Your health questions answered by poultry vet Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS

Q. One (and now possibly two) of my hens has very loose, sometimes watery poo, for a few weeks. There is an orange colour to the watery liquid. This started on return from their visit to the chicken sitter. I have contacted him and he did not have any problem with them or any other hens (with whom they did not mix or share equipment). Could they be eating something harmful e.g. ivy in my garden? As they are well in themselves and laying does this mean it is not too serious? We have not wormed them since last May.

Victoria says: The first thing to do is to get some Flubvenet – it is sensible to worm hens if they have been on different premises. The 60g pot is easier than in-feed for a small flock and then you have it when it is needed. This can be obtained from your vet if your hens have been seen within the last year (they may have to order it), or an internet pharmacy (make sure it is a UK one with the VMD logo and specific number) or an agricultural merchant (phone/search first as it is not commonly kept in stock). When using the powder, put a little vegetable oil on the pellets first so it sticks. The dose is 3g/kg of pellets for seven days. If the hens have been running under the shrubs since you got them, it is unlikely to be a plant that is the problem. Remember that the blind ended twice daily caecal droppings are a different colour, consistency and smell from ordinary dark poo with a white tip. The worms that live only in the caeca can cause the colour and frequency to change, as can eating a different plant. If they are in a confined space, worming them at least four times a year is important as the lifecycle is in insects and earthworms and they will re-infect themselves. The fact they are laying and appear well is a good sign, but if the watery poo continues the hens may need an antibiotic from your vet.

Q. My flock of four outdoor hybrids have been laying eggs with slightly bluey/green tinged yolks. Why would this be? Especially as they are being fed the same as the other birds. They free-range in my garden.

AVictoria says: If they are free-ranging the two new hens could have found a plant they are sharing which would colour the yolk. We do know that acorn consumption will provide a dark line around the yolk, but other strange colours have not yet been proven to come from specific plants (there’s a project for someone). The orange colour we expect of yolks from free-ranging hens is obtained from dark green plants – commercial feed tends to have this canthaxanthin colourant added (e.g. marigold petals provide a natural and consistent source) since pale yolks are not considered as healthy. There is some truth in this as there are less omega 3s in pale yolks.

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