newbie with a few thin hens - why?


11 Years
May 15, 2008
upstate NY
Yeah, ok, I know - because they're not eating enough!!

This is my first foray into chickens. I have 11 gold sex links, ten months old. One of the girls has been spending more time than usual on the roost this weekend. She's pretty friendly, and I was fussing with her today, and noticed that she feels awfully thin to me. She had food in her crop. She looks and acts fine. I gave her some food on the roost (it's a 2 x 4 with the edges rounded, so it's nice and flat to put things on), and she ate happily, but not like she was starving. I checked some of the other hens, that I could catch) and most seem fine but a few felt a bit thin to me. Now - the question:

WHY? If it was worms, wouldn't all of them be at least a little bit thin? Wouldn't they show other symptoms if the infestation was bad enough to make them thin?

It's been a very long and cold winter - could they just have burned all their energy to stay warm, and will plump back up now that the weather has started to warm up a bit? I don't know why, but four or five have had totally bare vent areas most of the winter - I'm talking huge areas of bare skin - four inches across and five or six inches from the vent down. It's not just the bare-bottomed ones who are thin.

I started to have a problem with cannibalism earlier in the winter, I upped the protein with oatmeal, yogurt, scrambled eggs, sunflower seeds, etc. A local grocery gives me out-of-date greens(it's a co op, and the stuff is organic so no pesticides, etc.). Could their diet be out of balance? I have cut back on the extra protein now the weather is better, and they are eating more layer ration now. should I just wait and see if the skinnies gain weight back?

Another possibility is that I have two accidental roos, who have started breeding more lately. I know it's too many roos for 11 hens, and am working on finding a home for at least one. some of the girls have bare areas on their backs because of the boys. Could that be causing the hen to lose weight? Is she spending too much time on the roost to keep away from the roos? She does come down, and the roos haven't been after her when I've been around, so I'm not sure that's it.

They don't free range, too many predators.

I'm out of ideas - should I worry, or just keep an eye on things?
Your high-protein and veggie offerings haven't provided much in the way of calories. The cold weather may have required a few more. Then there's the roos and pecking on each other . . .

I assume that they are laying - more requirements for nutrients, including calories.

You might go to the breed standards and with a scale actually see how they measure up. There's probably a lot of variability but it would give you more of an idea.

Don't know about the worm issue but I wouldnt go there until I was reasonably confident there was a problem.

Have you checked them for mites? check the vent area, the base of the tail, under the wings. Mites can suck blood and if left unchecked, can eventually kill a bird. They can lose weight from mites. They can lose weight from worms too. Have you checked the poo for worms?
Thanks so much for the suggestions...Checking the breed standard is a good idea, as long as sex links are listed. Though I assume they'd be close in weight to a RIR?

Yes, they are laying, all winter, and yes, I do keep layer feed out there all the time. I haven't seen any mites, (or worms in the poop) but will continue to check.

I know carbs don't help much for keeping weight on, but I thought the increased protein I've been giving them all winter would keep them at a good weight. I've cut way back on the scratch and bird seed, and am giving somewhat less oatmeal and black oil sunflower seeds. I don't want to cut out all the extra protein because they need to re grow all those that right? Should I be giving them something else to help them regain weight?

Thanks again for your help!
Hensonly, you have it a little turned around. Protein has calories but is not very efficient as energy. Sometimes fats come with proteins and critters can "burn" that but usually livestock feed has soy protein. The oil has been taken out of that soymeal and not much other than protein is left. So, energy and easily-used calories in feed usually come from cereal grain.

We feed young chickens a high-protein feed so that they will grow muscles. And, higher protein helps when the birds are re-growing feathers. Of course, they need protein as well as energy foods and if they need lots of both - making sure that there is very little fiber in their feed should help. No need for them to be loading up on wood shavings or anything like that

Cold weather is my good excuse for giving scratch. The birds need the energy. But, then they always have a 20% protein feed, free-choice.

edited to say: probably the ultimate high energy/high protein food would be a double bacon cheeseburger . . . hold the lettuce & onion.
Last edited:
I think your hunch about having two roos is probably correct. Any chance of splitting the flock or rehousing one of the roos? Layers are thinner than purebreds, usually. My sex-links are smaller than their RIR ancestors. They're nicely muscled though and maybe your girls are showing slight signs of stress from too much rooster involvement.
I believe Gold sex links pullets/hens average weight is 5 lbs and RIR pullets/hens average weight is 6 1/2 lbs.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom