When you’re training yourself to spot illnesses in your birds, it can help to understand what the birds should look like when they’re in good health. This page gives information on how a happy, healthy hen will look and move.
Each day, it’s a good idea to give your birds a quick once-over. Illnesses can strike fast, and If your chooks are unwell you’ll need to act quickly, to get them the help that they require and to minimise their discomfort.
Healthy chickens will have shiny feathers, smooth leg scales, no wounds or discharge, a good gait, a healthy appetite and clear, bright eyes
Are your hens walking properly? Are any of them limping, or sitting down? Are their heads drooping? Are they panting or unresponsive?
Are their eyes at all crusty or runny? Do they have any cloudiness or discharge? Are the eyes nice and clear and bright? Do they have any scratches or sores? Is the beak intact, and in good condition? Is the top portion of the beak only just a little longer than the bottom, or is it too long and overgrown?
A chook’s comb should be nice and firm, and if the chicken is of an egg-laying age, it should be red. If your chook is too young to lay eggs, then their comb will be paler.
Is their body in good condition? Are there any scratches or scabs? Are there any lumps or swellings? Are they too thin – can you feel their breastbone?
Is there anything moving in your chicken’s plumage? Gently part your chicken’s feathers and examine their skin for bites and pests. Unless it’s moulting season, your chicken’s feathers should be shiny, and there shouldn’t be any unexplained bald patches. If your chicken looks untidy then there may be something wrong that needs investigating.
It’s important to check this each morning. It should be empty – if it isn’t, then it may be blocked. This will need attention.
- Legs and feet
They should be clean and healthy. If there are any cuts or scratches, you’ll need to check their coop and run to see if there’s anything that your chickens could be cutting themselves on. If you have a wooden hutch, it may be a splinter that’s hurting them. You should also check your chook’s legs. They should be smooth, and not too scaly. This can be indicative of the issue known as ‘scaly leg mite’.