Signs of a Healthy Hen

It’s important to learn how to spot a healthy hen. This means that not only will buy hens in good health, you’ll quickly notice if your own birds become poorly.

 

Bright, clear beady even eyes with no swelling or discharge
WHY? Swelling around the eyes is a sign of respiratory infection. Uneven eyes can be a sign of neurological problems

Red combs and wattles (the protrusions on top of the head and under the beak)
WHY? Redness develops when hens are approaching the point of starting to lay. Hens suffering from red mite infestation often look anaemic

Clean nostrils with no mucus or dirt stuck to the beak
WHY? Mucus or dirt stuck to the mucus is another sign of respiratory infection

Upper and lower beak that fit well, not crossed over
WHY? A potential genetic deformity that could be passed on if bred from and cause poor growth in future progeny

Feathers looking in good condition, laying well with a nice sheen
WHY? Ill hens often don’t preen themselves and smart feathers are also a sign of good nutrition

Quiet breathing with no gaping (almost looks like the bird is yawning) or sneezing
WHY? Noisy breathing and sneezing are more signs of respiratory infection whereas ‘gaping’ is a sign of gape worm

Good weight, they feel ‘right’ for their size (can be tricky to ascertain if you’re a beginner)
WHY? Low weight is a sign of poor health with a number of causes especially red mite

Comfortable when handled and when you extend the wings
WHY? Demonstrates a lack of injury

Walks and stands well with no lameness
WHY? Demonstrates no toe or leg issues and no bumble foot (an infection of the underneath of the foot)

The scales on the legs lie flat and feel smooth (look hard on feathered legs!)
WHY? Raised scales are indicative of scaly leg mite

When the feathers are examined closely, they attach cleanly to the body without any insects visible
WHY? Clusters at the base of the feather indicate lice but mites may also be visible

Clean bottoms
WHY? Dirty bottoms could be caused by worms, vent gleet, infection and so on

No bleeding from anywhere!
WHY? Hens are omnivorous, are attracted to blood and will peck another hen repeatedly