It’s become increasingly popular to raise small flocks of egg-laying hens in backyards, and sometimes even in urban areas. But just like our furry friends, there are plenty of hazards chickens can run into if the right precautions aren’t taken. To make sure you have all the information you need if you’re raising chickens, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) put together this list of dos and don’ts to help prevent any poisonings in your flock!
DO keep the flock’s area completely clear of anything other than feed, water and an absorbent bedding material.
DON’T put mothballs or other chemical substances into nests in attempt to repel pests. Mothballs can contain paradichlorobenzine or naphthalene. Paradichlorobenzine will cause gastrointestinal distress and central nervous system concerns such as tremors and seizures. Naphthalene causes damage to the liver, kidney and red blood cells, inhibiting them from delivering oxygen to the body.
DO use a commercially prepared feed that is milled by a reputable feed mill. Feed should be stored in a clean, dry place. Commercially prepared feeds will contain mold inhibitors and are nutritionally balanced which is vital, especially for laying hens as they need additional calcium and Vitamin D in their diets.
DON’T store your feed for more than two months to ensure that it doesn’t get moldy. Reducing mold growth will help reduce mycotoxins—the substances produced by molds that grow naturally in grains. Mycotoxins can cause disease that will cause reduced egg production, skin lesions, central nervous system issues and feed refusal. Also, be wary of giving your chickens an overabundance of necessary vitamins. Over-zealous supplementation of Vitamin D could lead to kidney failure.
DO make sure the area you’re cleaning is well-ventilated if you need to use disinfectants, and make sure the disinfectants are properly diluted.
DON’T use any insecticides on your birds or on anything in their environment without first consulting your veterinarian. After consulting with your veterinarian, be sure to use products according to the instructions found on the label.
DO check your chicken coop and fencing regularly for any signs of breaking or holes. Be sure to tighten down any loose nuts and bolts and pick up any broken mesh or wiring. Metallic objects are very attractive to pecking birds and can result in heavy metal toxicosis if ingested. The most common heavy metal toxicities in poultry are lead and zinc. Sources of these metals include galvanized products like nuts, paints, wires and wire shielding, batteries, gasoline, roofing felt, window putty and lead shot for guns. In some areas, the soil may even contain lead. Heavy metal toxicity can result in neurologic symptoms, anemia, gastrointestinal signs like crop stasis and lethargy. NEVER eat the eggs from birds suspected of having heavy metal toxicosis.
DON’T use known toxic plants to landscape around the coop. Plants can grow through fencing and hungry birds will eat them. Be aware of which plants are accessible to your chickens and consult APCC’s full list of toxic plants to learn more.
If you suspect your chickens have ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.