6 Signs of Happy, Healthy Chickens

— Written By Phil Rucker and last updated by
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Dull, lethargic, low performance. No, I’m not talking about you before your morning coffee. These are signs you may have issues lurking in your backyard flock. Happy, healthy birds are confident, strong and productive.

As you get to know your birds, you’ll learn their personalities and habits. Strong hens are confident, alert and strut their stuff. If their attitudes, behavior or performance change, investigate your management and nutrition for possible gaps.

Many flock raisers begin by looking at nutrition as a first reason for flock problems. But if you are feeding a complete feed that matches your bird’s life stage, nutritional deficiencies are unlikely. Evaluate other reasons bird behavior and performance may change – from stress and predators to shorter days, illness or over-treating. Quality nutrition is the cornerstone of bird health. You’ll be able to tell hens are receiving the nutrition they need by their appearance and behavior.”

If you are feeding a complete layer feed and not over-treating (scraps and goodies), you should notice:

Strong eggshells: Strong shells serve to protect the inside of the egg, keeping bacteria out. They often break in a crisp, clean line. Strong shells are an indicator of healthy birds and good nutrition. Choose a complete layer feed with added calcium or supply free choice (oyster shells) helps provide the calcium hens need.

Consistent egg production: The number of eggs hens produce can vary greatly by breed, but most average to above-average egg-laying breeds will produce 5-6 eggs per week during their prime laying years. Be aware that egg production decreases as hens age.

Dark, golden yolks: Many flock raisers praise farm fresh eggs for their vibrant golden yolks. Rich yolks are a result of natural yellow-orange pigment found in plants and yellow corn. Pale yolks are a sign that hens may not be getting enough from their diet, because of too many treats or scraps.

Shiny feathers: When not in molt, healthy feathers have a sheen that gives birds a slick appearance. Healthy feathers are vibrant, sturdy and serve to protect birds from the elements. Be sure your layer feed is around 16 percent protein for proper feathering.

Brightly colored combs: The combs and wattles of laying hens get larger and darker red due to a blood flow increase. When hens molt/stop laying, the combs and wattles fade also shrink in size.

High energy: Healthy chickens are social, curious and freely move about the coop, run or backyard. A lack of movement, low head carriage or overall depressed appearance signals something is wrong.

These six signs of a strong, happy hen are the result of proper feed and flock care. Proper nutrition and management provide hens everything they need to stay flock strong and lay strong-shelled eggs.

If you have questions, contact N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yadkin County Center at 336-849-7908. Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity provider.

As seen in the Yadkin Ripple