CAN A ROOSTER BE A BELLWETHER?

by Judy
(Clifton Park, N.Y.)

I have a rooster whose comb is paler than it was a few months ago. I don't see any mites on it but the comb has small white dots, almost like dry skin looks on people. What could this be?

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FLOCK HEALTH
by: Sharon

I can't tell for sure from your question if the overall normal color of the comb is lighter, or if the spots of white are making the comb appear lighter.

Comb color can be an indicator of the overall health of a chicken - good blood pressure, good body temperature, lack of parasites, lack of stress & the health of internal organs and functions.

Dry skin can mean that good fats need to be added to the diet. These can be be added by supplementing the diet with whole raw seeds, like: black oil sunflower, safflower & flax. I don't know what kind of diet your chickens have, but they need a balanced diet.

Allowing chickens to free range, if safe and possible, can add many important nutrients to their diet - from fresh vegetation, seeds,& bugs. Chickens living on a diet of only processed pellets or crumbles can suffer from deficiencies.

Scratch grains, though offering some variety, often contain low quality seeds, offering little benefit for the expense. Adult chickens prefer a diet rich in produce, even grass clippings can be a great source of greens that chickens love and need.

If this is the only chicken in your flock showing these symptoms, he might be the bellwether alerting you to a problem that could affect your whole flock eventually.

Internal or external parasites can deplete resources chickens need to be healthy. Often one individual in a flock will show signs of an issue before others do. A thorough examination of this rooster should be done, looking for Poultry Fleas, mites & lice. He should be in good flesh, especially his keel/breast bone area - which should feel smooth with good muscle covering in the breast bone area.

If you have multiple roosters, sometimes the least dominant one can be bullied & stressed, prevented from eating. In a natural setting, he would be driven away, but in a closed environment he may suffer & show signs of health decline, even different parasite infestations, signs of disease or failing to thrive.

I recommend adding Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth(DE) to your routine maintenance for chicken health. When added to feed it can clean out the digestive tract of any parasites without chemicals. When added to floor litter in the coop and dust bath area, it can help prevent & kill external parasites, while adding trace minerals to the diet of your flock.

If you are unable to find any physical evidence of a problem with this rooster, I would suggest observing your flock to see how he is treated, especially if you have multiple roosters. I once had a tough little bantam rooster that constantly harassed a large young rooster. I decided to find a new home for the bantam with a couple of his hens.

It's great flock management to notice something unusual with one individual. Keep up the good work!

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