How to Revive a Weak Chick and Keep it Healthy

revive a weak chickTwo days into a recent hatch and I had to revive a weak chick and then another! The hatch was sporadic. We had eight broody hens. There was no schedule to the hatch. The eggs were started sporadically and I was out of town. While I was away, new eggs were gathered! It was a bit out of control. One hen out of the eight allowed me to move her to the nursery. The other broody hens had a fit about being moved and so I put them back in the coop where they continued to brood. I continued to try to monitor and save any chicks that hatched, before they were harmed by other flock members. Who said it was easier letting a hen hatch out eggs?

Disclaimer

Before I go any further in my methods of how to revive a weak chick, keep in mind that I am sharing what worked for me. I am not advocating or giving any guarantee that my methods will save your chick’s life. Also, I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box, and using what is available at that moment. My methods might be a little controversial to some who prefer to follow strict guidelines. 

What do Chicks Need After Hatching

If you have a broody hen, she will take care of all the chick’s needs. Broody hens can take care of quite a large brood. Tucked under her wings, the chicks are snug, warm and dry. She encourages them to eat and drink throughout the day, while looking out for their safety. Pasty butt is rare in broody raised chicks because the hen knows what to tell the chicks to eat. 

Chicks raised in a brooder have a bit of a harder road. No matter how closely we observe for problems, issues can arise. Pasty butt, chilled chicks, spilled water, and aggressive chicks can wreak havoc. Most of the time things go well, but there are times we need to intervene. Chicks need warmth, dry bedding, and food and water they can easily access. Chicks that are stressed by the environment cannot thrive.

My recently hatched chicks were a few days behind the other three. The broody hen wanted no part of adopting the last hatchlings. So into the brooder they went. I use the warming table style heaters. All the chicks had access to water and food, with clean bedding. But  the last two chicks that hatched, weren’t strong. They stopped eating and drinking within 24 hours of hatching. I needed to try something or they would die.

revive a weak chick

First step 

Always make sure the chick is warm before trying to give food or water. I held the chick in my one hand while completing chores with the other.  Next, I tried some Nutra-drench product for poultry because I had it available in the barn.  I mixed it in a bit of water and used a syringe to let drops fall on the tip of the beak. The chick was interested and started to open it’s beak for the water. If you do this, also make sure the chick isn’t getting wet from the drips. 

As I was feeding the barn cats I had an idea. By now the chick was looking really weak despite the water. The bits of canned cat food looked like something I could try to feed the chick. At first the chick wouldn’t open it’s beak for the food. Then it took a bite. And another! Then it took a big bite. I gave it a few minutes to settle. I continued to give bits of wet cat food and after a few minutes more, the chick was struggling to use it’s legs again. It was reviving!  The eyes reopened and it chirped. How about that!  

revive a weak chick

Other Options to Use When You Revive a Weak Chick

Now, as I said in the disclaimer, this is a last ditch effort. I don’t think chicks should routinely be fed cat food products. Cat food is high in protein, and the canned food is high in water. Both of these were good for the chick short term. If I hadn’t acted quickly, I am not sure that this chick would have lasted while I prepared something else or If I had driven to a store. A good reason to have some ideas on hand, in the barn or feed shed. 

More Ideas to Revive a Weak Chick

Warmed plain yogurt

Scrambled egg

Hard boiled egg chopped tiny

Molasses water – Molasses also contains other nutrients 

Make a mash or tea of fresh herbs that contain Vitamin E such as Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme

Sugar water *use very short term. Too much sugar can lead to pasty butt

Nutra-drench product

Poly-visol infant vitamin drops without iron –*This also helps with wry neck which is a result of Vitamin E deficiency. You can read more on Wry Neck syndrome here.

The important thing is to get some nutrition into them and get them over the hard part. After 24 to 48 hours your chicks should be back on chick feed and able to cope well. You may need to assess when to return them to the brooder with the other chicks. 

What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

The best case scenario is a small number of chicks, transferred to a waiting brooder. They stay warm and within a short time, find food and water. The weaker ones learn from the bolder stronger chicks and all do quite well. But sometimes, chicks need some TLC to get past the initial days. They may have become chilled at some point and become too weak to get to the food. They may be not as strong and easily trampled by the other chicks. Once they are knocked down, it may be too much to struggle back up on their feet. 

If possible, raise the weak chick with another non-aggressive chick for company. Chicks all do better with at least one friend in the brooder. 

revive a weak chick

Of course, we all want a good outcome and it is often a matter of timing. Do what you can to observe the chicks and help with some TLC if you see a weak chick. When you revive a weak chick, it is a rewarding feeling. I hope these ideas will help you if you have a need to revive a weak chick. Please leave your own remedies and ideas in the comments.

revive a weak chick

 

 

 




How to Make a Hen Saddle or Apron

hen saddleWhy is your hen wearing a dress? This is a question I hear if I put the hen saddle on a chicken. The hen saddle protects the chickens back and feathers from the treading of a rooster. I have also heard these called hen aprons.  If you don’t keep a rooster, you may not ever need the protection of a hen saddle. Making the hen saddle is an easy DIY project. First lets look at why the hen saddle might be necessary.

Observing chickens mating can be disturbing if you haven’t seen it before. Roosters are not gentle when they mate. The hen submits by crouching down. The rooster jumps on her back and treads his feet into her feathers to gain his balance. The actual mating is quick and both hen and rooster shake their feathers, walking off to continue foraging. The rooster may go from one hen to the next in quick succession. And if you have more than one rooster, the boys may have their own idea of which hen belongs to each of them. Roosters must have a different idea of what courtship should look like! 

How Does Feather Damage Happen?

Rooster feet are large and the talons are sharp. In addition, the spur may be quite long. All of these structures are digging into the back of the hen while the rooster is mating. Feathers are meant to protect and fluff. They can not always withstand repeated abrasions. The mating behavior can cause the hen to loose her back feathers. After the feathers fall out, the hen is still a willing victim in the mating game. Now however, the skin on her back will take the wear and tear. Some hens seam to  have a lighter feathering and lose their feathers quickly. Some manage to keep a downy covering.

hen saddle

In addition, sunlight will burn the tender skin on the hen. This can’t be healthy!  

Use a Hen Saddle to Stop the Feather Loss Before it Happens

The first sign of feather loss starts near the tail of the hen. Look near  the tail feathers for a downy look instead of feathers. If it’s not molting season, you probably are seeing feather loss from mating. Molting usually starts in late summer and is over by the time cold weather hits. Nature intended it this way. The new feathers and downy undercoat are ready to insulate the chicken through the colder weather. Read more about molt here. 

hen saddle

Rooster caused feather loss is usually seen in the spring. Mating season begins as the days lengthen. Look for feather loss at this time and think about using a saddle to protect the hen.

Using a hen saddle will protect the feathers before they fall out.  If you don’t want to sew a hen saddle, there are many options for buying them. If you can sew a simple pattern together, you may enjoy stitching up a few to protect your hens. 

The hen doesn’t seem to notice she is wearing a saddle once it is on her. Depending on the temperament of the hen, she may object to being caught and held while you dress her. After the saddle is on correctly, the wings fold over most of it and they rarely seem to bother with it. 

Occasionally the saddle will roll up the hen’s back. Flip it back down and when she adjusts her wings it will cover it up again.

hen saddle

When to Use the Hen Saddle

The hen saddle does a great job at protecting the hen’s tender skin during mating season. As late summer approaches, the roosters should be less active, and the molting process will begin.  At some point during the molt, new feather growth will begin. At this point, remove the hen saddle so it does not interfere or abrade the new feathers. If there is still an over zealous rooster, that must stay with the flock, you may need to play around with the timing of taking the saddle off. In some cases, putting the hen saddle on during the day and removing it at night, might be the answer. 

Save for later!

hen saddle

 

How to Make a Hen Saddle

Using the pattern provided, or make your own, cut two from cotton fabric.

 Cut a piece of elastic 12 inches long. 

(I used two contrasting “fat quarters” which can be purchased where ever quilting supplies are found. Two fat quarters will make 4 hen saddles. Of course, you can use an leftover cotton fabric you have on hand,too.)

Place the two pieces of the hen saddle, right sides together.  

Stitch the two layers together, leaving the opening shown, unsewn for turning. Use a quarter inch seam allowance and clip the curves to make turning easier.

Turn the hen saddle to the right side by pulling the saddle through the opening. Smooth and press the saddle.

Turn the opening raw edges to the inside. Press. Fold over the top for the elastic casing. Sew to the body portion at the top, making a casing for the elastic band.

Insert the elastic band through the casing.  Attach to each side of the hen saddle, stitch in place. If you are having trouble threading the elastic, attach a safety pin to one end to push through the casing.

hen saddle

Show your creation to your hens! I am sure they will all want to wear the latest fashion statement!

hen saddle

Hen Saddle in Action

Are you wondering how in the world you will get your new hen saddle onto the chicken? Watch this video as I apply the hen saddle made in this post, to one of our buff Orpington hens. It seems my buff Orpingtons are especially prone to feather damage from the roosters. Maybe because they are a docile breed and don’t run away from him as quickly!  


 

Print the Pattern and Instructions

Print here

2017_05_13_14_41_43 hen saddle




10 Signs You Have a Broody Hen

broody henThis is broody hen season. What is a broody and how do you know you have one? The spring weather brings on the urge to set on eggs and hatch out a clutch of chicks. If the eggs have been fertilized by a rooster, in approximately 21 days from when the hen finishes collecting her eggs and begins to set on the eggs, you will have cute new chicks!

I  specifically bought bantam Cochin chicks, because they are often serious broody hens. We ended up with six hens and 5 roosters, although only one rooster lives with the six hens. First only one hen began broody hen behavior. Before long, all the hens were setting on eggs. Some were co- nesting. Others were sitting on top of other broody hens. It was getting a little crazy in the hen house! 

Signs that you have a Broody Hen

Some of the following symptoms and signs may occur when you have a broody hen. 

  1. Reluctance to get up off the egg or eggs in the nest

  2. Sitting in the nest even when there are no eggs

  3.  Pecking your hand or biting you when you check for eggs underneath her.

  4. Chest and belly feathers are missing.

  5. Comb and wattles are pale

  6. The broody only leaves the nest once or twice a day, and quickly returns after a quick bite and drink

  7. Broody poop.  It is unusually large and extremely smelly!

  8. Hen is very flattened out on the nest. I am impressed with how flat a hen can get while covering eggs. When picked up, she may refuse to put her feet down.

  9. Very little food and water are consumed by the brooding hen.

  10.  Broody hen clucks softly to her chicks as they get close to hatch day.

It’s fun to watch the broody hen and her intense concentration, as she waits for the big day. Things can get crazy though when you have a few hens trying to hatch eggs and each thinks she should have all the eggs. I noticed that our broody’s eggs were being taken by some or all of the other hens. They were semi broody, but no where as serious as the first. 

broody hen

Moving a Hen to the Nursery or a Private Area

In order to hopefully have a successful hatch, I could see that our first broody of the year would have to be moved away from the other hens. Eggs were being broken, the nests were becoming sticky and dirty, and this was not a good situation for hatching chicks.  Many people use a dog crate for a hen to live in while she broods. This is a great idea. There is often enough room in the dog crate for a small water and food of her own. Or you can use a smaller crate and let her out twice a day to get food and water and relieve herself.  The crate keeps the eggs safe from other hens and the rooster. It also gives the chicks time to hatch without being attacked by other chickens.  

broody hen

If your hen is upset because you moved her away from the flock or put her into a crate for nesting, try making the move when she is asleep. Carefully removing the eggs to the new nest area in the crate, then getting the broody hen and placing her on the eggs. Doing this while it’s dark, may be successful.  

After I moved the first broody hen to her own apartment, the other hens settled down to brooding eggs too. They didn’t leave each other alone though. Most days four of the hens would be setting on a communal nest of eggs. At this point, I am letting them co – brood.  If egg stealing and breakage starts to occur again, then another crate will be set up. 

broody hen

Nutrition for the Broody Hen

During the brooding time period, your hen won’t eat as much food as usual. This fact makes it even more important that she eat a quality chicken food. Supplement with tasty treats to encourage her to take some food. A soft scrambled egg, meal worms, chickweed from the garden, are all interesting tasty treats. You want to do what you can to keep the hen in good condition. 

What About When A Broody is a Bad Mother Hen?

I wasn’t quite prepared for what was happening in another coop this spring. The hens were broody and not a breed known for broody behavior. But three hens were serious and kept setting.  They would set on one egg, three eggs, no eggs, and kept jumping from one nest to another. They proved challenging and would not nest in a lower location. All three insisted on brooding in the highest nest boxes. I wasn’t sure how that would work out once the chicks hatched.

It turned out that not only were these hens making questionable choices in nesting locations, they also chose to leave the newly hatched chicks behind, leave the nest and go set on a different nest box of eggs. Luckily we check our coops a few times a day and the chicks were found and taken to a brooder. I didn’t expect this behavior from a broody hen!

broody hen

Broodiness Interrupts Egg Production and Collection

Even hens that do not have a rooster in the flock can go broody. The only problem is, if the eggs aren’t fertilized, they won’t develop.  If you want to hatch chicks under a broody and you don’t have a rooster, you can order hatching eggs from someone who does.

Broody hens don’t lay eggs, and they may discourage other hens from using the nests, or even coming into the coop. Some broody hens are quite mean when they set on eggs. The disruption can leave you with less eggs than you normally collect every day.  Also, the broody moms would collect all the new eggs every day leaving us with no eggs!

Here’s how I worked around this problem. One day I decided to mark all the eggs that were being set at that point. Each had a mark put on them using a sharpie marker. Any other eggs that did not have the mark, were new and could be collected. We aren’t collecting as many eggs as before brooding began, but at least we can pick up the new eggs each day.

broody hen

For some, not getting as many eggs is an issue. It’s ok if you choose to not have your hen brood.  In the past, I have chosen to break my broody hens of the urge, instead of letting them set on eggs. We needed eggs more than we needed new chicks at that time. 

Enjoy!

broody hen

Brooding chicks from your own flock is an interesting and exciting adventure. Watching the hen teach the new babies how to find food and drink, and then cuddle under her wings to warm up, is very sweet reward for taking good care of the broody momma. Many would argue that this is the best part of chicken farming!

 

broody hen

 

 

 

 




Keep Your Chicken Coop Smelling Fresh

Keep Your chicken coop smelling freshHere are five quick tips to help you keep your chicken coop smelling fresh.  If your coop makes you hold your breath when you go in to collect eggs, think about how the chickens feel!  It’s not too hard to keep the coop clean and fresh, if you do a little bit of cleaning every few days.  I am listing a few important basics for you.

Keep Your Chicken Coop Smelling Fresh with These 5 Tips

1.  Water and moisture are not your friend.  If you slop or spill water when filling the water founts or bowls, the moisture will mix with the droppings and create a bad ammonia  odor.  The best way to keep this from piling up is to clean up any spills as they happen. We had to switch to a fount style waterer instead of a bowl  because we had one duck in with the chickens and she thought we were giving her a small swimming pool each evening.  Mrs. Duck could still get enough water to dip her bill in with the water fount.  And there was less mess to cleanup in the morning. Now that the ducks are housed separately, we have returned to using the flexible rubber feed pans for the water bowl in the chicken coop.

