where a chicken ate a string from a feed sack, the string wrapped around the tongue, and the gizzard pulling on the string was pulling the tongue into the throat. The owner of the chicken said they kept looking into the chickens mouth to try to find what was wrong, then fortunately got the light at just the right angle and saw it. This is why I also try to keep long hairs (like horse mane/tail hair) cleaned up too.
  9. JHaller
    Well done! I can add to this one.
    -- Things that fall over: Like the lightweight containers, watch out for items that can fall over when chickens try to jump on them. Items leaning against a wall or fence can be knocked over and clobber or crush a chicken when they try to climb on things. I had a young chick get crushed by a small piece of lumber that was leaning against a fence. I've had flower pots knocked off tables when birds try to roost on the edges, so anything that moves and can be toppled by a chicken is a risk.

    --Open Containers: I recently had a young pullet disappear after being bothered by a rooster. A few weeks later I found her remains in garbage can where I store feed. I either trapped her when I put the lid on, or put a 50lb bag feed on her without knowing she was there! Awful!

    -- Narrow openings and passages: my chickens love to hide between the compost heap and the garage wall, they now have more clearance. I have to be careful where I stack and store things to make sure curious critters won't get jammed up.

    The dangling string warning also applies to piles of chicken wire or shade cloth or row cover or any other product that can ensnare a bird. In Texas, a bird could die of heat exposure in less than an hour if they get trapped.

    Many thanks for this valuable thread!

  10. chickchick8
    Fantastic article!! Not two months ago one of my roosters became tangled in a piece of string from a feed bag which was then caught in his roost when he went to bed. The next morning, when he tried to fly down, the string pulled tight and he was left hanging upside down by his leg. Thankfully I was right there and freed him quickly, but that was a scary lesson learned.

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