April 8, 2008

Update on bare-backed hens and, impacted craw tomatoes

Today I got a follow up from an earlier letter.

Hi Allison, Do you have any advise for an impacted craw on an older hen? Our beloved pet, Honey, appears to have this issue, so looking into it.

Also, I don't know if I told you... If you remember the feather loss issue that we were having, you suggested might be due to the rooster-hen ratio has been figured out! Our ratio was 2:30, which wider than the minimum 1:8 ratio for breeding purposes. Shortly after talking to you, the ratio became 1:30. Still experiencing feather loss, we observed that there were NO feathers on the ground and the hens were picking them off of eachother. This clearly indicated a protein deficiency, a meat-based protein deficiency to be exact. Since our winter was so extended this year as opposed to previous years, we had never experienced this problem before. We were given freezer-burned ground deer burger from neighbors to which I promptly thawed, browned and tossed out for them. THEY LOVED IT! They have also been given Tuna, Sardines and Mackerel. Pin feathers are starting to come it and we are now finding excess feathers around the yard again! :) Info can be found about this in Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. Cat food is a suggested remedy for this issue, but since we are opposed to the ingredients in the commercial pet food industry, we opted for real meat and thankfully could do it cost effectively (free). In the meantime, I sent out an updated e-mail newsletter to our customers, which included our findings, and were blessed with someone offering an additional 7 lbs of freezer-burned meat!

Please let me know if you have any info on the craw issue. Thanks Allison!
Angel Fruit


Regarding the impacted craw, sadly, in this instance my advice would be to cull the hen. If she is older than 2 years, the likelihood she will recover from slitting open her throat to remove the obstruction and then stitching her back up is low. To prevent this in other birds when your ground is covered with snow you can provide a small pan of 1/16 to 1/8 inch gravel with your feed and make sure they always have access to water.
My vote is always for comfort and care for the bird. IMHO its unlikely she will survive, culling her may be the kindest thing you can do. You can try feeding her a little mineral oil with a dropper and keep her warm and with access to water and soft feed for a day or two, but I am not sure you can help her with this problem.
With regret for the bad news,
PS Glad to hear that your birds are responding so well to the additional protein.
Cheers for chickens!


Tomatoes are in

Last December I started tomato sets. We put them in the ground on April Fools Day and we are crossing our fingers there won't be frost. So far so good.