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keeping chickens: all you need to know

Archive for the ‘eggs’ Category

Duramycin 10 and eggs

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

04/05/2010

Ever since we received a question about the use of Duramycin 10 to treat chickens we have received a steady stream of visits and questions related to Duramycin 10 despite the answer we gave to the original question stating that we have never used Duramycin 10 and knew nothing about its application or associated side-effects. Not that we mind, apparently no one else knows about it either.

Duramycin 10 is an anti-biotic commonly used in the treatment of animals. Because we live and keep our chickens in the UK where such medicines are strictly controlled, we cannot easily get hold of Duramycin 10 without first visiting a vet. It’s hard to justify prohibitably expensive vet bills when chickens are so cheep (excuse the bad pun).

This doesn’t help our international chicken keeping visitors who live in countries with much more friendly chicken keeping laws and who are seeking information about the practical application of anti-biotics to chickens.

After being asked how long eggs remain inedible after treating chickens with Duramycin 10 for the umpteenth time we decided it was time to find out the answer to this great chicken keeping mystery for ourselves.

Now you might think it would be easy to find out about such a commonly used medicine (at least commonly used everywhere except for in the UK where we have such silly medicine control laws), we knew the answer must be out there on the internet somewhere and exhaustedly we searched and searched (well Sandi did since she is the internet guru out of the two of us) but to no avail.

Despite finding the question posed in forums, on the Q&A sections of distributers and retailers of Duramycin 10, and even on the all knowing yet somehow unanswering mystical magical Yahoo Questions, we could not find a definitive answer.

In fact, the closest answer we could find to this great answered question of how long before eggs laid by chickens treated with Duramycin 10 become edible again was a blanket statement that the whole of the Duramycin distribution cartel seem to have agreed on ..

“It is recommended that this not be given to layers”

I think that by the time most chicken keepers think of asking this question, it’s too late!

So we needed to dig deeper! We teamed up with one of our international chicken keeper readers, Rene’e, who shared our deep desire to answer this question about chicken keeping that seems to have eluded the internet community thusfar.

Some research, and some small amount of time banging heads against a wall, we finally tracked down the contact details of a US based company who not only manufactured Duramycin 10, but also was willing to talk to us, or Rene’e specifically. Rene’e, being the kind, sharing, and generally helpful chicken keeper that she is, was good enough to forward the reply she received which read:

“You need to discard the eggs for 3 weeks (21 days) after the last dose of Duramycin 10.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. With thanks to Google, Rene’e, and Durvet (the manufacturers of Duramycin 10) we hope we have finally put this great unanswered question to rest.

My hen is bleeding from its vent

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Question
One of my beloved chickens has laid eggs over the last few days, that have had blood smeared on the outside of the shell. Yesterday, she laid and I noticed quite a lot of blood from her vent.

After reading on the internet, I have brought her in the house, cleaned her vent with warm water, used Vaseline around her vent. I have kept her in the dark since yesterday.

Today, she appears a little brighter, she has stopped bleeding, although the vent still looks sore. I have stopped feeding her layers pellets, she is drinking, and is pecking at a little corn.

My query is I don’t know what to feed her on, I have read it is wise to try and stop her laying for a while to give her chance to recover. How long should I keep her in the dark, and finally, is what I am doing the right thing for her. Jan

 

Answer
The action you have taken sounds all very sensible to me.

Although it is not uncommon for the odd egg to have a spot or two of blood smeared on the shell of an egg especially from chickens coming into lay for the first time or after an extended time of not laying (like over winter), you are quite right to worry about a lot of blood.

The action you are taking should reduce the amount of eggs laid significantly as well as reduce the potential size of any eggs laid. You should be careful of how long you keep her in the dark though as long periods without laying can open the door to other potentially fatal complications (like becoming eggbound).

You could try giving her a clutch of eggs and encourage her to become broody, this will give you 21 days or so of natural non laying time to hopefully recover. Some breeds are much more prone to broodiness than others so depending on your chicken’s breed might make doing this either really easy or close to impossible.

Hopefully yours (your hen’s I mean) is just a case of a few burst blood vessels which should heal quite quickly, however it could easily be a more significant internal injury or something much more serious. Have you noticed any broken eggs? Or particularly egg-yolky poo?

Chickens, particularly hybrids that have been bred for intensive egg production, are prone to internal “plumbing” related problems that can kill them.