2.  Install a box fan to keep air circulating.  Stagnant air smells bad and the flies will accumulate more in a stuffy airless building.  Running a fan, even on low speed, will keep the flies, and the odor to a minimum.  Not to mention that it keeps the coop from becoming too hot, also.  We hang an inexpensive box unit over the coop doorway.  You can read more about that here, in my heat stress post. Installing a fan is one of the easiest ways to keep your chicken coop smelling fresh.

3.  Use fresh herbs and rose petals if you have them, in the nesting boxes and in the sleeping areas.  Not only will the herbs and petals smell great, the hens will appreciate the yummy treat. Mint is another great addition and it will help repel pests too.  Check out more about using herbs in your nesting boxes.  Another good source for chicken information is  here’s a link to a great post  about using herbs in your coop.

4.  Every few days or once a week, clean out any bedding  that is soiled or damp.  We use hay or straw  in the nesting boxes.  Straw is preferred because it is low in moisture, which is optimal for keeping odor at a minimum.  Occasionally we have to use hay because we are out of straw.  I try to use the driest hay bale I can find that is not dusty or moldy.  The chickens will track in some wet mud, or occasionally an egg breaks, in the nests.  The bedding is thrown out in the chicken yard for them to peck through before it is added to the compost pile.  Sprinkle some Diatomaceous  Earth powder under the fresh hay or straw to absorb moisture and odors.

5.  Two or three times a year, completely clean out the bedding on the coop floor.  Sometimes we use the deep litter method of coop bedding. This means that we continue to add fresh bedding or shavings as needed to the coop and only remove the damp/wet or soiled bedding on the floor as needed.  In the winter this adds to the warmth of the coop by keeping the decomposing litter and feces in the building.  Decomposing matter creates heat.  We keep less litter and shavings in the coop during the hot months of summer to keep it cooler.

Keeping chickens happy and smelling good is not a full time job and doesn’t need to be.  Maintain a dry environment and you will be able to keep your chicken coop will be smelling fresh. 

 

keep your chicken coop smelling fresh

**Updated 4/28/2017 from the original post written 6/25/2013


Keep Your coop smelling fresh

 




Marek’s Disease Symptoms to Watch For

marek's disease symptomsMarek’s Disease symptoms are caused by a particularly strong herpes virus. Marek’s Disease can be found in the environment. The usual symptoms involve the nervous system, eyes, skin and other organ systems. A strong variation of the disease shows tumor growth. Marek’s Disease is mainly seen in young chicks and older chickens. Chicks and chickens with Marek’s Disease can show a complex set of symptoms or be totally symptom free.

Marek’s virus is transmitted two main ways. The virus can be transferred by fecal droppings and by feather dander. 

Some symptoms of Marek’s disease can be mild and vague, some can be severe and deadly. Paralysis can occur, along with sudden death. Since Marek’s disease attacks cells that produce antibodies, the immune system is at a disadvantage. You may find that the chicken also succumbs to coccidiosis or another pathogenic, opportunistic organism found in the environment.

In Gail Damarow’s book, “The Chicken Health Handbook“, she notes that Marek’s is likely carried by most chickens. The virus can lay dormant for long periods of time. Stress factors can weaken the chicken’s immune system. After that, the virus is able to activate and further debilitate the already stressed bird.

marek's disease symptoms

Marek’s Disease Symptoms after Stress

Chickens with Marek’s Disease symptoms may have had an added stress in their environment. Some stress factors that can cause the virus to become active are:

Upset routine – Chickens, like most animals, prefer to have a schedule. They do better when they are fed around the same time and the same routine used for their care. Whenever possible, try to care for the flock consistently, every day. When someone is filling in for you with the care, go over the routine, so that the chickens have as much stay the same as possible.

Coming into Lay– When a pullet first begins to lay eggs, she may feel stressed. Some pullets will sail through this change as if nothing is different. Others may require more solitude, quiet, and take a long time to relax and lay the egg.

Bullying– The pecking order squabbles are a fact of life in any chicken flock. It’s natural and usually is sorted out without humans intervening. Occasionally, a chicken may be a real bully though and find a victim to really stress out. When this happens, your victim may become ill from the stress. Marek’s disease symptoms can flare from the stress. 

Stress Factors That are Easily Controlled 

Crowding – Too many chickens in the coop or brooder can cause stress. The crowded conditions can also lead to bullying and pecking order disputes. 

Dirty Coop/Poor Ventilation – A filthy, fly or rodent infested coop is definitely a stress factor. In addition the ammonia odor build up from poor ventilation is likely to make the chickens sick. Once the chickens are sick, the Marek’s Disease symptoms are more likely to flare up also.

Worm overload – If your chickens have any other illness producing factors such as coccidiosis, E.coli, Salmonella, or any type of Rhinovirus, they are already weakened. Intestinal worms weaken a chicken’s body by preventing it from obtaining good nutrition from the food. Some intestinal worms can cause anemia. All of these issues are going to leave the door wide open to a Marek’s Disease symptoms flare up. 

marek's disease symptoms

Prevention of Marek’s Disease Symptoms

Newly hatched chicks have a very short term immunity from the hen. Chicks that aren’t vaccinated run a very high risk of having Marek’s Disease symptoms.  Many hatcheries offer the vaccine as an additional service when you order your chicks. 

Once you get your new chicks that have been vaccinated, keep them separate from the flock. When you do this it gives the immunity time to build. Keeping the chicks in a brooder, separate from your older chickens, increases the success rate of the vaccine. The vaccine does not prevent the chicken from getting the virus. The vaccine prevents the virus from causing illness and symptoms. In addition, the vaccine may limit the amount of virus that the vaccinated chick can shed in the environment. Unvaccinated chicks have a much higher risk of becoming sick from Marek’s Disease. 

marek's disease symptoms

If you buy from a breeder that does not offer the vaccine or hatch out chicks on your homestead, you can purchase the vaccine to administer yourself. The vaccine must be used quickly and kept cool. Have everything set up and vaccinate all chicks as quickly as possible.

Are There Other Ways to Prevent Marek’s Disease?

Experiments have been carried out where new chicks were isolated for a lengthy time period. After 5 months of not being exposed to other chickens or any environment that had chickens, some natural immunity was found. Since most of us do not have the ability or desire to isolate our new flock members for 20 weeks, this method is not very popular. 

After 6 months of age, the probability of seeing Marek’s Disease symptoms reduces. Also, not all forms of Marek’s Disease are deadly. The mortality rate from many of the types of Marek’s Disease is around 20% or lower.  These chickens are shedding high amounts of live virus, though and will infect any chickens in the coop. 

marek's disease symptoms

Marek’s Disease Symptoms

Blindness, often with a gray appearance to the eye or both eyes.

Leg Paralysis, with one leg dragging behind or legs paralyzed in opposite directions.

Tumors are seen more in older chickens as a result of Marek’s virus. 

Reddened skin 

Progressive paralysis and uncoordinated movements, often starting at the neck, through the wings and legs.

Weight loss

Marek’s Disease symptoms may come and go. 

What to Do if You Suspect Marek’s Disease

  1. Isolate any chickens that appear ill
  2. Do not introduce new birds to the flock when you have an outbreak of Marek’s Disease symptoms.

Bio-Security Methods

Practice good bio-security measures when visiting other chicken keepers and when having visitors to your chicken area. It is always a good idea to wear different shoes when visiting other flocks than the shoes you wear to care for your flock. Care for the chicks before caring for the mature chickens, to lessen the chance of bringing virus to the chicks area. Keep wild birds out of the run using poultry netting. Always quarantine newcomers for thirty days before adding to the flock. 

 

marek's disease symptoms. Marek's disease symptoms are caused by a particularly strong herpes virus. Marek's disease can be found in the environment. The usual symptoms involve the