I have already lost 2 hens. I could use some advise, recommendations from the more experienced.

Michael Propst

Songster
Sep 12, 2017
232
353
177
De Soto, KS 66018
Introduction

I am still new at raising backyard chickens and learning more every day, this community has been such a valuable resource for me and a true gift of loving, caring, knowledgeable, and helpful people as I have tried navigating raising my small flock of backyard chickens. I truly appreciate everyone here and the valuable feedback and information I have received so far. I would love all suggestions and recommendations on my living conditions, routines, and feeding. This is a bit long so for those that take the time to read it and comment or provide suggestions thankyou in advance. I am going to go over my entire history with my flock to include feeding and daily routines. I am also attaching as many pictures as this forum with allow to provide images of what I have and what I am doing. I am reaching out to this community because I need help. I have already lost 2 hens to disease/illness. I am putting allot of information in here so if you have any questions or need clarification please ask. I really want to be able to the best for my girls and keep them healthy and happy.

How I got started

I acquired my flock from my neighbors when they moved on July 29, 2017. With such short notice I had no time to do any learning and had to learn on the fly, mostly by mistakes and trial and error. I got 8 hens from them, 2 – White Plymouth Rocks (Lady Kluk, Dotie), 2 – Barred Plymouth Rocks (Rorschach, Matilda), 2 – Buff Orpingtons (Sadie, Omelet), and 2 – Rhode Island Reds (Dumpling, Gloria). The girls where hatched on March 13th and were 18 weeks old at the time I acquired them.

Health History

Basic health history of the flock since I have had them. I lost one of my White Plymouth Rocks (Lady Kluk) on September 12th when she was only 6 months old. At this point I knew nothing about chickens and did not know the signs that she was sick till it was too late. From research after her passing I have determined that she either had Gapeworm or a respiratory infection which caused her to be very hoarse when talking to me. This I believe spread into an intestinal infection. When I first noticed and knew for sure she was sick was about 5-6 days after I noticed her being hoarse and by this time she came out of the coop in the morning and had very bad vent gleet and a prolapse vent. I isolated her in my garage in a dog crate and was doing my best to treat her for the vent gleet and prolapse still not realizing that she had either gapeworm or a respiratory infection. I believe it was the respiratory problem that ended up taking her a few days later. Since losing Lady Kluk I spoke with my vets office I use for my dogs and cats and found out they have a bird specialist on staff, which I was thrilled to hear. After her death I found the BackYard Chickens forum and started reading allot, in addition I prepared for any future emergency and did purchased and acquired a few books. On October 25th I had one of my Buff Orpingtons (Sadie) fall ill. By this time I had bought a small prefab coop off of Amazon with the sole purpose of having to use to isolate a hen if needed or as a transition coop if I got any new hens. I immediately isolated her contacted my vet, got some labs done and an office visit, and posted a thread on byc for feedback and help, you can find it here: Newbie looking for help with Green and Yellow Poop. I never was able to determine exactly what the primary cause was for her illness, but after a few days of nursing and spoiling she appeared to make a full recovery and I was able to return her to the flock a week later. On December 8th I went out at lunch time to check mail. My girls all ran to me so I stopped by and grabbed a handful of grubs for them, I noticed Sadie was not present, a few seconds later I seen her walk from behind a storage bin the very low crouched. I ran and picked her up and she was trembling. I immediately carried her to the garage where I have my small coop, it was there she died in my arms. From the time I noticed her to death was less than 10 minutes. She was 9 months old. This was very sudden as she was seemed very healthy that morning. I called the vet and they had me bring her in for a necropsy. My vet called my back that evening with the results. Sadie had a fatty liver syndrome which resulted in Hepatic Rupture which caused her to hemorrhage internally. I also started a thread from this event: Hen (Miss Sadie) Suddenly Died. I am currently waiting on additional lab work to come back to determine if there was any other underlying factors that could have caused this or the illness 6 weeks early. Diet is always the first thing questioned but I do believe I am feeding a good healthy diet. I have made a few slight moderations since her passing, but nothing major. I hope to get some feedback when you read the feeding portion of this.

