Pet talk
Columns, Pet Talk

Pet talk

September 30, 2020

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka speaks about chicken — its diet, playtime, illness & more

By Maneka Gandhi

How to play with a chick?

It’s important to the health of your chick that she receives plenty of attention from you. Chicks are friendly and curious and can form a bond with you. In addition, it can be fun to watch your chick’s interactions with you and other chicks. Give your chick a name and make sure to talk to her using this name during your play. Hold and stroke her for at least a few minutes many times a day. Consider allowing her time to roam outside of her habitat during the day. However, make sure you watch her during this time so she doesn’t injure herself or doesn’t fall prey to another animal.

How to check the illness of a chicken?

Maintaining the habitat and feeding your chick properly will go far in keeping her healthy. However, it’s good to check your chick and her waste every day to ensure that she is healthy and not showing potential signs of illness. Check or listen for signs of wheezing or limping, which can signal a problem with your chick’s lungs or leg development. Examine your chick’s poop, too. Diarrhoea can cause matted feathers or clogged cloacae, which are the openings to the digestive and urinary tracts.

a) Watch for feathers. One of the first signs of your chick developing into an adult chicken is her sprouting feathers. In most cases, you will see feathers developing a few days after your chick has hatched.

b) Feed your chick her starter rations until she is about 18 weeks old. At about 18-20 weeks, switch her food to a layer feed, which has extra calcium to help her grow. These feeds have the right protein, vitamins, and nutrients to help your chick grow into a chicken. Make sure your chick has a consistent source of clean food and water. Spread it in her habitat and keep a dish of water readily available. As your chick grows, you may want to check the habitat a few times a day to ensure that your chick has enough food and water.

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c) Move your chick into a coop. Your chick will eventually outgrow her cosy habitat that you created. Even if you plan on allowing your chick to range freely on your property, she will still need a coop to protect her from predators and bad weather.

d) Keep the coop clean. Your growing chick will continue to need a clean habitat to promote her health and well-being. Sweep out the coop at least once a week and check the food and water dishes daily to ensure there isn’t any mouldy or old food or algae growing on the water.

Why does my chick look awkward?

It’s common for your chick to go through a phase of looking awkward while she is transitioning. Don’t be surprised if she has long, gangly legs and scraggly feathers. This phase is comparatively short.

My chicken started to moult and is now almost bald. What should I do?

This is natural for chickens. When they go through their moulting phase, they will get bald patches and often lose their tail feathers. It may grow back soon after the phase ends, or it may take a while. You’ll just have to be patient.

Do chickens eat vegetables?

Chickens love fruit and vegetables and you can give them this daily. Most cooked or raw vegetables are okay to feed your chickens. Suggestions include broccoli, carrots (cooked or shredded), cabbage, chard, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. You are safe to feed chickens pretty much any vegetable or fruit except any raw green peels (such as green potato peel) and any citric fruits such as oranges and lemons.


What time do I leave my chickens out in the morning?

Normally around sunrise or when day gets light is best.

Can worms get into chicken eggs and would it be harmful?

Roundworms are the most common type of worm to infest a chicken. Very occasionally in severe cases, a worm can migrate to the hens’ oviduct and a worm will be found inside an egg. Deworming is the giving of an anthelmintic drug to rid them of parasites, such as roundworm, flukes and tapeworm.

What causes worms in chickens?

Chickens can get roundworms from a variety of sources, including wild birds or earthworms, but they are most commonly spread amongst a flock by faecal contamination of food or water supplies.

What disinfectant is good for my chickens?

White vinegar, baking soda, and sunlight can all do an amazing job of killing bacteria, mould, and pathogens. Ultraviolet rays are also a powerful disinfectant, and vinegar kills many types of mould, as does baking soda. Using all in combination will keep your chicken feeders and waterers clean and your chickens healthy.

Why do chickens stop laying eggs?   

Chickens stop laying eggs for a variety of reasons. Hens may lay fewer eggs due to light, stress, poor nutrition, moult or age. Some of these reasons are natural responses, while others can be fixed with simple changes and egg laying can return to normal. You need to give them better food, more exercise, fresh water and check for parasites.

What happens if one of my chickens gets sick?

Take him/ her to a veterinarian that specialises in avian medicine or farm animals.


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