Health questions answered by poultry vet Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS

A problem trio

Q) I recently bought a heavy breed trio. The cockerel is eating eggs and his hens are pulling throat feathers out. Any ideas?

A) Victoria says: You subsequently advised me of the feed you use which was a mixed grain ration only. Heavy breeds need better nutrition than this, especially if they are laying, thus they need layers pellets. This is a balanced nutrition feed which maintains the health of the hen plus some left over for good egg production; the cockerel gets all he needs and is less likely to eat eggs. If you have to give them a treat, a small handful of whole wheat per bird in the afternoon is plenty. Maize is notorious for encouraging feather pecking but helps keep hens warm in cold weather, so you could add a little maize in the winter.

Mycoplasma vaccination

Q) Should I be vaccinating against mycoplasma? If I have a flock that has had suspected mycoplasma in the past, would it be safe to add vaccinated chickens into the flock?

A) Victoria says: Chickens vaccinated against mycoplasma do not seem to pass it on to naïve hens. The mycoplasma vaccine merely lasts six months, if that, so is not really economical or practical. The disease itself is very contagious and wild birds can carry it, (another reason to keep hens and wild birds separate). Treat the new hens in quarantine with Tylan Soluble for five days plus the old hens if they are showing symptoms. I medicate and control it by using Tylan Soluble at the first sign of snivelling. Not forgetting to dissolve the 1g of powder first in a small amount of water by vigorous shaking in e.g. a pill pot before adding to the 2L water, otherwise it sits on the bottom of the drinker and does nothing.

She’s not laying…

Q) Pearl my ex-bat was obviously sold as her egg laying period had peaked, but since owning her she has never laid an egg! About three months ago she gave signs of peritonitis, but after I was convinced she had an infection, the vets gave her antibiotics, which worked, and she was soon back to her bossy self. Then, about six weeks ago, she laid a fairy egg, or fart egg, as I found out this tiny egg was called. I did hope this may lead to some eggs, but nothing has happened since.

A) Victoria says: The term for those tiny eggs that only contain white is ‘wind’ as in breeze. Ex-bats do bring their own problems with them; you have had her treated for an infection which worked. I suspect she is now heading for egg peritonitis as she should not be spending time in the nestbox if she has finished laying. She obviously has a problem with her egg production so do keep an eye on her. Remember to worm the whole flock with Flubenvet three or four times annually to keep them all stronger to resist pathogens. The implant, Suprelorin, may help her at this stage.

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