I've had several people recently call me about sick chooks and they were especially worried about the spread of disease.
Some of these birds had been purchased at a market or such.
When you look for new birds it is best to buy from a reputable breeder or a formal poultry auction where you can talk to breeders.
This is where you will make contacts and get access to high(er) quality birds.
Also if you have a problem, a quick call to the breeder may solve the issue.
All fanciers I know value their reputation and try to be honest and generous with their time and birds.
If you're looking at birds to buy that are penned at a sale there are a few things to look for.
The birds should not be listless with drooping heads or wings.
Look for birds that are standing and being attentive to the surroundings.
Eyes are also a good indicator of health.
They must be bright and shiny with good colour.
If the bird is continually closing its eyes and dropping its head, avoid that bird at all costs.
Another indicator is dropped wing.
This is where the wing or wings hang down and the bird doesn't lift them into place.
If you can handle the bird, it should have some weight to it and the breast-bone should have some cover of muscle/meat and not protrude.
The vent area should be clean and dry.
Look at the feather for the grey coloured eggs sack of lice on these feathers as well.
If the vent area is packed with dried or wet faeces, avoid the bird.
Birds that are of good vigour have nice, well-coloured combs, generally of red colour in most breeds.
All these are good general indicators of health.
Finally if you are buying birds, don't rush into it just because they are for sale.
You need to have appropriate pens for them and a place to hold them for a week or two until they come into contact with the rest of the flock to avoid any problems with disease.
Also, as we head into winter, older hens and some pullets will naturally stop laying.
Your birds are not sick just having a rest.
With no shows this year, things have been difficult for fanciers to get and exchange stock.
But as we get back into a normal pattern we can look forward to better days.
- Bruce Pattinson is a past president of the NSW Exhibition Poultry Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Chook Feed, PO Box 25, Kogarah, 2217, with your name and daytime contact number.