Why is my chicken losing weight? Find out the reasons.
Signs your chicken is losing weight
If you have noticed that your chicken is not eating at a reasonable rate, it is essential to investigate if your chicken is losing weight.
How to tell if your chicken is losing weight or is underweight
Get to know your chicken. Feathers can disguise weight fluctuations, sometimes making it difficult to recognise weight loss easily. Also, some chickens have a naturally lean build. By regularly inspecting your chickens, you can quickly determine if your hens have lost weight, and then work out why.
Because a healthy adult hen tends to stay at the same weight, one of the easiest ways to see if your chickens are losing weight is to keep a record of their weight using a set of scales. Factors such as the weather as well as changes to their diet, becoming broody and any stresses in the coop can influence weight and should be considered if your bird are losing weight.
Another way to see if your chicken is losing weight, or is underweight, is to feel your chicken's keel. The keel bone is the prominent bone on the underside of a chicken. It is an extension of the breast bone that runs down the chicken's belly. If the keel bone feels prominent and is much higher than the muscle on either side, your chicken may be underweight. However, it is important to be familiar with your birds because certain breeds and older birds can naturally develop a more prominent keel bone.
Why is my chicken is losing weight
Firstly, if you have made changes to the chicken run, or improvements to the chicken diet, then weight loss may be a healthy by-product. If there have been no recent changes, then further investigations are necessary.
As mentioned above, we recommend recording weight, mainly when you make changes to the coop, change of seasons and any changes in feed.
Reasons for chicken weight loss:
- Stress. Chickens become stressed for many reasons, some of which are very primitive. Stressors include changes in temperatures, predator attacks, travelling, shows, illness. Read our Coop Management section for how to reduce stress in the coop.
- Parasites. Worms and parasites that live in your chicken's digestive tract will reduce your chicken's appetite leading to weight loss. Parasites will also deplete your chicken from the nutrients they need to prevent them from becoming stressed. Worm your chickens regularly to prevent parasite-related weight loss.
- Chicken thrush. Early candidiasis can cause a temporary increase in weight as the chicken tries to calm the irritated mouth and oesophagus. However, it will ultimately decrease appetite causing weight loss.
- Illness. Viruses and bacterial diseases will cause a dramatic loss of appetite. If your chicken has an illness, the weight loss will accompany other symptoms such as diarrhea or wheezing. See our symptom check page for a list of common chicken ailments.
- Brooding. If you have noticed your hen is not leaving her nesting box, or is hiding away she may be too busy brooding to eat.
- More exercise than normal. An increase in coop/pen size is a good thing. If your bird is getting more exercise than normal, ensure it is also getting plenty of food by providing free access to a complete layer pellet.