Scrawny Saved Chickens


In the Brooder
May 9, 2019
We adopted two Hyline Brown hens today and have them in quarantine before adding to our small flock. They don't seem to be sick, but given that they came from a huge flock confined to a small space, they are scrawny and look as though they've been picked on a lot (missing feathers). While they are in quarantine, what would you suggest giving them to help them recover, reduce their stress, and get them a bit healthier?

Aunt Angus

Jul 16, 2018
Nevada County, CA
Awww!!! Good for you! My next chickens will be rescues.

Lots of space, clean bedding, good food, water, love. They'll recover soon with the ability to just be chickens. Maybe NutriDrench in their water, if you want to offer supplements. Or healthy/high protein treats - just not too many.

Percheron chick

9 Years
Apr 12, 2013
Hudson, Colorado
Do you think Poultry Booster would work? Our local farm store & TSC don't have the NutriDrench.
Same basic stuff. Just reducing their stress level will be the biggest boost to making t hem look better. Not competing for food or status will turn them around. A high protein snack (meat, can of sardines, cat food...) will help regrow feathers.


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
What birds are you comparing them to? Hyland Browns are a commercial egg laying hybrid. They have been especially bred to to be scrawny. With their small bodies they don't need much feed to maintain their bodies. More of the food they eat can go to egg production instead. Just because they are "small" doesn't necessarily men they have been mistreated.

Are they laying eggs? Typically rescued commercial egg laying hybrids are sold at the end of an egg laying cycle. They have been laying constantly for over a year without a break for a molt. The change from where they were to where you now have them is often enough to put them into a molt regardless of the time of the year. If they haven't started molting kind of expect it to start before long. Those missing feathers may be the molt. I let my dual purpose hems molt every fall when the days get shorter. Even though it hasn't been over a year since their last molt some of them can be looking pretty rough just from normal wear and tear on their feathers. It's not surprising to me that their feathers look a bit rough.

Don't get too ridiculous about trying to up their feed and vitamins unless you determine there actually is something wrong. It won't hurt to give them some additional nutrition, electrolytes, or vitamins as long as you do it in moderation. Those commercial hybrids are especially bred to convert feed to eggs. If you overfeed them that can lead to egg laying problems. The eggs get larger and they still have that small body. That can lead to prolapse, egg bound, or internal laying. A hen is set up to release one yolk a day to create an egg. High protein levels can lead them to release more than one yolk a day. If those yolks are released at the same time you might get a huge double yolker. If they are released apart she may lay two eggs in the same day. They typically make enough egg components like egg shell for one egg a day. If they try to lay two a day the second one is often thin-shelled or even shell-less. These can break in the nest and make a mess or on rare occasions break inside the hen, causing medical problems.

This is why most Layer feed is 16% protein. It's what the commercial operations feed. Any higher protein and they can cause medical problems for those commercial egg laying hybrids. Our typical dual purpose hens aren't as delicate so we don't have to worry about that. The commercial operations don't feed 16% Layer to mistreat, abuse, or starve their chickens, it's to protect that highly tuned internal egg making factory so it can continue to pump out all those nice eggs.

Now that you have them don't kill them with kindness. Moderation is the key.

I expect them to molt and refresh their bodies pretty soon if they haven't started already. You will probably be really pleased with the eggs they lay once they start up again.

I knew a guy that would get rescue hens like you did, but he'd get ten at a time. He worked out a system where he would feed them through a molt, get a full season of egg laying, then he'd eat them. And he'd have another ten in rotation to start laying eggs.

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