Living Conditions

Along with the hens I acquired the 4’x4’ hen house with 3 nesting boxes and the attached 9’x9’ run that my neighbors had built out of left over scraps from previous projects. What I inherited was rough and not well constructed. I have done allot to improve both the hen house and run.

Hen House / Coop
From doing some research here I have found that the hen house / coop they built was way to small for 8 hens (only 16 square feet). What I have found is that each hen should have 4 square feet in a coop. In the current coop I have installed 2 four-foot roost bars made of 2x4 providing at least 8 feet of roosting space and added some ventilation. I currently use pine shavings in the coop and keep the depth between 4-6”. To provide added space I am currently building a 4’ addition to add on and make the overall coop 4’x8’. Unfortunately, winter is coming quick and with the shorter days I will probably not be able to get the addition tied on until spring. I am not sure if this is real urgent at this point because from my observation the only time they are in the hen house is to sleep and lay eggs, once they come out into the run in the morning they seem to stay there until I open the gate for them to free range the yard. Even the other day it was at 15 degrees and they hung out in the run.

Run
On the run I added a canopy cover, upgraded the chicken wire to hardware cloth on the bottom 4’ and added more support, perches, grit/oyster shell station, feed station, a rope ladder, and created a predator ground barrier. I have also added plastic sheeting to the north, south, and west sides just for winter to keep the cold winds out, and have also added about 3” of soft straw to the run for the winter months.

Yard
The housing setup is within a 70’x100’ fenced backyard which they get to free range in. I have done plenty of reading on deterring predators (specifically airborne) and as you can probably tell from some of my pics I went nuts with hanging reflective things from the house and trees. There is an area under my deck they like to hang out when free ranging I have added a perch, feeder, waterer, grit, and oyster shell bowls under there along with making a little roof to protect when raining. I have also put down a 3-4” layer of soft straw over the rocks under there for the winter. That is my basic housing set up.


Daily routines

2 basic daily activity routines
One for when I am in the office working and one for when I work from home. I am fortunate enough that I can work from home a couple days a week. My hen house has a security door that during the summer months I leave open, since I have secured the run, but now in the colder winter months I have been closing it at night after they have put themselves to bed to keep lower level drafts out and conserve a little of the body heat for them. In the mornings between 5:30am -6:30am I go out and open the security door between the run and the hen house and take out their breakfast (I will cover feeding in the next section). Typically, at this time the girls will get up and come out and I spend a few minutes with them before heading back in. The area where the coop and run are located are with the 70’x100’ fenced area of my back yard. When I am home I wait until about 8:30am to let them out of the run and into the backyard to free range the remainder of the day. When I do this, I pull any leftover food from breakfast out of the run and put it under my deck because they love hanging out there during the day, I will also give them a handful of mealworms or grubs at that time. They get to free range the entire day anywhere from 4-6 days a week depending on my schedule. When home I typically eat lunch around noon and will go out and check on the girls the minute the backdoor opens the girls all run to the deck, I have gotten in the habit at this time to give them another handful of mealworms or grubs. On the days I am in the office I leave them in the run till I get home (I am over cautious of predators I don’t like to leave them out in the yard when I am not home to keep an occasional eye on them), but I do let them out as soon as I get home and they still get several hours out in the yard to run around. I usually try to get them put back in their run a 1 ½ - 2 hours before sundown. I prepare their evening meal (again will cover in next section). When I walk out they know what they are getting and flock to me. I get about 1 ½ cups of scratch and another handful of mealworms or grubs. They will follow me right into the run. I shut the door and put down the food and sprinkle the scratch and mealworms on the ground. I usually spend at least 20 minutes out there with them at this time, so I can look them over good make sure everyone is looking good and just talk to them for a bit. Once the sun is down and they have put themselves to bed I will go back out wish them a goodnight and shut the security door between the run and hen house. That is a pretty typical day. There are some days where I need to run errands and if I am going to be gone for more than an hour I will put them back up in their run till I get back at this time I usually use about ¼ cup of scratch to get them to follow me in easily.

Coop and Run Cleaning
The run and hen house get cleaned daily. I scoop the dropping from the run and hen house and put it in my compost, clean the water strainer, collect the eggs, and refill any scratch or oyster shell as needed, this also allows me to check their droppings daily for anything that may look abnormal. At this time, they also get a small amount of mealworms or grubs to keep them busy while I clean.


Feeding

Let me start by stating for the past 3 months I have had them on an organic non gmo diet. They receive no kitchen scraps. I purchase all of my feed, grains, scratch, oyster shell and herb blend from Scratch and Peck. All the feed and scratch I purchase is corn free as well. Here is a list of the products I get from them.

Scratch and Peck
· NATURALLY FREE ORGANIC LAYER Feed
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC HERBS (I blend this with their dry feed according to Scratch and Pecks recommendations)
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC 3-GRAIN SCRATCH
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD POULTRY GRIT
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD OYSTER SHELL
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD GRUBS
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC WHOLE OATS (I sprout these)
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC WHOLE OR CRACKED PEAS (I sprout these)
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC WHOLE BARLEY (I sprout these)
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC WHOLE WHEAT (I sprout these)
· CLUCKIN’ GOOD ORGANIC CRACKED CORN (Winter time additive)


All Day Feed
I have a hanging gravity feeder in the run which I keep filled with dry Layer Feed and herbs 24x7. I also have a small feeder under the deck where they spend allot of their time when free ranging that has feed in it as well. I have done allot of research and read where many people use diatomaceous earth in their feed once a month as a wormer/worm preventative treatment. I did start doing this 2 months ago, so once a month I take 9 cups of feed and mix in some DE and feed that till its gone and then go back to plain feed, and repeat monthly. Grit and Oyster Shell are made available in both the run and under the deck as well.

Mornings
In the morning I have been feeding some Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal and Muesli. I don’t give much I have been doing a ¼ cup of each adding some water and heating it up, I also add about 2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin (previously I was also adding organic yogurt and blueberries as well, I stopped the yogurt because I was starting to see loose stools and my vet recommended stopping the blueberries after Sadie passed to lower the amount sugars they were getting), and I also add 6-8 drops of Nutri-Drench Poultry Solution to the oatmeal mix. Also in the morning they get a little fermented feed. I just started exploring this about 5 weeks ago and using the Scratch and Peck Naturally Free Organic Layer. I have been fermenting ¾ cup of feed daily, which after fermenting for 3 days turns out to be about 2 cups. On the days that they are going to be in the run all day and not have the opportunity to free range as much I will put either some cabbage or romaine lettuce in a treat ball to give them some greens and entertainment during the day.

Evening
In the evening I have been giving them about 2-3 cups of sprouted grains (even portions of Peas, Barley, Wheat, and Oats), on this I have been sprinkling a bit of a herb blend I created (list below of what I have in it). In addition they get a vegetable salad with about 1 ½ cup of Taylor Farms Organic Power Greens, purple cabbage, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and a ¼ cup of Watts Brothers Farms Organic Mixed Vegetables, to the salad I add a sprinkle of my herb blend and small sprinkle of organic cayenne pepper. They get this meal when I put them in the run for the evening at this time they also get about 1 ½ cups or scratch and a handful of mealworms or grubs. (since Sadie passed I cut the scratch down to about ½ cup)

Water
For water I have a 2 ½ gallon heated waterer in the run and a 1 gallon or heated bowl under the deck. I change the water every Wednesday and Sunday. I dump the remaining, clean the containers, and fill with fresh water; to that I add 2 tablespoons of Braggs Apple Cider vinegar per gallon. I also started to use a probiotic once a month in the water, so once a month instead of vinegar I have been adding Big Ole Bird - Poultry Probiotic & Poultry Supplement on my Sunday changing.


My Homemade Herb Blend (all organic most from Frontier Co-op)
· Frontier Co-op Organic Mediterranean Oregano Leaf – 3 Cups
· Frontier Co-op Organic Parsley Leaf Flakes – 3 Cups
· Frontier Thyme Leaf Certified Organic – 3 Cups
· Frontier Basil Leaf, Sweet-domestic, C/s Certified Organic – 3 Cups
· Organic Whole Calendula Flowers (Marigold) – USDA Certified 100% Organic – 2 Cups
· Spicely Organic Garlic Granulates – 2 Cups
· Frontier Organic Cut & Sifted Stinging Nettle Leaf – 2 Cups
· Starwest Botanicals Organic Alfalfa Leaf – 2 Cups
· Frontier Bulk Comfrey Leaf, Cut & Sifted, Certified Organic – 2 Cups
· Frontier Natural Products Organic Horsetail Herb (Shavegrass) Cut and Sifted – 2 Cups
· Frontier Sage Leaf Rubbed Certified Organic – 2 Cups
· Healthworks Ginger Root Powder Organic Ground – ½ Cup


Feeding Overview

Available All Day
· Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed with Herbs (since cold weather has arrived I have been adding cracked corn to their feed at a level of 10% after losing Sadie I have reduced the corn down to 5%)
· Fresh Water
· Grit
· Oyster Shell

Morning
· ¼ cup oatmeal / ¼ cup muesli with pumpkin and Nutri-Drench
· 2 cups fermented feed (3/4 cup dry) (I had been adding about 2 tablespoons of cracked corn to this but since Sadie passed is just using the feed as is for fermenting)
· Head of lettuce, cabbage or some other vegies on days I am not home

Evening
· Vegetable Salad with my Herb blend
· 2 Cups Sprouted Grains with my Herb blend

Treats
· Mealworms / Grubs – 1 handful 2-4 times a day
· Scratch 1 ½ cups in the evening (for the cold months I started mixing in a small handful of cracked corn, I have since stopped until I know more about Sadie’s death)
· Homemade Flock Block occasionally.

A Note on Feeding. I have assumed my hens where self-regulating their food intake and not overeating as there are days that all the oatmeal is gone and days where more than half remains at the end of the day, the same goes for the fermented grains some days it is almost all eaten other days maybe only ¼ gone. They do always eat all the salad every evening and most of the sprouted grains (they typically leave some of the peas behind).

First Aid

After losing my first girl I realized the importance of having a Chicken First Aid kit on hand. When she got sick I was running all over the place trying to find and get things I needed, I was not going to be in that situation again. So here is what I have put together in my Chicken First Aid Kit

If you made it to this point thanks for reading this short novel. I just wanted to get this out there to get as much feedback and recommendations that I can. After Sadie’s sudden death to fatty liver syndrome I guess my primary concern is feedback and comments on diet. But feel free to leave me any an all feedback, it provides me and others the ability to learn from people that have been raising chickens much longer than we have. Also with the coop extension I am hoping to get 4 more chics and have fun raising them from day 1.

