If you ask any poultry keeper, they will probably give you a list of things they would have done
differently. Everyone has made mistakes at one point or another, some of them are harmless,
but others can lead to your birds getting seriously injured, or even killed. Hopefully you can
learn from some of these common mistakes, and prevent them from happening to you.
It is very important to observe your birds everyday so that in case you have a sick or injured bird
- Not noticing a sick bird in time
you will notice it in time to save it. Becoming accustomed to your birds normal behavior, and
observing them daily is a good idea. Your birds all should be active and have nice bright
eyes, healthy red or pink combs, and their feathers should be clean, glossy and well preened.
(Keep in mind that there are exceptions to these last two while your birds are going through
their annual molt).
Symptoms of ill birds include:
Moving slowly, and not interested in food or treats
Refusing to come out of the coop in the morning
Not eating or drinking
Huddling on the roost or floor during the day with closed eyes
Head pulled tightly in
Droopy wings and tail
Heavy or strained breathing
Decreased egg production
Ruffled feathers (Keep in mind that hens will sometimes ruffle their feathers when cold)
Pale or purple comb, and wattles
Cloudy, leaky, swollen, or watery eyes
Sneezing, wheezing, or coughing
Swollen legs or feet
When you have a sick or injured bird, it is best to separate it as soon as possible. Inspect the
ill birds weight, vent, face, mouth, and nostrils and look it over for blood, scabs, and other signs
of injury. Also, check for mites and lice, and expect the birds legs for scaly leg mites.
Typical look of a sick bird. This hen most likely died of some kind of internal injury.
You have a rat problem in the coop, and there are some annoying weeds growing in your birds
- Using toxic chemicals around the coop
run. Well the right thing to do would be bring out the rat poison, and herbicides right? Wrong!
Most chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and pest poisons, are deadly to your birds. It is best
to avoid using such items around your coop, run, or anywhere that your birds range. Even if
you put out rat, or other rodent poisons were you are sure your birds will not get it, your birds
may find and eat the dead or dyeing rat, in which case the birds may ingest the poison that way.
If you spray weeds or grass around your coop, or anywhere that your birds range, they may eat
than it, and ingest the chemicals, which can cause illness or death to your birds. It is best to use
such chemicals sparingly and with caution around your flock.
Buying birds from unknown sources is very risky for many reasons. For one thing you don't
- Buying birds from an unknown source/dishonest breeder
know what you are getting. The birds may have health issues or carry deceases that may not
be apparent at first. Another reason not to buy birds from unknown sources is to avoid
dishonest breeders. While there are a lot of very good breeders with very high quality birds,
there are some that either are not knowledgeable about the birds they raise, or just plain
deceptive. For more on buying birds, read this article:
When adding birds to your flock, it is a good idea to quarantine them for a little while before
adding them to the rest of your flock.
Many people make the mistake of keeping chicks in a small brooder until they are well
- Overcrowding and/or overheating your chicks in the brooder
feathered out. This is a mistake for many reasons, for one thing, chicks grow very quickly, and
will outgrow a small brooder (such as a plastic storage tote) very quickly. The general rule of
thumb for how much space your chicks will need is a minimum of 1/2 a sq foot for the first
week, 1 sq foot for the second week, and than increase that every week by 1 sq foot. (keep in
mind that you can get away with slightly less space for bantams, quail, and other small birds,
and you will need slightly more than that for large birds such as turkeys and geese). No, this
does not mean that you have to give your birds a bigger brooder each week, but take in to
consideration before you purchase your chicks, how much brooder space they will need as they
Observing mother hens has convinced me that baby chicks do not need as much heat as we are
often told. I have seen many a mother hen out scratching with her chicks on 20F and 30F degree
mornings, and even one hen and her 2 week old chick out eating on a 5F degree morning! Don't
get me wrong, chicks do need to be kept warm, but they don't need to roast under a heat lamp,
all the time. Chicks out with a mother hen, would go out and scratch for an hour or two, and than
come and warm up before going out to eat and scratch again. As they get older, the time spent
out eating and scratching will increase. Chicks that are kept in a heated brooder all the time
have far less tolerance to cold temps, and often are poor winter layers. When setting up or
constructing your brooder, make sure that your baby's have a place where they can get out
from under the heat. Observe them closely and make sure they are comfortable. As long as
you are not getting temps 30F's or below, your chicks should be ready to leave the brooder
by the time they are fully feathered out.
This is a common mistake. Keeping birds housed in dirty, poorly ventilated, and dark coops
- Keeping birds in a dirty/poorly ventilated/dark coop
can lead to many health issues such as respiratory problems, mite/lice infestations, higher
susceptibility to frost bite, decreased egg production, and a host of other health issues and
deceases. Make sure to keep your bedding clean, and change it often. Make sure your coop
is well ventilated with plenty of air flow. Light is also important. Don't keep your birds cooped
up in a dark coop with out natural light.
Here are a couple articles on the subject:
Good, clean bedding is a must.
Your getting ready to build your coop. Chicken wire is the obvious thing to use right?
- Not predator proofing your coop
Unfortunately it probably is, but it is not the best thing to use. Predators can easily tear through it,
and carry off your defenseless birds. While chicken wire is good for interior use, and on coops
where predation is not an issue, it is not recommended for exterior use. Hard ware cloth (though
more expensive) is much stronger and safer. Keep in mind while building your coop, that almost
everything loves a good chicken dinner, so make sure your coop is VERY predator proof.
Note: Check out the ''Coop & Run: Design, Construction, & Maintenance'' section of this
forum for more on the subject of predator proofing your coop.
Overcrowding can lead to stress, cannibalism, feather pecking, and other issues. Chickens need
- Not buying/building a big enough coop
a minimum of 4 sq feet each in the coop, and preferably 10 sq feet of run space. Remember this
is a bare minimum, it is best to (if possible) at least double that size. Remember, there is no
such thing as a coop that is too big. You may plan on getting 12 chickens at first, but you may
want to add a few more in the future, so instead of rebuilding a new coop when your flock
expands, it's a good idea to build a bigger coop from the start.
Chickens are bred for many different purposes, such as meat, eggs, exhibition, etc. Before
- Not picking the right breed
buying your flock, decide why you want chickens. Do you want them for production? Pets? Meat?
Decide carefully on what breed(s) you want. For example if you want pets, don't buy a breed
known for being flighty. Keep climate in mind too, and pick a breed that does well where you live.
Handling your birds is also a good idea to get them accustomed to you
At one point or another you may very well end up with a sick or injured bird. When this happens
- Be prepared
you don't want to be caught unprepared. This is why it is good to have a first aid kit on hand.
He are some help links that will help you get a first aid kit started:
I hope this article helps you have a better experience with your birds! If you have any questions,
comments, or would like to add anything to this list, feel free to post below, or PM me.
Thanks for reading!
Common Mistakes Poultry Keepers Make (And How to Fix Them)
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