I have always been impressed with my chickens’ abilities to recover from external injuries which I was sure would kill them. We had a cockerel who lost an eye a couple of years back, and just recently a hen who was attacked by a raptor ripping a chunk the size of a fifty pence piece out of her side, both made somehow miraculous recoveries. An internal injury might well be a different matter, but if your hen is still eating and drinking and is generally in good spirits I wouldn’t yet write her off.

Although most local vets don’t seem to know much about chickens, they can still sell you anti-biotics but they will need to see the chicken.

Why is my chicken waddling?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Question
I have four chickens which I purchased just over a year ago.

One of the black chickens (sorry do not know the bred), has never laid since I have had her.

I was told they were approximately 1 year old when I purchased them. The other three lay fine (except when moulting). Over the last 7-8 days the non layer has become very puffed up with her tail dropping down and walking stiffly she is not eating hardly anything and looking very sorry for herself with a mucky bottom. Linda

 

Answer
Thank you for your email. It sounds as if there is something fundamentally wrong with your chicken’s internal plumbing.

To help rule out certain conditions, it would be helpful to know if she has any abdominal swelling, if her abdomen feels warm in comparison to the rest of her and if it is hard or squidgy.

It would also help to know the colour and consistency of her droppings or if she has any white discharge from her vent.

 

Reply

I have today examined my girl and have not noticed any swelling or heat in her abdomen but to be honest I have not really studied the abdomen of a chicken before. What I did notice was that she was very dirty around the vent. I have managed to clean her up by washing her off. The substance I washed off was a yellowish very gritty substance and a lot of it. I have cleaned it all away so hopefully this will make her feel a lot better. I think the sheer weight of the mess was making her rear end low to the ground.

I don’t know if you have heard of this before but would appreciate any comments you may have.
Her diet is Layers mash with greens and the odd tip bit.  Linda

 

Answer
I hope very much that you are right about her change of stance and behaviour is due to her having a mucky bottom but unfortunately I am not so optimistic.

A few of the things you have mentioned in our correspondence point towards your hen suffering from a condition known as EYP (Egg Yolk Peritonitis). It is caused by a malfunction in the chicken’s normal egg laying procedure which causes the egg to drop into the abdomen instead of being laid. The build up of yolk eventually becomes infected and left untreated results in death.

The symptoms of EYP usually manifest initially with no eggs being laid, a pale and floppy comb and soon the chicken will change posture and waddle around more like a penguin or a duck than a chicken. Hens suffering from EYP will usually have yolky poos and the gritty substance you found could well be remnants of shell also being discharged. Their abdomen will become solid feeling and be noticeably warmer to the touch than the rest of the chicken.

Treating hens with EYP is possible if caught early enough and involves a hysterectomy which is expensive and renders the chicken useless commercially so it is uncommon to do so. Most cases of suspected EYP are diagnosed in the postmortem.

Rats!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

20/02/2010

The extended period of freezing weather that we experienced during a lot of January presented us with some problems that we had not encountered before, as the last few winters have been mild.

After a few weeks of ice and snow limiting their food supplies, the local rat population found itself rather desperate and became a lot more bold in invading sheds and the barn. It was common to see 5 or 6 scattering as we went in so a pretty harsh poisoning campaign was soon the order of the day.

We put 5 or 6 bait boxes down for the rats and placed them in all the rats’ favourite hidey holes – between stacked hay bales, behind the food bins and in strategic points that have high rat traffic. We replenished the poison on a daily basis, as it was taken every night, and after around a week we had made a significant dent in the population. The bait boxes are still down but very little, if any, has been taken for several weeks now. Read about making a rat bait box.

As well as heading for the comfort of the barn and sheds, the rats also took over the rabbit warrens in the hedgerow next to our chicken pens. We have treated these with poison too, but the lack of rabbits leads us to fear the local foxes will soon start targeting our chickens instead.

The heavy snow which arrived just after our last update lasted for over a week. It gathered on top of the wire roofs of the pens and caused quite a bit of stretching. The new movable chicken pens held up to it quite well, as the roofs were smaller and more taught, but our old permanent pen suffered badly as it has a large unsupported wire roof. We have since propped sagging areas of wire up with horizontal stakes but there are still some holes which need attention.

Other than the stretched wire, the cold weather has also meant that the chickens’ drinkers froze solid. As dehydration is a major issue for chickens, we had to ensure that water in other containers was provided every few hours.

Laying dropped right off for most of January, which meant we had to let down some of our loyal egg customers. It is the first time that we had only been getting just 2 to 3 eggs a day – their normal rates of laying in winter were more like 6-7. However, this is one of the consquences of keeping a flock of older chickens; most of them are now in their second or third years.