@Wyorp Rock
Wyorp Rock
 

Attachments

  • Coop-Extension-Project-1.jpg
    Coop-Extension-Project-1.jpg
    165.1 KB · Views: 26
  • Coop-Extension-Project-2.jpg
    Coop-Extension-Project-2.jpg
    229.3 KB · Views: 18
  • Coop-Extension-Project-3.jpg
    Coop-Extension-Project-3.jpg
    176 KB · Views: 17
  • Coop-Run-IsolationCoop.jpg
    Coop-Run-IsolationCoop.jpg
    425.4 KB · Views: 18
  • Deck-Under.jpg
    Deck-Under.jpg
    414.9 KB · Views: 16
  • Deck-Under-Hangout.jpg
    Deck-Under-Hangout.jpg
    341 KB · Views: 16
  • Evening-Sprouted Grains.jpg
    Evening-Sprouted Grains.jpg
    256.7 KB · Views: 16
  • Evening-Veggie-Salad.jpg
    Evening-Veggie-Salad.jpg
    278.3 KB · Views: 16
  • Morning-Fermented.jpg
    Morning-Fermented.jpg
    170.1 KB · Views: 18
  • Morning-Oats.jpg
    Morning-Oats.jpg
    264.3 KB · Views: 17
  • My-Herb-Blend.jpg
    My-Herb-Blend.jpg
    378.5 KB · Views: 18
  • Run-1.jpg
    Run-1.jpg
    459.4 KB · Views: 17
  • Run-2.jpg
    Run-2.jpg
    422.3 KB · Views: 17
  • Run-3.jpg
    Run-3.jpg
    380.4 KB · Views: 17
  • Treat-Ball.jpg
    Treat-Ball.jpg
    482.8 KB · Views: 20
  • Yard-1.jpg
    Yard-1.jpg
    548.7 KB · Views: 18
  • Yard-2.jpg
    Yard-2.jpg
    439.9 KB · Views: 17
  • Yard-3.jpg
    Yard-3.jpg
    504.7 KB · Views: 16
  • Yard-4.jpg
    Yard-4.jpg
    533.8 KB · Views: 17
  • Yard-5.jpg
    Yard-5.jpg
    545.7 KB · Views: 18
Last edited:

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Nov 23, 2010
33,948
29,804
1,117
St. Louis, MO
First let me say you are doing a lot of things well. Congratulations on that.
My one concern about feeding is that you may be supplementing too much of their feed with your morning and evening regimen.
Their chicken feed should make up about 95% of their intake as that has been assayed to insure it has all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats and energy in the proper ratios for hens your age.
When you add too many other things, you are throwing those ratios out of balance.

Congrats on finding an avian vet.
Here is your state poultry lab where you can send ill or dead birds for necropsy and lab work.
Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory


Kansas State University, CVM

L232 Mosier Hall, 1800 Dennison Ave

Manhattan, Kansas 66506-5611

Phone: 785-532-5650
 

Wyorp Rock

🐓 ❤ 🐛
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 20, 2015
44,811
66,407
1,412
Southern N.C. Mountains
Hi Michael:frow

Wow, you have thought a lot of things through! The addition to your coop will be great and I love the yard - your lovely ladies should be very happy.

@ChickenCanoe knows much much more about nutrition than I do. I agree you are doing well.
The only thing I would change is to limit the treats to no more than 5-10% of daily intake. Since your layer is around 16% protein, whatever "extras" are given dilutes that.
The salad, herbs and sprouts all sound very good to me, personally, I would cut down on the amount of daily scratch (which you have done).

There's nothing that you are giving them (to my eyes) that is bad - you may just want to "tweak" the amounts a little. The morning and evening "meals" that you currently provide would make fine "treats" - so you may want to only offer one of those daily instead of 2X.

Like I said in one of your other threads, it's so very tempting to get heavy handed with the goodies - mine are beggars for sure and we want to give them things that seem to make them happy (and us too).

Overall, I think you have a very good handle on things. I understand the heartbreak of losing them, so I think as chicken keepers we constantly re-evaluate what and how we are doing things. Sometimes, even if everything is done "right" you will still lose them.

I wish you all the best!
 

chickens really

Crazy Mother of Goats
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 8, 2015
62,657
109,186
1,657
The Funny Farm....Alberta, Canada
I agree with the other replies you have gotten..Everything your doing sounds good with exception to the daily feeding..I only feed my Birds grower with oyster shell in a separate dish...Once or twice a week they get a small snack of veggies or scratch grain..I have 7 large breed Chickens and toss out one whole apple for their Chicken soccer game...
Best wishes....
 

Michael Propst

Songster
Sep 12, 2017
232
353
177
De Soto, KS 66018
The salad, herbs and sprouts all sound very good to me, personally, I would cut down on the amount of daily scratch (which you have done).

There's nothing that you are giving them (to my eyes) that is bad - you may just want to "tweak" the amounts a little. The morning and evening "meals" that you currently provide would make fine "treats" - so you may want to only offer one of those daily instead of 2X.


My one concern about feeding is that you may be supplementing too much of their feed with your morning and evening regimen.
Their chicken feed should make up about 95% of their intake as that has been assayed to insure it has all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats and energy in the proper ratios for hens your age.
When you add too many other things, you are throwing those ratios out of balance.

Thanks both for the feedback. The ratio of feed to treat is something I am working on and trying to better understand. As a precaution since Sadie passed I have reduced the amount of oatmeal and salad and cut the scratch to about 1/2 cup. I have actually started weighing the fermented to get an idea how much of that they are actually eating daily.

One additional question I have is the definition of feed and treat. For instance I know the actual Layer Feed they are getting falls into the feed and I assume the fermented feed does as well since it is straight layer feed fermented for 3 days. I know the mealworms, grubs, oatmeal and salad would be considered treats. The one item I am not item I am not sure of is the sprouted grains, I have seen some controversy because of the nutritional value of sprouted grain on whether it is in the feed category or treat category.
 

Wyorp Rock

🐓 ❤ 🐛
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 20, 2015
44,811
66,407
1,412
Southern N.C. Mountains
One additional question I have is the definition of feed and treat. For instance I know the actual Layer Feed they are getting falls into the feed and I assume the fermented feed does as well since it is straight layer feed fermented for 3 days. I know the mealworms, grubs, oatmeal and salad would be considered treats. The one item I am not item I am not sure of is the sprouted grains, I have seen some controversy because of the nutritional value of sprouted grain on whether it is in the feed category or treat category.

That's a tough question - hopefully someone like @ChickenCanoe or @centrarchid can help give you more "specifics". I have never really looked into sprouting, so honestly cannot answer the question. For me, since mine are completely confined, IF I ever did provide sprouts, I would consider them a "treat". Anything that I give in addition to their normal, balanced poultry feed I consider that a "treat" - for instance, my get some type of fruit, greens, veggies everyday - those for me are "extras". Same with giving some scratch or sunflower seeds several times a week - I consider those "extras" as well.

You will find that each of us has a different view on what, how, where and when to feed - so take each answer into consideration, then find what really works for you.
 

Morrigan

Free Ranging
8 Years
Apr 9, 2014
3,091
12,323
702
N. California
Kudos for how much care and attention you are paying to their diets and living quarters. These are some very lucky chickens. A couple of thoughts.

-- I agree that your chickens diet may be a little treat-heavy. Although my chickens get a lot of things besides bagged commercial feed, I do limit what I'll call "high value treats," namely corn, scratch and mealworms. Although not per se bad, they are filling and your birds may be overeat on those. For comparison, I give my flock of 18 chickens two handfuls per day of a mixture of scratch, sunflower seeds and mealworms. I do consider whole grains (blend of wheat, oats, barley and sunflower seeds) to be part of their regular feed, and they make up about 30-40% of their diet. I serve those either sprouted or fermented with their commercial feed. That being said, one of the reasons I'm comfortable giving them so many grains is that their regular flock raiser feed is 20% protein, which is on the high side. Were I using a 16% layer feed, I would cut that back a lot. Depending on the time of year, my chickens also get a fair amount of garden weeds, yard bugs, and old produce. I have found that they seem pretty sensible in the amount of weeds and produce they consume -- they don't pig out on these like they do with scratch/mealworms. So, I wouldn't worry overly much about the greenery you are giving them.

--Sometime you can do everything right, and bad things still happen. So much depends on the individual genetics and plain old luck. Chickens get cancer, chicken find something to eat in the yard that isn't good for them, predators sneak in. Many, many chickens develop reproductive disorders as they age. All you can do is your best, learn from your mistakes and try not to beat yourself up when things aren't perfect.
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom