How do I keep my chickens healthy in the summer?
The key to ensuring your chickens remain happy and healthy this summer is to examine them regularly so that any changes in their condition are noticed and acted upon promptly.
The health check should include an assessment of each chicken’s weight, an examination of plumage for pecking, and for evidence of mites or lice, and a general eyes, nostrils, mouth, beak, vent and leg inspection. For more details on the health check watch this video
In addition to the health check, you should be aware of other threats to your chicken’s health during the summer and take action to minimise them. These threats include both internal and external parasites and stress
Internal parasites – worms
Advice on worming should be sought from a vet or RAMA. As a guide you should undertake worm egg counts regularly, and if needed worm your flock using a licensed wormer. Worming is stressful for your chickens and it is key to support healthy gut flora and the digestive system as well as treating the environment to avoid re-infestation.
External parasites – Pesky Pests
There are a number of Pesky Pests (Red Mites, Lice, Northern Fowl Mites and Scaly Leg Mites) which can live on your chickens or in their housing. Red Mites live in the housing. Poultry Lice and Northern Fowl Mites live on the chicken and are transmitted from wild birds. Scaly Leg Mites spend their entire life cycle on the chicken and spread by contact with other birds.
It is essential to treat the housing as well as the chicken themselves to help prevent any re-infestation. See our Mites and Lice Q&A section for more details.
Chickens are very susceptible to stress, this may be triggered by worms, lice mites, heat or bullying. This stress has an adverse effect on the immune system and can cause chickens to lose condition. Stressed hens may appear depressed and may be off their food or drink.
Chickens are very susceptible to overheating as their body temperature is much higher than ours and they are unable to sweat. In hot weather, ensure the flock have access to shade and provide plenty of cool water. You can also pop a frozen bottle of water or ice blocks into their drinker to keep the water cool.
Overcrowding and bullying
Overcrowding and bullying can cause stress and injury. It is really important to make sure that your flock ha more than enough room in their run and plenty of feeders and drinkers to avoid bullying (1 per every 4 birds). If you have a bully, consider popping them in a broody cage (with food and water) inside the run for a couple of days to reset the pecking order. For information on establishing a pecking order. Click here to read more
Introducing new chickens to the flock can cause major stress, so needs to be undertaken slowly. Ensure that you check any new chickens to ensure they are free from lice, mites and worms and quarantine them initially near to your original flock and introduce gradually. Click here to find out more