February has seen our 8 Black Rocks and Black Rhodes recommence egg laying and we are now getting 5 or 6 a day from them. Our 5 Warrens, who are actually a year younger than the Black Rocks, have hardly been laying at all since November, which is most disappointing. We do have some younger chickens coming through, 3 Barnevelder hens, who should start laying any day now. We also had our first silkie eggs this week, from our 9 month old pair of hens.

Why aren’t my young hens laying?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Question
I was wondering if you’d have any idea why the hen has stopped laying eggs. Have bout 10 hens and have them bout 8months or so but only 1 chicken was laying eggs but now she has stopped. The chickens are belonging to my brother and he’s not sure what breed they are because they bought at market and are novices at this, but are dark black/grey colour. They have 5 hens and 3 rooster in the same pen and 1 of the roosters is a silkie. They are bout 8 months old cause they bought them last May/June time.

As far as they know only 1 hen was laying and then this week when they went to cook some eggs his wife says that there was one of the eggs which she reackons should have been a chick cause the smell from it when she cracked it was rotten. Claire

 

Answer
It sounds like your brother’s chickens might be just a little too young to start laying, given the timings. Egg laying is very dependent on the time of year, and sometimes young chickens born mid-summer don’t start laying until the days start getting lighter again. I would think that they should start some time over the next month.

The lack of eggs from the one who was laying is probably down to her being a young bird who is just coming into lay. She should start up again soon enough.

Putting a fake egg in the laying box can sometimes give young chickens a bit of encouragement and also teach them the right place to lay so your brother might like to try this.

Alternatively, it could be that the diet they are on is not suited for egg laying. Whilst chickens can quite happily survive on corn and kitchen scraps, this is not the ideal diet for them. I’d recommend checking that your brother is feeding them layers’ mash or layers’ pellets ad lib, and only giving treats like corn later in the day, once they have had their fill of healthy food.

I would also ask your brother to make sure they have poultry grit available to them. This will help them to make eggs with strong shells.

Lastly, as a matter of their general health, they should be wormed regularly. Some wormers are monthly, whilst others are longer – it should say on the bottle either way.

Pretty much the only reason for an egg smelling rotten when broken is that it hasn’t been collected quickly enough. Eggs should be collected every day. Even fertilised eggs will keep for a good few weeks, as long as no chicken has been sitting on it. This is because the embryo will not progress unless it is kept at a constant warm temperature.

As a friendly word of advice, please also mention to your brother that unless he separates those cockerels who are currently living in the same pen, there will be blood come Spring. Whilst they may be getting along fine at the moment, they will become much more aggressive with each other as soon as it starts to warm up. One of our cockerels lost an eye due to an attack by another cockerel on the very first day of Spring but he could easily have died.

I’m sure the laying situation will sort itself out. As long as they have a good diet and are healthy, patience is all that is needed!

Point of lays start laying!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

25/06/2009

Our new Black Rhode hens all seem to be well into the swing of laying now, after a few false starts from one particular chicken who was laying “jelly” eggs with shells so thin they were squishy. They all seem to be finally sleeping inside the coop instead of on top of it, which is also good news.

Our Barnevelder cockerel, Legba, came down with something over last weekend and gave us quite a scare. He was fine on Thursday evening, but when we checked in on him on Friday, he was inside the coop and making awful bubbling noises when he was breathing. We think he may have caught a chill when he was keeping the new girls warm on top of the coop one rainy night.

He didn’t look great over the weekend either and we were quite worried, but on Monday he was suddenly back to normal. No bubbling breathing, no lethergy, completely healthy again! Phew. We had put some Solvit in his water, which might have helped him on his road to recovery.

How do I get yellower yolk?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Question

My Mum has kept hens for years and recently purchased 4 new hens. They are on good green grass all day and have hen food, lettuce, cabbage etc, but one of the yolks is very light yellow. We have never come across this before; they are always a good bright yellow. Is there anything we can do to get it darker yellow?  Trevor

 

Answer
Although a certain amount of variation in egg yoke colour is to be expected in any flock of chickens, you are quite right to query very pale coloured yokes. Very pale coloured yokes are often associated with some level of anaemia in the hen that laid it.

Anaemic eggs from chickens are most often the result of resources being diverted from egg production to other activities, usually in the form of a parasitic infestation but can also come about during moulting or times of stress.

Generally speaking a parasitic infection will effect your entire flock of pet chickens, so it is unlikely that just a single chicken will be showing symptoms, however I would still recommend worming them and checking for mites (particularly red mite).

