Your health ques­tions

An­swered by poultry vet Vic­to­ria Roberts BVSc MRCVS

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

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!

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