PICKING in poultry, whether young or old, will most often occur if the birds are:

a) too hot.
b) too crowded.
c) short of fresh air.
d) lack of protein in their feed
e) coop is too brightly lit.

Once picking starts it is very difficult to stop. Using Vaseline on their behinds will help prevent further injury and allow the area to heal. Action should be taken promptly when picking is first noticed. Check against the points mentioned above to determine the cause & correct the problem. Darken the coop for birds over 2 weeks of age. For laying birds, we recommend adding curtains to their nest boxes.

If the problem continues, beak treatment may be required. To do so, trim the hook off the top beak and cauterize. Also if your birds are eating a lot of snacks from your yard: eg. grass, grasshoppers, table scraps, they may have a protein deficiency.

A warm, dry, ventilated barn with quality feed and fresh water will minimize your risk of a picking problem developing.

Check their feed. Most egg eating problems are as a result of an inadequate diet. If you are mixing your own feed, see page 7 of the catalogue. You may also have to darken the coop. DO NOT allow your hens to eat the eggs.

Pick the eggs 3 times per day or purchase a rollaway nest. Once your hens develop a taste for the eggs, adequate protein will not stop them from this bad habit. Also, dim your lights.

You could be confusing their internal clock. Are they on 24 hours of light? The consistently restricted light allowance will result in consistent lay. They could also be short of protein, or be too cold. A time clock on your light will keep life easier.

Check your air and feed quality! Did you grow them in the controlled light? Did they come into lay very early? Feed, air, and light all contribute to egg size.

TEMPERATURE! The chicks have most likely starved out. If they were not warm enough on their first nights, they may have spent too much of the time trying to stay warm and not enough time finding food and water.

Use a thermometer at chick height the furthest from the heater the chicks can go. Are your chicks crowding beneath your heat source or just huddling where they are? Are they looking lethargic or do not want to move around or peeping very loudly?

They are too cold!

If they are keeping to the outer edge or spreading their wings like a helicopter or panting, they are too hot! Adjust your heat source accordingly.

If your chicks are running about eating and drinking and peeping calmly- you have it bang on!

Start your brooder lamp 45 cm (18 in) from the floor and raise it according to your chicks age/comfort. Night time temperature lows could be deceiving you! Have some form of supplementary heating in your brooding facility. Ambient room temperature should be 24ºC (75ºF).

TEMPERATURE! This often occurs due to early chilling. It is important to remove the paste daily with some warm water. If your chicks do not recover within a few days, reassess your environment: it may still be too cold. Also, consult your veterinarian as to whether to administer an antibiotic in their water to prevent an opportunistic bacterial infection. If you are growing your birds organically, your temperature control is even more critical.

Don’t panic!–it just means that the cocci vaccine has been destroyed & you must continue to feed the medicated feed as if they had not been vaccinated at all.


Was it a cold windy day? Did they get wet? At 4 weeks the birds can go outside but gauge the weather on a daily basis. Keep in mind that warm days can still end up on chilly nights. Chilling can happen at any age!

Marek’s disease affects the nervous system of the affected poultry. It is transmitted by dander and there is no cure. You can potentially lose up to 80% of your birds if infected. Vaccination is recommended for all laying hens.

If you have your birds vaccinated against coccidiosis you can then feed them non-medicated feed. It is also particularly important that their environment is spot on in temperature.

For sure, even birds barely moving can be rescued if you act quickly. Don't put them directly in the brooder house. Keep them in their box under a heat lamp until they appear comfortable/active. Stay with them watching that they do not overheat. Ensure that they have a multi-vitamin in their water for the first 5 days. Remember, a brooder at the correct temperature will quickly perk up the chicks. Watch your temperature closely. Always use a thermometer. Untreated chilling will lead to poor growth and continuous high mortality. The use of antibiotics may be required!

They are growing too fast. If they are 3 weeks old, you may change their feed to a poultry grower (this only applies to broilers.) Place their feeders further apart. Let them finish it all before adding any more. Heart attacks are identified by the position of the body found on its back. If you can, reduce the number of hours of light they receive. They will sleep instead of eating! Also, check feed and water for excess salt content.

They are showing signs of ascites. This is fluid collecting around their heart prior to them having heart failure. Cut down on the number of hours of light; be sure they are on a grower, not a starter. Move your feeders further apart to make them get up and move. Be sure they have plenty of space.


Turkeys need higher temperature than chickens - they may appear well, mixed in with the chicks, but check that they are eating and drinking & that their crops are full. Always use a thermometer!


The birds have got chilled and with turkeys it affects their joints. Make sure your bedding is both dry and thick. Straw is not recommended for turkeys. Wet bedding can also lead to staph infections. Increase temperature! Contact your veterinarian immediately as an antibiotic is likely appropriate to minimize further losses! Cold summer winds & lack of proper nutrition can cause crippling even at 4 months.

Do you have another question not listed here? Email us at customerservice@rochesterhatchery.com