Chicken Coops Direct


A Short Guide To The Common
Pests And Problems


Summary of part 1

( Click here to read part 1)

Chickens, like humans, can get sick with anything from a common cold to more serious diseases. How can you spot the early symptoms, and ensure your flock remains fit and healthy?

Read on to discover the most common chicken ailments, and how you can help treat or prevent them. And remember, if you are in any doubt as to why your chicken is ill; isolate it from your flock and call in the vet asap.

Healthy Hens

Prevention is the key to keeping your chickens healthy. You will prevent a host of problems that can plague other chicken-keeping enthusiasts, simply by knowing what to look out for and by keeping an eye on their welfare.

Like any animals, your chicken can be susceptible to a number of pests, diseases, and disorders.

Here is a quick check list of what a healthy chicken should look like.


Your chicken’s eyes should be bright, clear and with that slightly naughty glint that means they are full of vitality.


Just like humans, chickens catch colds, so nostrils should be clear of discharge. Also check for beak deformities.


One of the surest signs that a chicken is unwell is that they lose feather condition. Plumage should be clean, sleek and well-groomed (by the chicken). HOWEVER, chickens do moult, and during their moult they look very tatty indeed.

Hen Moulting
Most chickens shed their feathers in late Summer or early Autumn.

When checking your chicken, you need to pick it up and gently pull the feathers back to reveal the roots, where parasite can lurk. Check under the wing too.


It should be clean, free of dirt and parasites, slightly moist, but not giving any discharge. Droppings should be firm and greyish-brown, with a white cap. Don’t be squeamish about this process; you can tell a lot about a chicken’s health from its vent.


Chickens' legs are naturally scaly, but should be smooth and blemish-free. Rough scales may indicate parasites.


Healthy Chicken Comb
A chicken’s comb should have good, strong colour and be free of scabs.

Your chicken’s comb should have good, strong colour and be free of scabs. Your chicken’s comb is susceptible to frostbite, so apply a layer of Vaseline to protect them on cold nights.

Keep your coop clean

Cleaning your chicken coop must become a regular part of your life, not something you remember to do now and again. Dirty unkempt living quarters is where a lot of your problems can begin, so this is why it is probably one of the most important things you can do to prevent infestations and diseases.

Effective cleaning cannot happen while your hens are resident, so temporarily evict them into their outside pen with a tasty treat or two, while you get on with the cleaning.

Bedding must be changed regularly, particularly if it gets damp. Make sure you remove all bedding, even from the corners, and wash and scrub away any that sticks in place. Allow the coop floor to dry if necessary before putting in new bedding.

Roosting areas should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, especially under the perches themselves, where parasites and insects can lurk.

Water dispensers and feeding dishes should be scrubbed clean, rinsed thoroughly and dried before returning to use.

I used and recommend this disinfectant every time I do a deep clean of my coop


Red Mite Infestation Chicken CoopAn extreme close up of red mites, typically they are less than 1mm in size.

Red mites hide away in the dark corners of the chicken coop, emerging at night to feed on the blood of your poor unsuspecting chickens.

The level of irritation from a red mite infestation can cause broody hens to abandon their nests and pluck out their own feathers. Other symptoms include weight lose and a general loss of condition and lower egg yield.

Since they feed at night, they are notoriously difficult to spot during the daytime. Birds will be restless at night and will have a severe skin irritation from the biting mites. Red mites are almost white before they feed blood red after a feed and a greyish black colour with partially digested blood so you will see various colours of mites.

To test for red mite you can simply wipe a white piece of kitchen towel or a white tissue along the underside of a perch in the dark. Any blood stains will indicate the presence of red mite!

Prevention is the easiest way to deal with mite. When you get started with keeping chickens more than likely you will have a new mite-free coop. Make sure to give this a real good dusting of red mite powder before you put your chickens in. Aim to leave a noticeable layer of the powder in the corners and cracks of the coop.

As soon as you can handle you hens comfortable dust them too with mite powder, making sure to work the powder in under their feathers.

By doing this and then repeating it every 4 to 6 weeks you greatly reduce the chances of red mite taking hold. To date we have never experienced a red mite problem because we follow this method.

If at a later stage you introduce a new bird to the flock make sure that they are very well dusted down with mite powder.

There is a whole host of products available to you. The main ingredient in these powders is D.E (Diatomaceous earth) which is a 100% natural and non toxic powder that typically provides protection for up to 6 weeks with just one application.

D.E (Diatomaceous earth) - The main ingredient in most mite powders.



Lice are extremely irritating for your chickens, and a severe infestation can also kill small chicks.

Lice are just big enough to be spotted with the naked eye as pale insects on the skin. When you examine your chicken’s feathers, you might spot them crawling around the base of the feathers, and you may see clusters of their eggs on the feather stems. Lice love somewhere soft and warm, so also check under the wings and around the vent area.

Other symptoms include a dirty vent area, weight loss and reduced egg yield.

Lice should be treated using a specialist lice powders for chickens, and always apply it exactly as per the instructions. Apply the powder to EVERY bird in your flock, infected or not.

Lice can survive for up to 5 days without a host bird to feed on, and can reproduce in just 3 weeks. What’s more their eggs are resistant to the powders, so repeat the lice powder treatment in 7-10 days to kill off the next louse generation before they can breed again.

You must also clean out all bedding and dispose of it well away from the chicken coop. Then, properly clean and disinfect the chicken coop including under the perches, before filling it with fresh bedding, and returning your birds.

Chickens naturally rid themselves of lice by taking a dust bath. If your chickens do not have access to natural soil, provide them with a box filled with dry soil or sand.

