(Madisonville, TN, USA)
Boney Breast: I am concerned about my 26 chickens, some of them have really boney breasts.
I am new to raising and do not know if I should be concerned. They are eating about 50 lbs. of starter/grower feed every 1 1/2 weeks and have moved them to a 10x10x8 chicken coop.
I have noticed a few droppings are runny and very dark. They do huddle together during the day and use the roost at night. I don't think they are old enough to make a chicken yard because of hawks in our area. Any help and suggestions would be appreciated.Answer:
Boney breasts indicate that these chickens are seriously underweight. A healthy chicken of any age should have nice plump breast muscles that completely hide this bone.
You haven't said how old these are but I suspect they are overcrowded. 10 square feet is a good amount of area for one adult chicken; 10 sq ft of yard plus 4 sq ft in the coop per adult.
Of course, many people raise chickens in much less area per chicken. When I keep any kind of animal, I try to allow it as much room as possible, rather than the minimum.
If you fear for the safety of your chickens in an open pen, you might want to cover the top with wire or shade type mesh.
Chickens are at risk of immune system failure and other problems when over crowded. This is why the commercial poultry industry often feeds antibiotics daily.
Chickens of any age are competitive for feed and space. The most dominant may keep the weakest away from food and water.
This instinct is meant to drive the less dominant and weaker chickens
away from the strongest of the flock, but in a closed environment this behavior often leads to malnutrition, illness and death.
An immediate solution may be to add feeding stations, like one in each corner, or more than you already have set up. The dominant chickens would wear themselves out trying to protect and defend all feeding stations.
This may help put weight on the thin while you work on expanding their area. There may be a parasite problem, internal or external. This can also lead to chickens having trouble keeping or putting weight on.
I suspect that these growing chickens may not have access to as much feed as they can eat 24/7.
Whenever food runs out the most dominant will begin to guard the food source. Growing chicks need warmth and as much good feed and water as they want.
If they are huddling together during the day, they are likely cold. The dark droppings can be an indication of intestinal irritations causing bleeding which can be caused by bacteria or other living organisms in the digestive tract.
Getting a sample of those droppings to the vet for testing will tell you what the problem is and how to treat it. In an over crowded situation parasites and intestinal disorders can spread quickly.
Keeping the area as clean as possible. Removing any from the flock that show signs of disease or weakness is always a good idea. Since they are underweight, I would suspect that they are lacking adequate vitamins and minerals.
It would be good to supplement them right away to help bring them to the best health possible. Supplementing the whole flock may help them feel better and less likely to guard feed.