How to supplement calcium to your flock

EggsThe shell of each egg that your hens are laying is made up of nearly 95% calcium carbonate by dry weight. To produce hard eggs, your chicken will be consuming up 20 times the amount of calcium in one year than the amount of calcium that is contained in her actual bones. As their keeper, it is your responsibility to make sure each chicken is consuming a steady supply of calcium in her diet.

DON’T Feed Egg Shells
There are some chicken owners who swear by reusing eggshells and feeding them back to their flock. Some people may crush these before feeding. Feeding your chickens their eggshells may seem like a convenient way to recycle them, but there are several health risks that will be brought upon them.

1. Risk of salmonella for hens. Salmonella can be found on the inside and outside of eggs. The kicker? Salmonella can be on eggs that seem to appear completely normal. Feeding your hens eggshells infected with this bacterium can cause this sometimes fatal illness. Some people prevent this by baking their eggshells before feeding, however, that is not always effective and is a time-consuming process
2. Risk of salmonella for humans. This is where the “domino effect” comes into play. If a chicken is eating eggshells with salmonella and becomes infected, this affects the eggs they are producing, and any human consumption of those eggs.
3. Can teach hens to start eating their own eggs. When chickens start to recognize their food as eggshells, this runs the risk of them eating and destroying the eggs they lay.

DO Feed Them Oyster Shells or Limestone
Though this may seem like a higher investment up front, feeding your laying chickens oyster shells or limestone instead of their own eggshells with pay off in the end. By cutting out serious health risks to your chickens and to those eating the eggs they produce, feeding oyster shells or limestone is a cost effective and safe alternative. In addition, a little bit of these products go a long way – a 50 lb. bag of oyster shell or limestone will last the average flock an extended period of time – up to several months for a flock of 6 – 8 birds. Feeding these products is easy – simply put the oyster shell or limestone in a separate container and allow birds access free choice. Your girls will take what they need.

Just keep in mind that when it comes to calcium supplementation for your flock,  ground limestone or oyster shells are safer options than feeding eggshells back to your girls.

Bumblefoot – causes, treatment and prevention

The health and success of your chickens lies in your hands. Knowing what diseases Spurs_Bumblefootthey’re at risk for is critical for you to allow them to lead healthy lives. Bumblefoot, or plantar pododermatitis, is caused by introduction of staphylococcus bacteria and is found on the toes, hocks and pads of a chicken’s foot.  It is characterized by a pus-filled abscess that is covered by a black scab and is paired with lameness, swelling, and the infected bird’s reluctance to walk. To keep this becoming a fatal problem in your flock, learn the causes, treatments and prevention methods.

How did they get Bumblefoot?
Knowing how your birds can get Bumblefoot will help you to catch it early and even begin to prevent it. The disease enters through breaks in the skin caused by:

  • Splinters
  • Sharp wire ends
  • Jumping repeatedly from a perch (heavier breeds are at a higher risk doing this)
  • Skin irritation caused by poor litter management

How do I treat it?
The best treatment is catching it early, so you have a higher chance of beating it. Once you find it, use the following treatment methods:

  • Administer proper antibiotics for a specified amount of days, as prescribed and instructed by your veterinarian.
  • Soak the lesion in warm water filled with Epsom salts to soften the exterior. This will allow you to drain the lesion with hydrogen peroxide, filling it with antibiotic ointment once the pus and debris is cleared.
  • Keep the bird separate from the time you find the disease and until treatment is complete, and provide them with adequate bedding.

Can I prevent it from happening in the future?

  • Keep infected bird separate and disinfect the area where your healthy flock is housed.
  • Provide clean and proper bedding on a regular basis.
  • Have your perches less than 18 inches from the floor.
  • Eliminate all rough and sharp edges.

While you are treating birds infected with Bumblefoot, remember to be careful and to make sure you are protecting yourself from the infection with gloves and proper disposal of materials so it does not pass on to you and others.