If there are no signs of parasites, and the problem continues, try to identify which chicken is responsible for the suspect eggs. Once you know which chicken it is you should be able to more easily diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly.

I’ve listed a few scenarios that may be relevant to you along with some suggested remedies.

Bottom of the pecking order

It is not uncommon for the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order to be experiencing both increased stress and increased feather loss due to their social status. Both these factors can impact egg production and quality leading to anaemic eggs.

This can be treated across the whole flock with some anti-peck and anti-stress treatments that should be available from your local agricultural shop, or alternatively you can source online from here.

Diet

Diet is also a factor when it comes to egg production. I am assuming from your email that the chickens you have are all the same breed, if they are not however, you should bear in mind that different breeds have different dietary needs.

Egg producing hybrids such as Black Rocks or ISA Browns require layers mash with a higher vitamin level than traditional pure breeds such as Marans, Leghorns or Sussex. If the mash you offer to your birds does not contain sufficient vitamins for the breed you are keeping, it will result in smaller eggs and an increased chance of anaemic pale-yoked eggs.

You can remedy this by switching to a chicken feed with a higher vitamin level. I’d also recommend paying particular attention to the best before date on any chicken feed that you buy because the vitamin level will diminish over time.

Greediness

Although it might seem as though your chickens do little else all day but eat (and occasionally take dust baths) this is not 100% accurate. A chicken’s crop is only so big and it is not uncommon for a chicken, greedy blighters that they are, to fill up on what they perceive to be the most tasty morsels that you offer them, leaving little or no room for boring layers mash which contains all the goodness they need to be healthy and productive chickens.

This type of behaviour is typical of a chicken towards the top of the pecking order.

To ensure your chickens diet is healthy I’d suggest that you withdraw titbits and treats for a few weeks and see if this improves yoke colour, and make sure that future treats and titbits are rationed to that they do not become an alternative diet to a staple and balanced food source.

I would like to point out however that every chicken is different, and as a result of years of selective breeding (or in many cases inbreeding) it is not uncommon for highly intensive egg producing breeds to have underlying plumbing related health problems that you can do nothing about.

If despite all your efforts the pale coloured anaemic eggs persist you will just have to accept that one of your chickens lays dodgy coloured eggs, in this case I’d recommend not breeding from this bird so that the genes are not passed on to your next generation of chickens.

Would worms affect chicken eggs?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Question

Hope you can help me! Today when going to feed my chickens (I have four) I found one chicken with something hanging from its bottom and then it passed a load of worms I quickly got rid of them as the others were trying to eat them,I will purchase some worming powder today but I was wondering if worms will affect the eggs and can they affect humans? Many Thanks! Julie.

 

Answer
It is not unusual to discover that your chickens have worms in this way. In fact keeping an eye on what comes out of your chicken can help you judge your bird’s state of health and wellbeing. A level of worms, and in fact most parasites, is to be expected in free range poultry, the important thing is not to let the level of infestation get out of hand.

Worming chickens is very easy to do as most medications can be applied directly to their food or drink, I opt for the latter since I find calculating the correct dosage easier with a measured bucket.

Some wormers (but not all) will render eggs unfit for consumption for a few days after application, and vary to the dosage required, so always be sure to read the directions thoroughly. It’s worth keeping track of when you worm your chickens, with a regular worming schedule you will protect your pet chickens from further worm infestations.

The worms themselves can inhabit humans, and though they will not affect an egg directly, microscopically small worms or their eggs might hitch a lift on a chicken egg laid by its host and be transferred to humans who handle the egg. If you think you have worms you should probably worm yourself too, human wormer can be bought from any good chemist in the UK.

Because parasitic worms live off the host’s resources, you should not be surprised to see a drop in egg production. Once the level of infestation subsides, you can expect egg production to get back to normal.

There are a few good practices for reducing the chances of worms in your poultry that are quite simple to take:

  1. Keep where your chickens roost and lay clean.
  2. Keep food and water away from where your chickens sleep.
  3. Move food and water regularly so there is not a build up of faeces.
  4. Rest ground that has had chickens on it for at least 2 months – this should break the worm life cycle.
  5. Do not mix old birds with new birds without worming the old flock first.
  6. Regularly worm your chickens.

If you keep organic chickens there are a few home grown remedies such as mixing cider vinegar to your chicken’s water which apparently raises the acidity to a level that will force the worms to eject without affecting your birds, or mixing hot spices, such as cayenne pepper with your chicken feed. I have not tried these methods myself, so cannot vouch for their effectiveness.

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