One of the best things about writing a blog and tweeting about it is that you meet amazing and knowledgeable people. Such as the beautiful Liza who has been following the tales of my girls and has a real love for chickens. Here is her article on dealing with their health and ailments in a holistic and natural way, truly understanding our little hens. It is a lovely and really informative article. Thank you Liza, blessings xxx
Promoting Birds Health Mother Nature’s Way
How to prevent prolapse in Chickens
How to prevent and deal with “egg binding”
Reading Jo’s blog about her wonderful exbatt chickens has inspired me in very many ways. It’s about the journey and understanding how being kind effects all life including our own. Because I have experience in dealing with certain situations when it comes to birds, I wanted to contribute what I have learned in supporting the natural way of life as nature intended.
Some considerations to be taken into account are that some breeds of chickens have been bred by mankind to produce, produce, produce. While these birds have been altered physically over time we can support their natural way of “being” in the hopes that a balance will be achieved in the long run.
Nature is wonderful and a great teacher. Observing the cycles of life can be a teaching factor for bird lovers. During the spring, wild birds will have an increase in different types of food that will support breeding cycles. Nutrition is a key factor during this time, especially proteins like bugs, which are are good calcium supplements. The birds begin to court setting up a nest and brood, taking breaks in-between to eat. Some bird species take turns in brooding their young and the father plays an important role in this wonderful endeavor. Grouse and turkeys also have a natural cycle and looking at their natural ways of living will give you an indication to what your chickens’ needs are. Because egg production chickens, especially exbatts, have never been outside and seen the light of day or even know what natural cycles are and never had the opportunity to “sit” their eggs, these birds have been conditioned to produce without even having their simplest natural requirements met in nature’s way.
In the wild if a bird’s nest is destroyed and the eggs are taken, the bird will usually pick a different spot so not to attract a predator to the same spot. During this time they have to rebuild a nest, collect materials and eat, the hen has a bit of time to build her body back up to lay eggs again. This is not so with chickens. When we take their eggs they will keep laying. They may have a rest but these particular birds have already been altered by man. Because exbatts have already gone through so much, they really need natural support.
Prolapse happens for many reasons, some of which are:
A) The birds begin laying eggs at a very young age and have not had the time to
physically mature inside.
B) They are laying too many eggs in a short time span or the eggs are too large for them to support laying without having damaging effects.
C) The bird is older and has changed physically after all the years of egg production and should have stopped producing at this point. However they do not due to their conditioning and breeding
Some things you can do to support the natural holistic way of living for a bird who had been denied the experience of living in the cycles of nature:
Allow your hens to actually brood their eggs if you do not mind losing the eggs or you can get “dummy” eggs and replace the edible egg with the dummy egg. (Note; Some hens are wise to their eggs being switched!) Allow her to sit the eggs, place food and water close by. You also can get fertile eggs and allow the hen to raise some chicks. While she is raising her chicks she will not be laying eggs but focus on being a mother. If you live by fellow chicken enthusiasts who do get fertile eggs because they have a rooster, you can replace her eggs with the fertile ones. Plus they all do not have to be fertile, even if you get two to three fertile eggs and the rest are hers that is fine. Hens rearing young should have their own space for the protection of the chicks. The first few days alone together is a bonding time. One of the key factors involved is your chickens wanting to brood. Some hens lay their eggs and walk away. Brooding can also be a “learned” behavior. It just takes time for them to get it. All their lives they have had their eggs taken from them. Some chickens are better at sitting then others. They also may need their own “space” temporarily to brood. Watch for what your hens have to say about themselves in this arena. A hen that does not sit her eggs and has a tendency to prolapse may have several re-occurrences. You can support brooding behavior by simply leaving the eggs there even if she does not “sit” them. Eventually seeing her eggs not being taken away may encourage her.
Hens who are allowed to rear young are healthier in many ways (mentally, physically, emotionally) and it is healthier for the chicks. Still, if you do not want to go that route then the dummy eggs will also work. Eventually the hen will tire of them and abandon the nest because they did not hatch. The issues with prolapse is that it may occur again. Many of the prolapsed birds I have dealt with, have had a re-occurance that laying year. When given a “winter” reprieve from laying the next year, things “tightened up” and there was no more prolapse. In nature, a bird has an entire year or more to mature before going to nest and breeding season. Your exbatt chickens never had that opportunity because of their breeding.:( Plus they were taken away from their own mothers at a very early age and they never had that necessary emotional connection. From birth most chicks are shipped out to farmstores for Easter.
