Common Hazards In The Poultry Yard

By mymilliefleur · Feb 19, 2015 · Updated Aug 18, 2015 · ·
  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:

    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!

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Recent User Reviews

  1. fldiver97
    "Good tips/reminders for safety"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Oct 31, 2018
    Helpful tips (and reminders) for keeping your flock safe
  2. Legion
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Oct 31, 2018
    Helps raise caution..
    Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  3. ronott1
    "good article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Sep 4, 2018
    It is good to think about hazards in the yard
    Silkies rule Forever likes this.


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  1. casportpony
    Would it be possible for you to add some of the suggestions below? For example:
    • The ingestion of metal or twine, or shape items.
    • Poisonous plants.
      Miss Lydia likes this.
  2. Ducksandchickens
    Great article!
      Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  3. Sandra Verbreyt
    Excellent article especially about feed on the ground as i sometimes throw some around for them to scratch at. I'm new to chicken keeping and have 2 silkies Babs and Margo so I appreciate any advice given. Thanks again
      Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  4. triplepurpose
    This may be as good an argument as any against unwise use of free-feeding dispensers. We feed a freeranging flock in “meals” twice a day (more often for chicks). Thus any spillage is cleaned up long before it can spoil—at least once a day. If people insist on using hopper style feeders (and to be fair, they do have useful advantages), they might consider removing, raising out of reach, or closing them up shortly BEFORE dark so that the chickens can clean up any spillage off the ground. But basically, There is no sane reason to ever have feed lying on the ground long enough for it to spoil!

    Chickens should of course be fed adequately, but also efficiently.
      Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  5. Jack Speese
    Might add poisonous plants or vegetable waste to the list. I have to keep my birds confined because there are too many hawks around. So to give them a greens treat, I frequently pull weeds or throw kitchen scraps into the pen, which they love. But I don't give them any weed unless I'm sure it's safe. And there are some vegetable wastes that you don't think of as being potentially toxic, like raw snapbeans. And many vegetables have other parts of the plant that aren't good to eat (e.g., tomato leaves). I don't think that this danger is quite as great for free-ranging birds, as these things often don't taste good either, but for birds confined in a pen with little choice it may be a different story.
      Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  6. carrierose
    I would like to add another threat to our wonderful feathered friends. I lost a buff polish pullet when she got wedged between the fence and the coop. Unfortunately, I didn't notice her gone until the next day when it was too late after a predator got a hold of her. Make sure all fencing is connected tightly to any building or wooden post and there is nothing for them to get wedged in.
  7. Sandra Verbreyt
    excellent article especially about fed on the ground going mouldy and posing a potential danger to my chickens. Thanks for the info it was much appreciated
      Silkies rule Forever likes this.
  8. Amy V
    Great article but please add screws, nails and any other types of metallic objects. The vet says chicks like anything "shiny" and will not hesitate to eat it. I just lost one of my girls to heavy metal toxicity and it was devastating! I bought one of those magnet rollers and run it around their area, especially after they've dug up a new "bath" hole. I find something new every time. It seems these critters are prone to so many diseases, accidents, predators, and themselves, it's scary for a chick mom like me.
  9. Eggcessive
    Helpful article, good job. Another hazard is loose doors or gates that are not secured, and can be slammed into or smash a chicken during a strong wind gust. Things that can blow over such as pallots that may be leaning, and can be knocked over easily injuring a chicken are common. Large flower pots or buckets are notorious for being turned over on an inquisitive chicken.
  10. 3riverschick
    Great article lots of good suggestions! here's an idea for a safe heater that isn't going to cause a fire:
    1. Miss Lydia
      I have one I don't care for it. doesn't put out much heat at all, maybe in a small enclosed area it may but I tried using it for chicks last Oct in a stall inside my coop and I ended up replacing it for a reg heat lamp. But mine was also on the wall maybe hanging from the ceiling where they can get under it, just not sure..
  11. Sylvester017
    Nice article to bring backyard chicken safety to mind besides the obvious predators. We had a fluffy Silkie that was walking "funny" with little steps. When we checked her out her feathered toes were hiding her hobbled feet -- long strings from a shredded tarp had wrapped around her toenails and hobbled both feet and she couldn't walk normal. These tarp shreds were very strong so we can't figure out why a tarp with such strong shreds would ever come apart in the first place! We've learned to toss tarps at the first signs of wear. Feed bag string and tarp shreds aren't the only problem that wraps around chicken toes -- long tall weeds that fluorish after heavy rains can also trap a chicken's feet as we found out.
      casportpony likes this.
  12. Miss Lydia
    Very informative article.
      casportpony likes this.
  13. Abriana
    Great job! Very helpful and informative. I enjoyed reading it!
      casportpony and mymilliefleur like this.
  14. 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!
      casportpony and mymilliefleur like this.
  15. Mr Beaks
    Excellent article, mymilliefleur!
      casportpony likes this.
  16. 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.
      casportpony likes this.
  17. Unsworth
    Great article about things we sometimes could overlook.
      casportpony likes this.
  18. 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
      casportpony and Lenixen like this.
  19. 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).
      casportpony likes this.
    1. Cluckcluck1215
      Though, it does look like a Bubble.
      casportpony and mymilliefleur like this.
  20. 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.
      casportpony likes this.
  21. 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!

      Abriana likes this.
  22. 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.
      Abriana likes this.
  23. TX2CA
    Thanks! I'll be going over my yard today!
  24. Jafaremal
    Very interesting and useful article
  25. Miss Lydia
    Great article and with alot of good common sense ideas to keep our flock protected..
  26. N F C
    Good article, it covers a lot of important things to keep in mind.
  27. Cluckies
    Good article!
  28. Book Em Danno25
  29. TamingMaster
    Awesome article! Great job!
  30. Mountain Peeps
    Excellent job!
  31. mymilliefleur
    Thanks Familyfarm! :)
  32. familyfarm1
    Thank you soooooo much mymilliefleur!! This is a great article!

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