Coccidiosis is a parasite disease of poultry caused by protozoa which live in the lining of the intestine. Coccidia can multiply very rapidly and coccidian eggs that are shed in droppings can infect other birds. Symptoms vary according to the strain but the overall signs tend to be bloody droppings, high mortality, general droopiness, emaciation, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and drop in egg production. If you suspect coccidiosis you must contact your vet immediately for a positive diagnosis and treatments.

Crop bound

The crop will appear impacted, and will be enlarged, the hen will be unable to eat and drink and will appear hunched up. Grass clippings and long stemmy grass are often the cause.

Warm medicinal liquid paraffin or olive oil can be poured down the hen's throat and the crop massaged for at least 15 minutes. If this does not work immediate veterinary attention is needed as otherwise the bird will starve to death.

Egg bound

Eggs are formed in the oviduct but the bird is unable to lay them due to dietary imbalances or stress. The hen will attempt to lay the egg without success and will often have a vibrant red comb.

Warm olive oil can be smeared around the vent and administering 2ml of liquid paraffin by mouth. The success rate is variable and if the above treatment does not work the bird will need to be put to sleep.

Egg eating

Usually caused by soft shelled eggs breaking/poor nutrition/badly designed nest boxes. It is important to treat the cause of the problem i.e. using a balanced geed such as Natural free range Layers Pellets.

A drop in egg production or a hen with yolk on her beak may be the first signs. Old wives tales of filling eggs with mustard or chilli powder are usually ineffective.

Rubber of china eggs can be put in the nest box to discourage egg eating behaviour. Remember to collect the eggs several times per day.


A dark red swelling will be seen protruding from the vent, other hens will be attracted to it and will peck at it leading to death if not immediately identified.

Remove the hen and wash prolapsed in mild antiseptic, remove the egg if there is one, and push the prolapsed into the vent cavity making sure your hands are clean first. Hold the prolapsed in for 10 minutes and then keep the hen separate in a dark, warm place for a few hours. If this does not work immediate veterinary attention is needed or the gen will need putting to sleep.

Red mite

Approx 1 mm in length and will appear red once they have fed, otherwise they are grey. Red mite live in the hen house and suck the blood of the birds at night leading to anaemia. Barrier Red Mite Concentrate & Powder is an effective natural treatment.

Scaly Legs

Mites burrow under the scales of the legs. The scales become thickened and encrusted and will lift away for the leg. The hen may be lame.  Standing the hen in a bowl of warm water and disinfectant such as Hibiscrub, repeated for several days should soften the scales so that they come away.  Alternatively smearing the scales with Swarfega for several days has the same effect.

Soft shells

Occasionally an egg may break inside the hen and she will be unable to pass it. The hen will suddenly go off colour.  Often the soft shell can be seen protruding from the vent, this can be removed very carefully and the hen should quickly recover.

Sour crop (thrush)

The crop will be foul smelling and full of brown or yellow fluid. The hen ill drink more than usual but will not be interest in eating and will be generally off colour.

Remove food and water for 24 hours and the crop should return to its normal size. Then dose the bird with 3ml of brandy, gradually reintroduce water and food building back up to normal levels as long as the bird has no further problems.

Consult the vet if the problem persists as they can prescribe anti-fungal treatments.


Your birds will need worming at least twice a year to keep them healthy. Flubenvet can be obtained from the vet or some online stores. Alternatively if a more natural approach is required diatamateous earth or Verm X are suitable.

My hens have stopped laying, what could have caused this?

This is a common question and one that can be very frustrating for the owner. A reduction in the number of eggs laid or a cessation in egg laying can be caused by numerous factors:

  • Stress-often if birds have undergone a stressful situation such as low flying aircraft or a thunderstorm the first the owner may know about it is that their birds have stopped laying. Although obviously it is impossible to control some events such as the weather! The good news is that most hens will come back into lay.
  • Diet-Laying birds cannot be expected to produce eggs if their diet is not balanced. This means providing a high quality layers ration which can supply the bird with all the nutrients she needs to lay good sized eggs. Remember that it is not only the type of feed but how it if fed that is important too. The layers ration should be fed in the morning on its own, although it can be tempting to add corn or scraps this can lead to the diet becoming unbalanced. Most birds relish corn and other treats and will usually eat these is preference to the layers ration which will lower the protein and calcium content of the diet and therefore the birds egg production levels.
  • Ill health- It goes without saying that your birds should be checked daily for any signs of ill health and treated appropriately. However good management and hygiene will go a long way to help to minimise the risk of disease.
  • Moulting- Although birds will stop laying whilst they are moulting it is important to continue feeding a layers ration as the bird will still need the protein for producing new feathers and if inadequate food is provided this may affect her future laying performance.
  • Daylight Hours- Egg laying is also dependent on the amount of daylight hours and as the days get shorter in the autumn the amount of eggs produced will also decrease, unless of course artificial lighting is provided. However during spring and summer a plentiful supply of eggs is usually produced!