Watching What Your Chickens Consume

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

I had another question I planned to answer this week but received an e-mail today that I think takes precedence over my original plan.

You see, we received word of a chicken that had died because it had apparently eaten a CD that was hung for it’s entertainment as per advice from me.

My first reaction is great sadness that anything I would say would be misunderstood and cause the death of an animal. I truly want to provide you all with information you can trust and I take numerous steps to make sure that is the case.

However, I guess this was an instance where I didn’t communicate very clearly so I’d like to take this space to clarify not only this issue but a few others.

To combat boredom, which typically leads to destructive behavior, I had suggested hanging old Compact Discs in the run for the chickens to watch. They seem to enjoy the prisms created by the suns reflection as well as the way they spin in the wind.

I suppose I assumed that readers would understand that they were to be hung high enough that the chickens could not gain access to them.

So let me make this abundantly clear, the only things your chickens should have access to are those things that can be safely consumed.

Chickens are very curious eaters, they will eat just about anything!

If you insulate their coop, they cannot have any opportunity to gain access to the insulation.

If they are free ranging, you must be certain that any small nuts, bolts and the like are not on the ground.

Never assume that just because it is not food, your chickens won’t eat it.

If it can fit in their mouths, or they can peck at it until it will fit in their mouths, it’s fair game.

This also requires you as their keeper to do a regular check of the area in which they have access. A wire basket hung in a run filled with greens might be fine today. After a long summer of direct sunshine or a lot of rain, it may need to be replaced.

Where we live, the suns rays are harsh. Sun rot is very common because things just dry out. Anything plastic could be in pieces by summers end if it is left in direct sunlight for the entire season. It would not be unheard of for the chickens to start pecking at it and consume pieces of the plastic.

I would assume that in a very wet climate, the integrity of things will decrease as well due to excessive moisture.

The point is that we must always be doing necessary maintenance to protect our flock. Some people child-proof the house to make sure young children are safe, you must chicken proof your yard.

I’m not saying that you’ll need to get out there with a magnifying glass every day looking for things that the chickens might ingest, but I am saying that common sense and some preventative measures should ensure the health of your flock in regards to their curious appetite.

The other issue I want to address is for those of you who have written in with questions about suspected illnesses within your flock.

I’m sorry that at a time when you’re very concerned, I’m unable to respond to those concerns.

I hope that you will understand that just as your doctor likes you to come into the office when you are sick because it’s not smart to diagnose you over the phone, I’m uncomfortable giving you advise based upon an e-mail.

I would love to be able to answer those URGENT e-mails but from my desk I can’t be sure of what you’re dealing with.

In instances of illness, I must advise you to seek the advise of a veterinarian, another trained professional or someone in your area with a lot of experience who can examine the animal personally.

There are also resources available with extensive information on illness in poultry. It would be a benefit to have a resource available before you need it so that you can quickly look up symptoms that are out of the ordinary.

By the way, our new book has a great section on illnesses and uncommon behavior. You might want to check it out.

With that said, I hope this has clarified some things for you

I look forward to picking back up in 2010 where we leave off this year.

And I wish you and yours the very Merriest of Christmases.

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  1. thankyou so very much, it surely makes sence and I did not see the danger in the disks, especially now with the fridged tempetures it would be crisper than when it was warm. I will keep this in mind as I grow in knowledge of chicken keeping. Your news letter is the best! I have learnt so much. I will make sure that they will have the cabbage to keep busy and it will be nurishing. I am not devestated by the experience but did want to have you warn others. Again thanks, I look forward to each newsletter!

    kathy Sabel

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