Our little flock are completely at home on the allotment and seem to live a pretty carefree, free-range life. We’ve always been drawn to a more natural way of keeping chickens, as close to their wild environment as possible, including an open coop, a large run, lots of fresh air, natural shade, dust bathing, fresh water and fresh food. All of this helps to maintain their overall health and happiness, but things can go wrong… it just happens.
Parasites, mites, scaly leg, colds, prolapse, low egg production and excessive moulting are all possibilities, to name just a few. This post starts us off with the delights of parasites and prolapses – lovely! – and some ideas for supporting your flock with natural remedies, herbs and some alternative thinking!
Please note that our advice is based on our own research and experience and isn’t a substitute for qualified medical advice. If your chicken shows no sign of improvement then you should definitely contact your local vet.
Parasites, worms, the wriggly things. These can be discouraged by adding herbs such as fennel, dill, garlic or wormwood to the chicken food. We have a small wormwood bush growing in the chicken run, which the chickens peck at from time to time – they seem to know what and when they need it. As mentioned in previous posts, diatomaceous earth is also an amazing wormer as are Verm-X worm pellets, both of which can be simply added to their food.
Prolapse: A prolapsed vent/cloaca is not pleasant and takes extra special care to heal. We’ve had direct experience of a prolapse and saved our chicken using natural remedies and a healthy dose of common sense. Symptoms can include a dirty, wet looking bottom and fleshy red tissue poking out under the tail. Your chicken may not seem too bothered by it, but the rest of the flock may be very interested, even pecking at it -grimace!
Conventional wisdom advises manually pushing the prolapse back inside the chicken. This is tricky to do and quite stressful for everyone, apart from being incredibly undignified for your chicken! We tried it a few times, but it didn’t feel right for us.
- Isolate your chicken from the flock. We brought our chicken up to the house.
- Bathe the area in a sinkful of warm water and clean off the worst of any dried poo or blood. We added 5 drops of hypericum tincture and 5 drops of calendula tincture to the water to help heal and soothe the damaged tissue. Dry her gently with a towel.
- Place your chicken in a large animal travel crate with access to water and occasional food.
- Keep your chicken in a warm, dark place to stop the egg laying cycle. Your chicken needs to stop laying and poo as little as possible to give the vent a chance to heal itself and retract naturally. Chickens have a very fast metabolism and will expend all their energy keeping warm, so make sure your chicken is cosy and her energy will then be used for healing. We blacked out our garden shed and placed the crate in there with a blanket over the top.
- Water. We put a couple of homeopathic remedies in the water – Arnica 30c for shock/trauma and Kali-Phos 30c for muscle tone.
- Food. Avoid feeding layers pellets as these will encourage laying. Instead, offer your chicken a small amount of corn and wheat. We also made a bran mash with dandelions, nettles, molasses, bran and milk which our chicken loved.
- Allow your chicken fresh air and light 3-4 times a day. Encourage her to eat and drink at these times. We also let our chicken out to stretch her legs for a short while. Whenever we peeked into the shed, our chicken was fast asleep – she seemed very happy to be quiet and still.
- Allow 72 hours for improvement. 72 hours is recommended as the maximum time to keep a bird away from the flock without being treated as a stranger and hen-pecked on return. Thankfully, each day of quiet isolation saw some improvement in our chicken and after 72 hours she was much better – the prolapse had retracted almost completely.
- Return to the flock! If the prolapse has completely retracted then your chicken can return to the flock. Our chicken wasn’t quite there, so we reintroduced her to the main run, but kept her isolated in a separate little coop. They could all see each other, but there was no chance of her eating their layers pellets or them pecking her bottom again. Over the next 2 days she completely recovered and joyfully rejoined the flock. Yay!
I hope our experience can help and support others. Don’t give up hope if one of your chickens suffers from a prolapse. Our chicken is laying again and we’ve had no sign of the prolapse since.
Here’s to the health and happiness of your flock.