How to Perform a Chicken Health Check
Every chicken owner will know and understand that not only is it essential when buying new birds for your flock that you are purchasing healthy, good quality birds but good care is also involved which means checking your flock regularly for any possible signs of problems or health issues so that they can be treated quickly and safely.
Experienced poultry keepers are often able to determine a potential issue or problem before signs or symptoms begin to occur, just by taking one quick glance over their flock. Chickens can often provide their owners with plenty of information with regards to their health in the way that they behave.
General Chicken Health
Healthy chickens should first of all and primarily appear alert and bright. It is common to see chickens standing motionless or sitting down, especially during the hot summer months within the shade, but nevertheless they should appear to be alert, content and not fluffled or hunched up. A chicken that continually sits within a corner or appears to be showing signs of drowsiness should be treated suspiciously. A chicken that is sick or unwell is often lethargic, hunched/fluffed up with its head placed close to its body. It may also be sat away from the rest of its flock.
It is important to remember that when buying chickens from a poultry auction, you significantly run the risk of purchasing birds that may be riddled with disease or serious health conditions. Many sellers at these types of auctions are often anonymous, and are able to pass off birds that are not healthy.
Combs are one of the best ways to indicate as to whether your chicken has any health issues or concerns. A bright and vibrant red comb is often a good indicator that your chicken is healthy. A pink comb is also a good indicator to suggest that she may not be in lay, but is still in good health. A comb that posses a bluish tinge is often a solid indicator to suggest poor blood circulation. Combs that appear overly or excessively scabbed typically suggest that a bird has been fighting, you may wish to bathe the area and keep it clean to avoid any unnecessary or unwanted infection.
Chicken Vent and Feathers
It is important to inspect regularly the under feathers of your chickens for parasites, especially under their wings and around their vent. The most common parasite found on birds are lice (often found between the feathers) and also leg mites. Chickens that are scruffy or often dirty, (excess of muck or feces on their feathers and around the vent area) can often be a sign of potential health problems. Fluffier breeds of chickens will often get dirt or muck on and around their feathers but typically they should be able to keep themselves fairly clean. If you are concerned that one of your chickens is collecting too much dirt, you can always give them a wipe down.
Eyes, Toes, Nose, and Beak
When inspecting your chickens for possible signs or symptoms of underlying health problems, it is important to check the eyes of each bird. They should be bright, clear and clean. Bubbles or signs of fluid around the corners of their eyes (and nostrils) may indicate respiratory infections. Respiratory illnesses are fairly common in chickens and can be often detected by listening to their breathing and also a quick inspection into their mouths. Listen for any sounds of wheezing or rattles during each breath. Your chickens toes should appear straight. Bent toes are considered a deformity that is often inherited through breeding.