Vets have been struggling to keep pace with the boom in back garden hen keeping. But things are changing

When Rachel Glashier took her sick chicken, Peg, to the vet she quickly became aware that the kind man who treated her dog and cat with such expertise did not have the same level of knowledge when it came to her bird. “He looked stumped, he acted stumped and in the end he admitted that he was rather stumped,” recalls Rachel. “He thought it was a respiratory problem, prescribed a broad spectrum antibiotic, and told me to keep her away from the other hens till she was better.” Thankfully Peg did recover – but Rachel isn’t confident to return to the same vet if one of her birds got sick again. “For my dogs and cat I wouldn’t see anyone else – but I’d be reluctant to return with one of my hens.”

See our poultry vets’ directoryWhen it comes to vets and chickens, veterinary practices tend to fall into one of three camps. The first are honest enough to admit that they know not a dicky-bird about poultry and can’t help; the second will invite you in with your bird only for you to discover that their knowledge is limited, or non-existent; and the third will make your bird better. Clearly, if you are going to take your bird to the vet, and fork out upwards of £24, (the average for a consultation), it is vets of the third camp that you want to find.

Thankfully, they are out there. As a result of the increase in home chicken keeping, vets are increasingly realising that the day or so they spent at veterinary college learning about avian ailments is not enough. Some are returning to school: attending training courses like those provided by Victoria Roberts, UK’s premier chicken vet, ( or the Chicken Vet. (

Courses like these bring vets up to speed: covering everything from holding the bird (“clutch it firmly by the legs to prevent it from flapping around”); husbandry; clinical examination and diagnosis and treatment of disease. “As a small animal vet I was not alone in breaking out into a bit of a cold sweat when I saw the word ‘chicken’ on my consult list,” admits one vet blogger, tutored by Victoria, “but I now no longer dread the next chicken, rather clucking quietly in anticipation.”

Of course, taking any chicken to the vet presupposes that the owner knows when it is ill. (And I would be the first to admit that I’ve failed to detect illness within the flock.) It’s all well and good to be told that a healthy bird should be active and alert, with shiny feathers, clean vent, red comb and bright eyes. But when it’s pouring with rain outside, the chicken run has turned into a mud slick and even the dog wants to stay indoors, it’s easy to believe that your birds look miserable because of the weather, and not, as in my case, because of an infestation of mites.

The key is to inspect and handle your flock regularly. A lot of the skill in poultry keeping is husbandry by eye and touch, as chickens are extremely adept at disguising ailments. Often till it is too late. If you sense something isn’t quite right then check, double check and, if you’re still concerned, seek advice. Victoria Roberts offers a useful online diagnostic service for £15. She can’t prescribe meds – but she can help with diagnosis and suggest medications (which you can then pick up from your vet.)

If a visit to the vet is necessary, go prepared. First, decide how you are going to get your bird, or birds, to the practice. Some swear by a cat carrier to transport chickens, with paper towels on the bottom (helpful if the vet needs to examine faeces) and a blanket over the top: creating a dark, warm space that will help to calm the bird. Alternatively, if a cat carrier is not option, a simple cardboard box will suffice. Second, get to grips with your bird’s history. Whilst your (poultry-friendly) vet handles your bird, looking at its feathers, ears, eyes, vent, and checking its weight, he’ll be asking you all sorts of questions. What is the breed? What was the method of hatching and rearing? Are your birds vaccinated? What’s the problem/symptoms? How do you house and feed your birds? What is your regime for worming and external parasite prevention? Have you added any new birds to the flock recently, visited any exhibitions, or been to any other breeders? Is your run secure from vermin? Clear, concise answers go a long way to helping your vet work out what is wrong with your bird. This is the time to ask your own questions too.

At the end of the visit you, and your vet, will, hopefully, have a clearer idea about what is wrong with your chicken (although some owners will need to wait for results from blood tests and/or a fecal smear test.) It goes without saying that once medicine is prescribed – give it. Being prepared to follow advice and give medicines according to instructions is critical if you want your bird to get better. Unfortunately, there will be cases where a vet believes that a bird is ‘beyond’ treatment and the kindest thing to do is to put it down.

There is no doubt that taking any bird to the vet can be stressful: both for the owner, and/or the chicken. No visit is cheap either. Vets will charge anywhere between £24-£54 for a consultation, (prices vary between practices and regions), and then there are the additional costs of the medication. Yet a lot of illnesses can be prevented by some simple rules. Purchase your birds from a reputable source and if possible pick from vaccinated stock. If bringing new birds into the flock it is advisable to isolate them for two weeks before introducing them to incumbent birds to avoid the spread of infection. Practice good management: keep housing clean, dry and well ventilated; provide your birds with a clean outside area to roam; keep the run secure from rats, mice and wild birds, all of which carry disease; routinely worm your birds (with Flubenvet, the only licensed product); and feed them a quality product, suitable for their age and breed. In short, when it comes to preventing your hens from getting sick, and those pricy visits to the vet, prevention really is the best medicine.



