Gauteng Smallholder Gauteng Smallholder November 2011 - Page 25

From page 22 sedated at night. Therefore, if you walk into the coop with a headlamp or torch and the birds will mostly stay still on the perches or nesting boxes while you handle them. Place your strongest hand on the middle of her back, securing her wings as much as possible with that hand. Do not grab for wings or tail feathers. You should never pick up a chicken by her feet or neck. Not only will this cause mental stress, it can also cause physical damage to your hen, both of which can lead to health problems. With your other hand secure her legs and lower part of her body and gently and slowly lift her. Be sure to hug her close to your body so it is difficult for her to flap about or jump down, which can result in injury. Once you have your hen under your arm, make sure she feels secure by talking to her softly, this will help calm her nerves and familiarise her with human handling. The correct way to carry a chicken is to have your hand under the bird's breast/tummy with two fingers between the legs and the other fingers on the outside of each leg while the bird sits in a comfortable position resting on the palm of your hand. However, try to avoid restricting its view as this can cause her to become nervous and frightened, resulting in a flighty hen. Always make sure the bird is level and balanced. If she feels in any way insecure, either tilted forward or backwards, she will panic, which then starts the wings flapping and control is easily lost. And do be careful when the wings are flapping, as the feathers can be quite sharp and can catch you in the eye, which can be very painful. So make sure you keep your face well clear. Birds should not be carried by the head, by one leg or one wing, or held upside breathing. You can hardly notice normal breathing. A chicken with respiratory problems breathes with an open mouth, and the tail may bob up and down with each breath. Next, feel the keel or breastbone to get an overall picture of body condition, to determine whether the How NOT to carry a chicken: By the legs (pictured) or chicken is thin by the wings. or fat. Then lift up the down. feathers to look at the A chicken physical exam chicken's skin. Check for requires you to look closely at external parasites. Do you see all areas of your chicken's any scurrying specks or body and behaviour. walking dandruff? Look at the Look at the head – there should be no swelling of the comb, eyelids, face or wattles; no scabs anywhere on the head, no cloudy eyes or an irregularly shaped pupil; no crusty or runny nostrils or a cracked beak. Check how the bird is 23 www.sasmallholder.co.za POULTRY shafts of the feathers. White clumps on the feather shafts may be lice eggs. Go over the whole bird, stroking the feathers backward, to find areas of feather loss or skin that is reddened, lumpy, scabby, torn or bruised. Examine her feet, legs and wings. Does she put weight on both legs evenly? Are both wings tucked up on her back, or does one of the wings droop? With the bird lying on her side, you can pick up the tail feathers to examine the vent area. Check for reddened, swollen, or torn skin and missing feathers. Look for blood coming from the vent or tissue protruding from it. It's a good idea to reward your hen with some grain or a treat when placing her safely back down to show her that handling should not be viewed as an unpleasant or feared experience for her.