We as animal lovers may not stop the things of which man has created for his own use, but we can support what nature has intended anyway.
How to deal with egg binding and prevention:
Egg binding is when a hen can not pass an egg usually because the egg is too soft due to calcium deficiency. The hens rear will look swollen, they will be fluffed and weakened. This is a very delicate situation and handling the bird must be with caution and gentleness because you do not want that egg to break inside of her. When lifting the bird, hold her away from your own body and just around her wings or tuck her under your arm in the opposite direction, rear facing out. The things you will need are a heat lamp and or a warm heating pad (the temp of the heating pad must not go over 99-100 degrees), moist towel and calcium supplement. I highly recommend always having on hand liquid Calcium glutamate which can be obtained from your Veterinarian. You also need at least two syringes. Calcium glutamate is fast acting and will harden up the egg quickly.
Place the bird in a warm area, if you have a incubator even better. You want the temperature to be very warm. The towel must be warm and very moist and you want to shape it in the form of a nest (that’s why I recommend a heating pad).
The humidity and heat really helps to pass the egg. They must be in a place that is quiet and they should not move around too much because you want them to sit on the warm moist heating pad. A large plastic transparent storage container with holes drilled in for air and ventilation can do wonders:) The temperature of the container ideally should be between 99-100 degrees. You will have to administer the liquid calcium by mouth. The dosage will be recommended by your veterinarian. The first syringe is for the bird’s mouth. The second syringe is for her vent area. Please mark which is which:D You can put a couple of drops of mineral oil with warm boiled water that has been cooled to 95-100 degrees very gently into or around her vent area. This acts to lubricate her and aid in the passage of the egg. I personally would very gently do a little bit inside my bird’s vent and it worked like a charm every time. However, your Veteranarian may advise against putting anything inside your birds vent area and while this worked for me in many instances I suggest listening to your Veterinarian’s advice first. This is such a delicate situation and one slip can do greater harm than good, especially if the bird is not cooperating.
The problem with egg binding is that even if you got through the first one you still have a clutch more to go. So since one of the main problems with egg binding is that there is just not enough calcium in the birds body to support her laying an egg, you will probably want to keep her on the Calcium glutamate and in a warm place until she is done with laying her clutch. Oftentimes egg binding is directly related to calcium deficiency. If there are roosters around you may want to keep her away for awhile to at least prevent her from mating. The other calcium source I recommend is easily found at the pet store and can be used once in awhile to insure your birds are getting calcium. It is found in the reptile section of the store, “Reptocal” and calcium powder for reptiles. You sprinkle a bit on their food and mix it in to disperse it evenly. I cant tell you how many times I have used it for my duck Shortbeak when I see her egg shells appearing thin. I realized I cannot always rely on their food to have all they need and sometimes hens just need that bit of extra. I also save egg shells, wash them out and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. I grind them down and sprinkle them in the food.
To prepare for egg binding with egg layers is really important. You know how things go. It’s Sunday, the vet is closed, the nearest place is very far away and it may stress out the bird more to travel. The egg may even break during the ride and that is exactly how I learned to deal with egg bound hens and prolapse. (I also recommend holding your birds in the positions I mentioned above so they get used to the idea and being calm in certain situations.)
I absolutely adore chickens. Having had them I know what awesome, intelligent, affectionate birds they are and because I loved them there are many tips I have learned to deal with “emergencies” and to be prepared for things that happened. I learned so much from them and loved them so well that I became fascinated with learning as much as I possibly could. Many of the Avian Veterinarians were so wonderful because they freely shared valuable information with me. Chickens will always have a very special place in my heart and those of you who have them, I am sure understand why there are so many of us who have a passion and deep affection for these wonderful birds. Once chickens get in your “blood” they never get out, but hey I think that is a good thing:) I hope that what I have written here does help those of you with your rescued chickens to raise awareness and support natures way of doing things, with the assistance of medical needs, to the best of our ability and support health in a wholesome and balanced way.