When picking a hen out of a flock there are 7 things that you can check to ensure you are bringing some healthy chickens back home.
- Eyes: A healthy chickens eyes will be bright, alert and clear of any discharge. Cloudy eyes or a lack of alertness can signify blindness or an underlying disease.
- Beak: Check that the chicken’s beak isn’t broken at the tip or flaking off. Not all broken beaks will grow back and a chicken with a broken beak will have difficulty eating and drinking properly.
- Body: When you pick the chicken up they should feel a nice plump weight, if you can feel a prominent breast bone then they may well be significantly malnourished/underweight.
- Feathers: Check that their feathers have a good coverage with no unusual bald patches or injuries. Some chickens will peck each other or pull feathers out which can cause serious injury if left unchecked.
- Lice / Mites: When you are checking the chicken you should constantly be on the lookout for lice and mites. These can be difficult to spot but usually appear at the base of the feathers near to the skin and on the skin itself.
- Vent: More common in chicks but also possible in adult hens is pasted vent. This is where loose stools accumulates around the vent and seals it over. If left untreated pasted vent can actually be fatal so make sure the hens you are buying have a clear vent.
- Legs & Feet: Check that the chicken’s legs are not overly scaly. Healthy legs look like the image below and an overly scaly foot can indicate an infestation of scaly leg mites.
A beautiful ginger hen with a healthy beak and eyes
A healthy Jersey Giant chicken
A close up of a healthy pair of chicken feet
Check that the feet look clean and healthy with no sore patches, missing toes/claws or any other injury.