Health checks, medium size flock

LCG Chicken Coop

Sep 18, 2019
Lafayette, CA
I'm using the term "medium sized" but I know this is all relative. I tend 17 chickens as part of my duty at our local Community Garden. As a novice "chicken tender" (fan of puns) I am going to incorporate weekly health checks on our young flock, which is about 10 weeks old. My question: what does one look for other than lice, mites, weight, feet condition, and general behavior? I should be holding them and feeling their crop and keel, checking for a clean vent...but can someone tell me what a normal young pullet's keel feels like--they all seem bony to me, but maybe they are perfectly normal. Their energy is good and they eat grower crumbles right now.

Anything else you would recommend? I do like to sit and observe them for 20-30 minutes just to see if anyone seems "off".

thanks in advance!


Crossing the Road
10 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
You definitely have the right instincts! Your idea to sit and observe is actually the best way to determine if a chicken may be having health issues. After a while, you will be able to discern the health of your charges subconsciously after watching normal behavior.

The behavioral warning signs that something may be amiss are a chicken standing off to the edges of the flock, not moving much, perhaps eyes are halfway closed, feathers fluffed up, head hunched into shoulders, and tail held low and flat.

If you see that, then you will know to examine that individual further, paying attention to the crop and weight, and any swelling under the vent. Look for swelling around the eyes, perhaps with a discharge. Inspect inside of mouth for sores or plaques. Pay attention to poops of such a chicken, and if the crop seems off, recheck first thing in the morning before the chicken eats to be sure the crop has properly emptied overnight.

You may see a chicken pecking at their feet or scratching at an ear, or holding a foot up against their belly. This indicates pain and discomfort and a possible injury. The tail held low and flat on a hen may indicate a painful reproductive issue.

There are also psychological issues that can lead to health issues such as being bullied away from food and becoming weak and lethargic. This is one reason why observing your chickens on a regular basis is so important.


Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
I examine my (15-20)birds off the roost at night, wearing a headlight to see.
They are much easier to 'catch' then. :lol: I'm too old to 'chase' chickens.
My roosts were designed for my easy access as well as their 'comfort'.

My birds are banded and I have a list to check off so that I get them all.
I have a chair to sit in and wear a long apron to form a sling between my knees to hold them securely on their backs and to protect my clothes for them standing on my lap.
Mostly it's just to look for bugs regularly or if there's a concern from observation that needs to be checked out. But I also just look/feel them all over for anything odd.

If a bird is way 'off' I isolate bird in a wire cage within the coop for a day or I can closely monitor their intake of food and water, crop function(checking at night and in morning before providing more feed), and their poops.

Best to put crate right in coop or run so bird is still 'with' the flock.
I like to use a fold-able wire dog crate (24"L x 18"W x 21"H) with smaller mesh(1x2) on bottom of crate under tray.
Then you can put tray underneath crate to better observe droppings without it being stepped in. If smaller mesh is carefully installed, tray can still be used inside crate.
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