Weather you are keeping chickens for pets or livestock or both, at some point it might be scary to realize that one of them is sick. There are a lot of articles and postings that are able to help with most conditions your Flock can bring into your life. But if you are not familiar with what looks Healthy it could take a while to notice something is wrong and even longer to get help.
What I would like to do is just a quick walk through my regular health check.
I started doing this when my rooster Bean had what appeared to me to be a very harsh looking backside.
I felt terrible about this and he looked miserable. I ran into the house photo in hand and got right on BYC! Turns out he had Mites. red ones. I also found out all this could have been Maybe not avoided but certainly caught sooner If I had been in the practice of doing a regular health check. So now that you know why I do this, I will walk you through How I do it.
I do the health check at night when the Ladies have gone to roost.
I do this because in their almost comatose state I can just pick one off the roost and look it over real good and move right on to the next one. I should mention that I look in on them nightly when I close things up. This way I know if anyone has missed curfew and if pecking order is changing. I talk to them and pet them so they are used to me being in the coop with them.
I also had a problem with a rat once so now i go out to scare away anything that is not supposed to be there.
So lets begin first I look where everyone is and make sure they are not in uncommon places. Most if not all of my Ladies have a favorite sleeping spot, If they are on the floor in a corner or outside when they are usually in the coop I make a mental note.
Baby Bear is brooding so I make sure she is leaving the nest but going back after her mommy business is done.
I then start with the one farthest from the door and work my way to the door. I gently pick her / him up and look at their face real close. I make sure her eyes look clear and bright and that there is no goop in the eyes or nose .
I look at the comb and waddles for color and to make sure there are no signs of injury.
They should look Bright and feel kind of rubbery with they exterior feeling like an unburnt wax candle. Not dry or flaky. By doing a regular check you will get to know the color and feel of them so it will be easier to spot if something is off.
I feel the body starting at the neck and moving down the throat. At Roost time a chicken should have a full crop from foraging all day. It should be semi hard but movable like a water balloon.
I continue to feel down the chicken's body to make sure it feels smooth and meaty. I don't want to feel bones on my hens breast or something hard in the belly (with the exception of tomorrows egg) . I make sure to feel gently so I don't do any damage or restrict the movements necessary for her breathing. I don't want to harm anyone by just trying to make sure they are healthy.
I then check the legs, again I look for a good color with smooth laying scales.
I check the feet to make sure they are healthy no sores or scabs.
The spot on the top of Natalie's foot is mud.
I put the chicken back on the roost and check the backside and vent to make sure it is clean.
I look for signs of mites and to make sure there is no clogging, dripping or poo on them.
I shine my light on the roost as I move to the next one looking for little signs of pests or disease like tiny red bugs or rodent droppings, I once went into the coop and saw what looked like a hen exploded on the roost. She had laid a soft-shell egg right there, I don't think she even woke up to do it.
By spending just a few minutes each month I hope to be able to catch signs of illness early and it also helps me to know better if something doesn't look or feel right on each one of my Ladies.
Most of the visual inspecting can be done at feeding time or just sitting to watch them play.
It is important to handle your Flock. It is amazing how skinny a hen can get under her feathers. When you know what your Flock looks, acts and feels like when they are healthy. It will make for less confusion when you find something wrong with one of them.
You will be able to describe better what you think or feel is going on when you ask for help. Knowing or having an idea what is wrong will allow the friendly and knowledgeable people on BYC to help you figure things out more quickly.
A Healthy Flock has a Happy Flock-master.