I had four three-year-old golden comets who have died over the past year.
By the time the third one was sick, I started researching chicken illnesses on line and came to believe that they all possibly suffered from egg yolk peritonitis.
They became slow, uncoordinated, their feathers fluffed out, and they felt very warm on their bottoms. I was wondering if this breed is prone to this disease?
Is there anything I can do differently? The only information I've found says that people usually cull them at two years so they were not bred to be pets that live a very long time. Any help would be appreciated. Answer
Sadly, I believe that most chickens are bred for the sole purpose of making money, not longevity. Many live horribly unnatural lives, fortunately short, confined to over crowded cages, and many other sad details, that those of us who love chickens don’t like to think about.
The Golden Comet is a cross bred: New Hampshire and White Plymouth Rock, both hearty dual purpose breeds.
They are crossed primarily for the ease of sexing chicks at hatching, all female chicks being golden, but also good egg production.
The expected life span is 10 – 15 years, but 7 is average for most dual purpose breeds. (I’m sorry you lost these girls so young.)
The only way to accurately diagnose “egg peritonitis” is with a necropsy performed by an experienced avian vet.
I don’t believe the breed is the problem, but possibly the breeder. I’ve seen behind the scenes at a “hatchery” or two (no
longer in business) that supplied chicks to farm stores.
I could say that I might rescue birds from them, but not buy. Not knowing the source of your hens, I would suggest researching to find a reputable breeder or hatchery near you that has long lived hens.
It’s possible your 4 girls were genetically identical, carrying structural abnormalities internally and doomed to short lives at conception.
Culling at 2 years is necessary if hens are undernourished and forced into unnaturally high egg production with artificial light.
After two years of forced labor, their likelihood of disease is high and egg production no longer worth the feed and care. That type of chicken keeping is about money.
I don’t have experience with egg peritonitis, that I know of. I’ve rescued chickens, raised chicks of various breeds, kept free range mixed flocks (different breeds and some crosses) for over a decade, with few problems.
If this had happened to me I would try to find the source of your hens and avoid it in the future, on the chance this was genetic.
If something else has caused this, you may need to change the way you keep your chickens. The best defense against disease and helping chickens live long happy lives is diet and exercise and good environment.
One article notes that obese hens seem to be more prone to egg peritonitis. Chickens can get fat if their diet is unbalanced: like too much corn and not enough good proteins, fats and vegetation, and if they lead sedentary lives. Return to Raising Chickens Home Page