Your health questions
Answered by poultry vet Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS
Checking on weight
QI picked up one of my hens who was sitting on the floor of the hen hut and I was surprised that she seemed very light in weight. How do you tell if hens are losing weight?
AVictoria says: The outline of a hen does not change if she is either gaining or losing weight. Unlike a cat or dog, the shape looks the same due to the feather coverage. Thus you do need to handle your hens on a regular basis in order to keep tabs on their body condition score (BCS). BCS is an assessment of fitness that applies to any animal, fit not fat being the desired result. With hens, we use a score of 1-5, one being anorexic and five being obese, both of which are undesirable, a score of three indicates a good healthy layer. Start handling your hens at night when they are sleepy, so as to cause the least disturbance. The muscle coverage of the breast indicates fitness and should slope gently from the breastbone towards the backbone. The fat content is most easily felt by finding the ends of the flexible pin bones either side of the vent – if they are sharp, the hen is thin, if they can hardly be felt the hen is carrying too much fat with her laying being adversely affected and the possibility of her heart not functioning properly – too many treats or extra maize will generally be the culprits.
You can make your hens work for their food!