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 Post subject: Malnutrition?
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2011 3:37 pm 
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Hatchling
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I have six chooks and am worried that one may be malnourished.

The chooks are in two mini-flocks
Original flock
three crossbreed chooks, at three years old still laying well, happy and healthy.
They eat good quality scratch, they free range all day in a large garden with lots of grass, plants and windfalls from the fruit trees. They have treats regularly, which could be wheatbix and yoghurt, scrambled eggs, small bits of cheese, roo meat, watermelon, and so on.
These chooks came from a commercial breeder and were vaccinated when young. Never had health problems except for the odd case of fowlpox on their combs, which doesnt seem to upset them.

Chooks sleep in trees at night, have plenty of fresh water and always have access to grit and scratch - they have never been much interested in layer pellets.

the new girls
three backyard bred chooks - frizzle/peking bantam crosses. Now 22 weeks old, had them since they were 9weeks, have been out with the big girls since they were 11wks old..
happy and healthy looking, moved out of their special house that I built for them and prefer to sleep in the trees with the big girls. Eat the same as the big girls. Since getting the little girls I stopped putting out layer pellets (concerned about calcium overload for the babies). Because I was concerned about the layers eating treated grower pellets, I have never put out pellets.

So far, all good.
A few days ago I noticed that one of the new girls has a breast which looks like it is divided in two - hard to explain. But instead of one plump looking breast area she looks like she has a line down the middle.

My question: is this a sign of malnutrition?

I haven't caught her to feel yet as they are a bit tricky to catch and didn't want to stress her before doing my homework.

She seems happy and seems to be eating well. poo looks normal. Hanging out with other girls and, in fact, doing quite well in the emerging pecking order. Flies onto the roost easily, up early.

I am concerned because I had an unfortunate incident in the past: I got three backyard chooks last year (one turned out to be a rooster). One died from unexplained causes - I noticed the line in her breast area, she was very skinny, and then started showing signs of illness. I hand fed her for two weeks, she had antibiotics and so on but eventually died. Postmortem examination revealed no tumours or malformations. The vet told me that I shouldnt let them eat grass as it is hard to digest but as they free range all day and there is a lot of grass that seems a bit strange. And many people say grass is good for them. The vet said to make sure they eat pellets and not give scratch. The two remaining birds went back to the breeder where they had chicks - the three I have now are from that brood.

So my questions are:
1) if chooks are free range with access to scratch and the odd treat can they be malnourished?
2) what are the visible signs (if any) of malnourished chooks?
3) at 22 weeks, is it ok to start feeding layer pellets (despite them not starting to lay yet)
4) can one chook be malnourished when all the others seem ok? why would this be?
5) if she is malnourished, what is the best way to proceed?

thanks for any advice!
Kaz







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 Post subject: Re: Malnutrition?
PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2011 6:02 pm 
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Golden Robin
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Location: toodyay, WA
there is a condition called split breast, which sounds like what you are describing.

to be sure its not malnutrition you NEED to catch her and check whether her breast bone is actually pointy and protruding.

if not then it is likely that she has a split breast, which is no problem if youdont want to show her.

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 Post subject: Re: Malnutrition?
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2011 9:51 am 
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Champion Bird
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Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:20 pm
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Location: Auckland, NZ
It sounds like your chooks have a lovely life and you really care about them. That's great to see. :) Hopefully I can help with my opinions to answer your questions.

Tassiekaz wrote:

So my questions are:
1) if chooks are free range with access to scratch and the odd treat can they be malnourished?
2) what are the visible signs (if any) of malnourished chooks?
3) at 22 weeks, is it ok to start feeding layer pellets (despite them not starting to lay yet)
4) can one chook be malnourished when all the others seem ok? why would this be?
5) if she is malnourished, what is the best way to proceed?

thanks for any advice!
Kaz


1) Yes, free range chooks can be malnourished. I would be surprised at this time of year because they would have just been through a time of abundant fruiit, bugs and plant growth (depending on your local climate and weather conditions of course). But from now on, especially over winter, they are likely to really struggle to find enough food to keep them plump and warm.

2) Malnourished chooks may show no visible signs of malnutrition. Feathers cover a lot of sins, and I have discovered that I can't tell anything about their underlying body structure just by looking at them. My chooks look really fat at the moment because the weather is turning colder and they are fluffing themselves up more.

3) It's definitely fine to give them layers' pellets at 22 weeks. I think this is exactly what they need - layers' pellets available all day so they can eat as much as they need. If they don't need them, they won't eat them. Free-range chooks get plenty of exercise so there's no danger of them eating too much, and at that age there's no danger of too much calcium accumulating in their systems before they start to lay.

4) I think it's possible that all your chooks are a bit underweight. They would all benefit from having layers' pellets available. The divided breast you described earlier is not a sign of malnutrition - it's more a feather growth pattern.

5) The best way to proceed is to give them layer pellets available any time they want to eat them, but especially morning and evening, so their crops are full before they go to bed. There are all sorts of boosting suggestions on this site - like feeding cat food, mince, bandsaw dust (waste material from butchers) etc etc. All those are options, but a good staple diet of pellets is the first step.

If you can pick them up and feel their condition (and/or weigh them) that's good, but you would need to feel a normal-weight bird to know what you're feeling for. With them roosting in trees at night, catching them is likely to be a mission! I say just feed them up.

I will also add that I think the advice you received about not letting them eat grass is really odd. My chickens free-range all day and eat a vast amount of grass. They have a balanced feed available all day (in my case a grain-based one rather than a pellet-based one) but they choose to graze on grass most of the day. Perhaps the vet was meaning cut grass? Some people keep their chickens penned then throw in cut grass from mowing the lawn and this can cause problems. Chickens picking and eating grass of their own accord is a whole different thing and should be encouraged.

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 Post subject: Re: Malnutrition?
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2011 2:33 pm 
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Hatchling
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Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:30 pm
Posts: 4
Phew! thanks for all the fab advice.
I braved the roost tree up the ladder last night and had a feel of most of the girls. The divided breat chook felt fine, comparable to all the other little ones - all three were quite plump. All had full crops.
I then felt two of the big girls and they were a bit boney and scrawny.
So they now have access to layer pellets and I will start giving them mash too.
feel much better - very relieved.


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