My Daughter's Favorite Chicken

by Meg
(Charlottesville, Virginia)


My Daughter's Favorite Chicken: Our RIR is two years old, started having laying problems recently (similar symptoms to egg-drop, from what I read--sand-papery shells and lower egg production.

I don't think it could be that because she has no contact with birds outside of our flock--they free-range during the day, but never leave my yard).

I provide plenty of oyster shell, a quality layer pellet, and fresh water. They do free-range during the day and the coop they are in at night is large and well-ventilated.

(We do have 3 horses, in case that impacts anything.) Our hen is either molting or is losing feathers for another reason, and today seemed very lethargic and kept to herself.

She has lost a lot of the feathers near her comb, but I assume that is from our rooster (I have seen him biting on her comb when mating).

I didn't notice any mucous or unusual lumps anywhere. She has possibly lost weight in the last week, but it might just be losing her feathers.

None of our other chickens (or two guineas) seem to be ill at all. We have had no outside additions to the flock in over a year (we did have chicks hatch last week--but they were laid by our chickens, not brought in).

This is our sweetest chicken--literally hops in the car with us sometimes. I am hoping there is a way to help her.

Rough egg shells can be caused by mineral deficiencies other than calcium. As a chicken ages her nutrient needs may increase.

Another possibility may be that you have a Production Red, not a true Rhode Island Red. Production hens have been bred to mature early and lay a lot of eggs in their first year of laying.

Often Production Bred hens have become “layed out” by 2 years of age, especially if they have layed through a winter or two.

Sadly, as I hear from many questions on this site, these hens often don’t live long past the
two year mark. They seem to develop health issues, often Egg Yolk Peritonitis, become weak and don’t survive.

If you have a true RIR hen, non production bred, I would be more hopeful for her recovery with the help of a higher quality feed, possibly a conditioning feed.

This isn’t the time of year for a hard molt, so it would seem that she might be malnourished; not through neglect, but through changing digestion, and possibly the good feed you use isn’t quite good enough for her.

I would also suggest purchasing a vitamin/electrolyte powder at the feed store and using it as directed, for her and the flock. She and others may be vitamin deficient as well as mineral.

Another possibility, this time of year, might be that she is getting broody. I have one hen in my flock that insists on sitting on the three dummy eggs in her nest. She has been for weeks.

I take her out to free range with the others more than once a day. She eats a little then runs back to her nest to warm her plastic bunny eggs.

She has lost quite a bit of weight, which is normal for a brooding hen, and she is often trance-like, also normal for a broody hen.

Sometimes when I set her in the yard, she sits there for a half hour, almost as if she can’t get up.

When I have a problem with one hen, I like to assume it could happen to the others (broodiness can be annoying, but is not really a problem, it’s natural).

I like to look at nutritional supplements before using antibiotics which may not be necessary. Nutrient deficiencies can be life threatening, and if one hen is not well, others could follow.

If diet is lacking in some essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, diseases and disease-like symptoms may appear.

Often giving these nutrients will reverse the condition. I hope this is the case for your daughter’s pet.

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