If your chickens do have a lice infestation, remember to replace the dust bath contents with fresh materials, and add a dash of lice powder just to be on the safe side.


Scaly Leg

Scaly leg is caused by a mite that burrows under the scales of your chicken’s legs. Symptoms include leg inflammation, swelling and lameness. If left untreated, the condition gets worse, as the scales get pushed away from the skin by the mites’ excretions.

Scale Mite

If your chicken has scaly leg, you must isolate the affected bird(s) as scaly leg is extremely contagious. Most vets will advise regular, gentle washing of the legs to remove the surface layer, and then an application of a suitable treatment to allow the leg to heal. Some chicken keepers dip the affected legs into surgical spirit twice a week to keep the legs clean and disinfected.

NEVER try to lift or remove any affected scales; this is very painful for your chicken and unnecessary, as the damaged scales are replaced during the chicken’s annual moult.

As with all mite infections, you must also clean out and disinfect your chicken coop. Check for any damp patches; scale mites love damp conditions. Chickens with feathered feet are particularly prone to scaly leg, so remember to check their legs regularly.



Worms are endoparasites, which means they live inside their host, so they are not possible to spot by eye. The usual external symptoms of worms are loss of appetite and weight, lower egg production, faded comb colour and liquid droppings.

Unfortunately many health problems that your birds have can be related to worms of some sort and it is important to worm your birds regularly as well as make sure your hen houses and runs are well maintained.

Failure to treat a hen with worms will certainly cost you in the long run with increased feed costs, less eggs and a sick or unhealthy bird.

If you suspect your chicken has worms then the product recommended most by our customers and other chicken keeping folk as a last resort is Flubenvet. None of us want to use chemical wormers for worming chickens unless it is really necessary, but Flubenvet seems to be the best product on the market for serious infestations.

What a lot of people do and it's the approach we recommend you take with your own birds is to consider using a herbal product like Verm-X on a monthly basis and only use a chemical wormer if your hens get a serious case of worms.


Sneezing and Colds

Chickens with a cold will have drippy nostrils and appear a little out of sorts. Many chicken owners swear by feeding their chickens garlic to keep colds at bay, either in their feed or in their water, although there is no definitive proof this actually works.
Since colds are usually associated with damp and cold living conditions, keep your chicken coop clean and dry, and don’t worry about the odd sneeze now and then.


Vitamins and Tonics

From time to time your flock could benefit from a 'pick me up'. There will be times when either your chickens are unwell or needing that extra boost of vitamins.

So it is not a bad idea to consider having some sort of tonic or vitamin supplement handy which you can either add to your chickens feed or water supply.

Many people like to give their hens a boost of vitamins during times when they are a bit worse for wear e.g when they catch a cold or during their annual moult. Others prefer to do it on a regular basis to ensure that your chickens are always in top condition


How to keep your hens healthy.

Generally speaking prevention is the key to keeping your chickens healthy. Cleaning your chicken coop must become a regular part of your life, not something you remember to do every now and then.

Dirty unkempt living quarters is where a lot of your problems can begin, so this is why it is probably one of the most important things you can do to prevent infestations and diseases.

There are other things I could have touched on in this guide but I do not want to overwhelm you with too much information in one go. The aim of this starter guide is to cover the most important bits of information you should know if keeping chickens is new to you.

Hopefully this will help you take that first steps towards keeping your own hens at home!

[This article is part2 of our free guide to keeping chicken]


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11 Readers Comments

Very good reading and easy to understand. Thank you.. - Colin Kneale.

Thank you for your start-up guides, they are very helpful. As you have said the book I am reading is very in depth. Your guides have given me peace of mind and I am looking forward to receiving my coop and getting my chickens to join our family. - Marina.

I'm glad they have helped, and thanks for your order!- Mike from

Dear Mike. Quick question if I may. We're considering keeping 2 hens in our good-sized back garden (at least 35m x 15). Our plan is to buy a Devon house and double run. The hens would be confined to the run for most of the day but with a couple of hours free range in the garden before they roost, and much more time free range in the garden when we're at home in the day (as teachers, often during the school holidays). Does this sound like a reasonable plan to give them a decent free-ish range life? Many thanks. Ben Cooper.

I think your plans are ideal and your two chickens will be ecstatic with that amount of space! I'd normally recommend up to 4 chickens for the Devon with Double Run (if kept in the runs at all times) or 5/6 if they have plenty of space to free range during the day so you are definitely well within this.- Mike from

Thankyou so much for this infomation, I use VERMINEX every month and put garlic flakes and cider vinegar in drinking water. It is good to read your artical. - R FARROW.

Excellent read, I'm interested as last year a beautiful cock, a Rhode Island Red, I believe, used to come to the garden every day, stay for a time, then go home to the farm next door at dusk. When he died, found in a hedge at the farm, I was so sad as he was such a character, walkers used to lean on my gate watching him, he would come round to my french doors at the back to see if I was there. He had very scaley legs which I thought was old age, I now know different. A young pullet has now started to call each day, we call her Esme, not from the farm, but a neighbours a hundred yards away, she walks up the road, goes home at dusk. - Pat Lockie

I have only read the first two instalments,which are excellent. Very simple, straight forward and to the point. I am almost convinced that I need some chickens! - Anne Curzon.

Had my Chicken Run and Coop delivered yesterday. Thank you for all the advice feeling less daunted now . - Monica Norton.

Very helpful as it's good to be aware of these things from the start to prevent any unnecessary stress later. I ordered my coop today so excited but want to get everything prepped before I collect any chicks ;) nice short informative info that us more likely to sink in bit by bit, thanks - Claire.

On Sat my 6 girls [battery hens arrive] so I am very grateful for the easy to digest advice. Thank you - Belinda.

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