• Ark Veterinary Surgery

Mobberley, Cheshire. T:01565 872 035

• The Minster Veterinary Practice

York. T: 01904 620968

• Gatehouse Veterinary Group

Bradford. T: 01274 480031 W:

• Robson & Prescott

Morpeth, Northumberland. T: 01670 512275

• Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic

Stamford Bridge, York. T: 01759 371066 W:

• Sandhill Veterinary Services

Thirsk, N Yorks. T: 01845 578710 W:

• Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic, Manchester

T: 0161 881 6868

• Millcroft Veterinary Group

Cockermouth, Cumbria. T: 01900 826666

• The Veterinary Health Centre

Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. T: 01253 729309


• Amicus Veterinary Centre

Solihull, West Midlands. T: 0121 7331439

• Arnold & Carlton Veterinary Centre

Nottingham. T: 0115 940 34000 W:

• Avonvale Veterinary Centre

Kenilworth, Warwickshire. T: 01926 854181

• Beech House

Towcester, Northamptonshire. T: 01327 354477

• Blue House Veterinary Centre

Biddulph, Staffordshire. T: 01782 522100 W:

• Companion Veterinary Clinic

Newark, Nottinghamshire. T: 01636 707636

• Retford Poultry Practice

Retford, Nottinghamshire. T: 01777 703011 W:

• Hillman Vets

6 practices, West Midlands. T: 01922 622280 W:

• The Jamieson Veterinary Group

Ilkeston, Derbyshire. T: 01559 329322

• Wendover Heights Veterinary Centre

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. T: 01296 623439


• Isle Veterinary Group

Ely, Cambs. T: 01353 658333 W:

• Creighton Vets

Braintree, Essex. T: 01376 325511

• All Creatures Healthcare

Norwich, Norfolk. T: 01603 898984 W:

• Chine House Veterinary Hospital

Sileby, Leicestershire. T: 01509 812446

• Orchid Vets

Brentwood, Essex. T: 01277 227462

• Radnor Courts Veterinary Practice

Cambridge. T: 01223 249331

• Mill House Veterinary Surgery & Hospital

King’s Lynn, Norfolk. T: 01553 771457 W:

• Slate Hall Veterinary Practice

Willingham, Cambridgeshire. T: 01954 7652460

• Westover Veterinary Centre

North Walsham, Norfolk. T: 01692 403202

• Nine Lives Veterinary Centre

Redbourn, Herts. T: 01582 793636 W:

• Animates Veterinary Clinic

Thurlby, Lincs. T: 01780 420462

• The Cambridge Veterinary Group

Cambridge. T: 01223 249331


• Animal House Veterinary Services

Deal, Kent. T: 01304 379533

Herne Bay, Kent. T: 01227 374858


• Trinity Vet Centre

Maidstone, Kent. T: 01622 726730

• Crown Veterinary Clinic

Redhill, Surrey. T: 01737 822250 W:

• Hunter’s Lodge Veterinary Practice

Ewhurst, Surrey. T: 01483 276464

Guildford, Surrey. T: 01483 570782

• Seers Croft Veterinary Surgery

Faygate, Surrey. T: 01293 851122

• Senlac Veterinary Centre

Battle, E. Sussex. T: 01424 777321

• Companion Care Chatham

Chatham, Kent, T: 01634 560660


• Border Veterinary Centre

Oswestry, Shropshire. T: 01691 670395

• Birch Heath Veterinary Clinic

Tarporley, Cheshire. T: 01829 733777

• The Minster Practice

Pontrilas, Herefordshire. T: 01981 241320


• Companion Care Veterinary Surgery

Bournemouth, Dorset. T: 01202 635160 W:

• Piddle Valley Vets

Puddletown, Dorset. T: 01305 848820

• Filham Park Veterinary Clinic

Ivybridge, Devon. T: 01752 892700 W:

• Ikin & Oxenham

Sidmouth, Devon. T: 01395 512611

Ottery St Mary, Devon. T: 01404 814322

• Silverton Veterinary Practice

Paignton, Devon. T: 01803 558588

• The Mount Veterinary Group

Honiton, Devon. T: 01404 841011

• Rosevean Veterinary Practice

Penzance, Cornwall. T: 01736 362215 W:

• Silva House Veterinary Group

Bath. T: 01761 413341

• St David’s Poultry Team

Exmouth, Devon. T: 01392 872932

• Upton Veterinary Centre

Poole, Dorset. T: 01202 624140

• Wareham Veterinary Centre

Wareham, Dorset. T: 01929 552599


• Ashcroft Veterinary Surgery

Cirencester, Gloucestershire. T: 01285 653683

• JC Exotic Pet Consultancy

Salisbury, Wiltshire. T: 0777 5796432 W:

• County Veterinary Clinic

Ilminster, Somerset. T: 01460 259509

Taunton, Somerset. T: 01823 326222


• Stow Veterinary Surgeons

Stow, Northleach & Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire. T: 01451 870566

• Great Western Exotic Vets

Swindon, Wiltshire. T: 01793 603800

• The Veterinary Hospital

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. T: 01608 642547

• Dalton’s Game Consultancy

Amesbury, Wiltshire. T: 01980 622350 W:

• Westpoint Veterinary Group

Warnham, West Sussex. T: 01306 628086

• South Downs Veterinary Consultancy

Emsworth, West Sussex. T: 01243 389911


• Eugene McGrath

Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland. T: 066 7123098

• Peninsula Veterinary Clinic

I Kircubbin, Co Down, Northern Ireland. T: 028 4273 8700

• Donaghadee, Co Down, Northern Ireland

T: 028 9188 2604


• Academy Vet Centre

Stranraer, Wigtownshire. T: 01776 703131 W:

• Girling & Fraser

Perth. T: 01738 635633

Image(s) provided by: