Signs of a healthy hen

signs of a healthy hen

It’s important to learn how to spot a healthy hen. This means that not only will buy hens in good health, you will quickly notice if your own birds become poorly.

  • Bright, clear beady even eyes with no swelling or discharge
    WHY? Swelling around the eyes is a sign of respiratory infection. Uneven eyes can be a sign of neurological problems
  • Red combs and wattles (the protrusions on top of the head and under the beak)
    WHY? Redness develops when hens are approaching the point of starting to lay. Hens suffering from red mite infestation often look anaemic
  • Clean nostrils with no mucus or dirt stuck to the beak
    WHY? Mucus or dirt stuck to the mucus is another sign of respiratory infection
  • Upper and lower beak that fit well, not crossed over
    WHY? A potential genetic deformity that could be passed on if bred from and cause poor growth in future progeny
  • Feathers looking in good condition, laying well with a nice sheen
    WHY? Ill hens often don’t preen themselves and smart feathers are also a sign of good nutrition
  • Quiet breathing with no gaping (almost looks like the bird is yawning) or sneezing
    WHY? Noisy breathing and sneezing are mores signs of respiratory infection whereas ‘gaping’ is a sign of gape worm
  • Good weight, they feel ‘right’ for their size (can be tricky to ascertain if you’re a beginner)
    WHY? Low weight is a sign of poor health with a number of causes especially red mite
  • Comfortable when handled and when you extend the wings
    WHY? Demonstrates a lack of injury
  • Walks and stands well with no lameness
    WHY? Demonstrates no toe or leg issues and no bumble foot (an infection of the underneath of the foot)
  • The scales on the legs lie flat and feel smooth (look hard on feathered legs!)
    WHY? Raised scales are indicative of scaly leg mite
  • When the feathers are examined closely, they attach cleanly to the body without any insects visible
    WHY? Clusters at the base of the feather indicate lice but mites may also be visible
  • Clean bottoms
    WHY? Dirty bottoms could be caused by worms, vent gleet, infection and so on
  • No bleeding from anywhere!
    WHY? Hens are omnivorous, are attracted to blood and will peck another hen repeatedly

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