I have been prompted to write this article due a sick pullet being brought to me this weekend by one of my customers.
The lady concerned had bought four pullets about a month ago and sadly one had escaped and a fox had killed it. Out of the three young hens that were left two had started laying and were doing fine but the third one had started to look poorly all hunched, fluffed up and inactive.
She had called me to ask my advice and during the conversation I had asked what she was feeding them. It came to light that they were being fed layers pellets but first thing in the morning her husband had been feeding them wheat as a treat first thing in the morning.
She brought the pullet to me so I could have a look at her and to see if I could make a diagnosis. The first thing I checked was her crop and there was a solid lump hard as a stone in there. The bird was very underweight and I could feel every bone in her body.
I asked her to leave the bird with me and I would try to save her. At the time I didn’t hold out much hope as she was very lethargic and could hardly move.
I mixed a small amount of veg oil with some apple cider vinegar ( poultry grade) and syringed a small amount down the birds throat I then left her for a while so the mixture could make it’s way down to the crop. Later on I gently massaged the lump for a few minutes and then locked her away for the night.
The following day I repeated the proceedure about five times and also put some apple cider vinegar in her drinking water. I put some layers meal and a small amount of mixed poultry grit in her feeder so that if she did eat something it was easily digestible.
Yesterday morning Mark went to let our girls out and to check on the poorly hen. He could hardly believe his eyes she was up and about strutting her stuff and complaining loudly about no food (we always take the feed out at night).
He put her layers meal down for her and she headed straight for it and started tucking in.
Later in the morning I had gone to do the main cleaning of the chicken quarters, fill the feeders and do the drinkers etc when I went into her pen to clean out low and behold there was an egg on the floor!! .I was absoloutly over the moon. She was definately on the mend and again today another egg.
The transformation in this bird has been amazing.
It is so important to feed young chickens correctly on a layers ration either mash/meal or pellets as it is easier for their digestive system to manage. It also holds all the nutrition that birds require to grow and have a long healthy and productive life.
Under 24wks of age they should never be given any feed containing wheat,maize,corn or dried split peas. The same applies to bread,cakes,crisps,or biscuits ( all chickens should never have these anyway regardless of age).
Grass needs to be short and be careful if using straw as nesting material or floor covering. Animal grade woodshavings are far safer.
All of the above can lead to an Impacted Crop which can then turn to Sour Crop which is what the poorly bird had suffered from.
We always advise all of our customers of what the birds should be fed on and why and even produce an information sheet for them to take home with them. But so many people it seems don’t listen or even take the time to read the information we give them. They then end up with problems and birds suffering because of it.
The owner of this bird had only ever had older birds including ex battery hens and assumed (wrongly) that is was ok to give her young hens wheat as a treat because her older hens had it.
As the other two hens were fine she had not considered it might be what she was feeding them causing the problem.
Some chickens digestive systems can cope better with hard feed like wheat,corn,maize etc than others so some birds will not suffer with an Impacted Crop. However young birds are more prone to it as their digestive systems are immature and the odd bird will be affected and very often they do not recover.
It would be the same as trying to feed a young baby solid food when it is only supposed to have milk. The effects can be severe, as choking is not the only hazard. The effects on the kidneys and liver can be very damaging too.
So please think carefully about what you are actually feeding to your chickens and is it really a treat if it makes them ill.